I mentioned weighing your ingredients and calculating calories in my last post, but I figured I needed a separate post to dive into the details.

You need to read your labels and get a digital scale to be successful. You will also need data to fill in gaps where you don’t have labels, like for meat, vegetables, and some other random ingredients. You may have to search the internet for good data. I like http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/. Livestrong is also good, http://www.livestrong.com.

For this post, I am making a simple Whole Wheat and Rye Pizza Crust to use as the example. Starting with the label, note the measurements, calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and sugar.

The most shocking realization I had when I started weighing my ingredients was that one level 1/4 cup of flour does not equal 30 grams, even if you sift it. It may be anywhere between 40 and 55 grams, which is horrible when you are counting every calorie. 30 grams is 100 calories, but 55 grams is 183 calories! If you are relying on the 1/4 cup measurement, you could be almost doubling your calories.

I don’t know if this disparity is the food companies being dishonest or misleading. Professional bakers always weigh ingredients to make sure their amounts are precise, and I’ve heard that is due to moisture content in flour throwing off measurements, but who knows? What you need to know is read your labels and weigh everything!

Back to the recipe. You have 30 grams (abbreviated g) of rye flour, which has 110 calories, 0 fat, 23 g carbs, 0 sugar, and 3 g protein. You will be using 120 grams of flour, so multiply everything by 4, since 30 g x 4 is 120 g: 440 calories, 92 g carbs, 12 g protein.

You also need 240 grams of whole wheat flour, which brings us to a new label.

We’ve increased the serving 8 times (30 × 8 = 240), so increase everything by 8. 800 calories, 4 g fat, 184 g carbs, and 32 g protein.

The recipe also calls for 8 ounces of water, which is fine as a liquid measurement, 1 tsp salt (if you track sodium intake, weigh it, 6 grams), and 12 grams of yeast, which has more calories than you might guess. Check out http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/baked-products/5130/2. Yeast has 35.4 calories, 4.6 g carbs, 0 sugar, .6 g fat, and 4.6 g protein.

Now that you’re seeing all these weights, it might interest you to know that 1 gram of carbohydrates, sugar, or protein is approximately 4 calories. 1 gram of fat is approximately 9 calories. If you convert your weight measurements to calories for everything on the label, disregarding subcategories like sugar that falls under carbohydrates, you should get pretty close to the total calorie count.

For you total recipe, you have these amounts:

CALORIES

- Rye Flour: 440
- Wheat Flour: 800
- Yeast: 35.4
- Total:1275.4

FAT

- Wheat Flour: 4 g
- Yeast: .6 g
- Total:4.6 g

PROTEIN

- Rye Flour: 12 g
- Wheat Flour: 32 g
- Yeast: 4.6
- Total:48.6

CARBOHYDRATES

- Rye Flour: 92 g
- Wheat Flour 184 g
- Yeast: 4.6 g
- Total:280.6

You can see overall then that the dough is good for you. High protein, low fat, and no sugar. I divide the dough into four pieces to make four pizzas, so I divide everything by 4 and round up if I get equal to or more than .5 and down if I get less than .5.

PIZZA CRUST

- Calories:319
- Fat:1 g
- Protein:12 g
- Carbohydrates:70 g

If you want to lower the calories, you could make smaller pieces, dividing by 6 or 8. For reference, once I add toppings, I hit about 550 calories per pizza.

Since we are weighing everything, though, it’s not like I just eyeball the dough and cut it into sections. No. Next I weigh the entire ball of dough after it has risen for an hour.

633 grams divided four ways is 158.25 grams, so 158 grams with my scale.

I can now use my dough, knowing exactly what my calorie count is, since baking it won’t change the final calories. Which brings up a few points worth mentioning.

I could always make flatbread, weigh all the pieces after they are baked to get my total weight, weigh the individual portions, then divide the individual weight by the total weight, and multiply that by my total calories from my recipe to get my serving calories. I follow this method when I make the pancakes from my A New Way of Eating post. In this case, you skip measuring the dough because once you bake the crust, you lose 15 to 25 percent of the weight through evaporation. The original dough weight will be irrelevant because dividing the flatbread weight by the total dough weight and multiplying by the total calorie count equals fewer calories than I actually have, in this example, 56 fewer!

This becomes important especially if you bake a loaf of bread. You will need to weigh the finished loaf to compare the total weight against the recipe calorie count. When you slice a piece of bread, you weigh that, then follow the same formula, individual slice weight divided by the loaf weight multiplied by the total calorie count to get your serving calorie count.

Often when I create a recipe, I will calculate my total calorie count, weigh the finished loaf, stew, pancakes, etc., then divide the total calorie count by the total weight to get the calorie count per gram. This way, I can measure out a serving based on how many calories I want. For example, I have a Stroganoff recipe that has .74 calories per gram. If I want 400 calories for my meal, I have the equation s x .74 = 400, where s is my serving weight. To solve for s, divide 400 by .74 to get 541 grams. I then put a bowl on my scale and add Stroganoff until I reach 541 grams.

I realize this sounds time consuming and a little tedious, and it can be. But, when you are tracking your calories, if you are not measuring exactly, you will not know how many calories you are eating. I’m sure you have heard diet advice a serving of meat should be the size of your palm or heard a serving of almonds is a handful. But that leaves you wildly in the dark about what you actually ate. My palm may be 8 ounces worth of chicken. Yours could be 4. My handful of almonds could be 20. Maybe you can pack 30 into your fist.

Mostly, what it comes down for me is I want to know exactly what I’m eating, so I don’t have to guess or worry about exceeding or missing my calorie allotment for the day. If I need 3000 calories to fuel my run, I’m going to get it, and if I only burned 2800 calories in a day, I sure don’t want to accidently ingest 3500. Leave the open question of how many calories you actually ate for when you dine out, which is for another post!