In Gyroscope you can track and analyze all of your meals yourself, with access to the largest verified food database.
Self analysis is one of the ways you can analyze your meals…
Once you get the hang of this, you can set your nutrition targets and be on top of your energy balance every day of the week. With the repeat meal feature, you can even easily re-analyze regular staples at the touch of a button.
First, we’ll go through the simple act of taking a photograph of a meal and analyzing it.
Then we’ll discuss different techniques and situations, such as:
- What to do if the food item you are looking for is not in the database
- What to do if you don’t know the exact quantities involved
- What to do if you don’t know the exact ingredients involved
- How to use the repeat meal feature
- How to log something as fasting
- Using the batch upload feature
- Logging and analyzing each ingredient separately vs doing the whole meal at once
How to analyze a meal:
1 Take a photo of your food or meal
2 Give it a food label
- This is important if you want to use the repeat meal feature (more on that below)
- You do also have the option to add a label later and go straight to the meal instead, but for this example we’ll add the food label once the photo is taken
Press “save” and you will be taken back to the food tab…
3 Press the image of your meal to open that meal page. You can also get there from your daily report.
4 Press “Analyze”
5 Choose “Search”
If it is a new food you haven’t eaten before, you can analyze the nutrition now.
If it is something you ate before, you can also repeat a previous meal.
- Use the search bar to look for ingredients or particular brands…
- Find the ingredient or brand, and select the quantity that applies
- Use the +/- buttons for adjustments if needed
- Do this for each ingredient until all items are accounted for
- Press “Save”
Once you have analyzed the meal, you can see the totals for the whole meal at the bottom, or view the macros for that particular item.
The above shows the basic mechanics of the self analysis feature.
However, unless you are living a very linear life with minimal distractions, it won’t always be possible to either prepare your own food, or know exactly what is in the food you are eating.
Let’s go through different situations and methods you can use in order to stay as consistent and accurate as possible, with as little time and effort required from your end as needed…
What to do if the food item you are looking for is not in the database?
We use Nutritionix, which is the internet’s largest verified food database.
However there may be times when the food item, or particular brand, is not there.
In such a case, we recommend the following check list:
1 Try searching for something similar, like the type of item instead of the brand name.
2 Do you have the food label of an item you are trying to analyze?
If so, you can simply search for the closest item possible and then manually adjust the exact nutrients.
For example, you may have bought a cut of meat that has a certain set of macros listed on the label. Perhaps the item you found in the database shows more calories, less protein and more fat.
In this case, you could add the item and the quantity, but then manually amend the individual macros. This will let you still use the micronutrients found in the database, and provides much more nuanced data than simply copying a few items from the nutrition label.
3 What is there was no label?
If it’s a whole food (ie: not packaged or processed), then luckily most food sources have more or less the same amount of energy and macro make-ups within them.
A 100 gram fillet of salmon, for example, will be similar wherever it has come from. It won’t be exact, but none of this is. Calorie/macro tracking is more a game of being as close enough to be useful, rather than needing to reach an exact value. In reality, no one knows the exact nutrients in your food, and even a printed nutrition label can be off by 10-20% or more.
If its a packaged or processed food but you don’t have the label and it’s not on the database, you can either find the closest item and leave it at that. To be even more accurate, you can also hop onto Google to find the specific details you’re looking for at the manufacturers website.
What to do if you don’t know the exact quantities involved?
The hard part of food analysis is not usually finding the item, but getting the quantity right.
This can be a daunting and frustrating problem at first, especially if you eat out a lot.
However, one of the great benefits of tracking your food for a while is you begin to learn what different quantities of food look and feel like. This is an exercise that can give you truly mindful and intuitive eating skills for life, if you put a little work in to begin.
There is no way to be 100% exact with this if you don’t know the exact quantity or weight of your food. But remember — if you do know the exact quantities, it still won’t be 100% precise, so don’t worry too much about reaching extreme precision here.
Below is a simple guide to using hand portions to measure food.
This is extremely rough, but shows you how to measure standard portion sizes using your thumb, fist and palm of your hand. If you are in need of some point of reference to analyze your food, this is a pretty good place to start:
Calorie-dense high-fat foods (cheese, oils, fatty meat, nuts etc.) will make more difference to your data than nutrient-dense low-calorie foods (greens and other non starchy vegetables, fruits etc.), so prioritise getting them as accurate as possible.
Then of course there are often “hidden calories” in food. By this, we mean oils, butters, sauces and other foods that are not always visible, but certainly do pack a punch when it comes to calorie content.
How do you account for them? The answer is you assume and guess (an educated guess if possible), and it’s usually better to OVER-estimate than under-estimate for two reasons.
- The difference between a tsp of olive oil and a tbsp of olive oil is 80 calories, and it’s highly possible if you’re eating food that’s been prepared the oil has been thrown on as opposed to carefully added using a spoon or spray. This is not bad or something to be concerned about, but it counts. So count it.
- If you are trying to lose weight, or not put on weight, it is necessary to sustain some form of calorie deficit. If you under-estimate lunch and think you have more room to play with for dinner than you do, this could hinder progress if it happens too often.
What to do if you don’t know the exact ingredients involved?
Quantities are one thing, but what about actual ingredients?
How do you know what they all are if you haven’t made the meal yourself, and does it matter?
If you’re eating out and order something like steak and greens, this should be pretty clear (apart from maybe hidden calories - see above).
But what if its a tasty risotto packed with cheese and nameless veggies, or a delicious curry or stew?
As with quantities, there is some “guesstimation” to be done here, however be mindful of the fact that unlike whole individual foods, one brand or restaurant’s spaghetti bolognese is not going to have the same calorie or macro values as another.
So what to do?
First of all, see if the brand itself is in the database.
If not, you pretty much have two options.
1 — Go through the list of possible options and choose the one that you think is closest to what you’re having. Try to choose a brand or type that is closest to what you’re eating. For example, if you’re eating spaghetti bolognese in a restaurant or a dinner party, probably don’t choose a supermarket’s pre-cooked and frozen version.
2 — Attempt to deconstruct the meal ingredient by ingredient based on what you can see, what is on the menu (if available), taking into account hidden calories that would be used and estimating portion sizes by familiarising yourself with our hand portions guide.
If this all seems like hard work, or too ‘number-focused’ remember we’re building habits and awareness here, not aiming to live like this forever. Once you’ve analyzed a meal, you can also reuse it in the future so all this can be a one-time investment and then will result in good data for months or years.
And also remember, how accurate this is should be dependant on how much time you WANT to put into this. This can also work well combined with intuition, and monitoring your results and progress.
How to use the repeat meal feature
When you press “Analyze” you are presented with three options: Search (as we have detailed above), Repeat (which we will look at now) and Fasting (which we’ll look at in the next section).
The Repeat Meal feature is a great way to save time when analyzing foods you eat often.
If you press “Repeat” you will be presented with a list of your recently analyzed meals.
If you have added a food label to the meal, the list can be narrowed down to items with the same or similar labels you have previously entered (especially using the first few words, so naming the items consistently will help a lot here).
This is one of the main reasons we strongly suggest you use food labels that describe the meal.
For example, if you have a daily protein shake with berries, you could call it “protein berry shake”
Rather than having to analyze it each time, you can name it and then select it from the list and reuse it every time you have that item.
Or perhaps you like to bulk cook foods and have staples that you repeat. Call it something you can remember and repeat, analyze it once, and so long as the portion is the same each time, you can simply keep re-adding it as a repeat meal.
How to log something as fasting?
Items analyzed with less than 10 calories will automatically count as fasting.
If you log something extremely low calorie — a drink such as black tea or coffee or water — this does not need to interrupt your fasting timer in Gyroscope. It can still be analyzed for its caffeine content or other micronutrients.
If it is a simple item like water or vitamins that don’t contain any calories or break a fast, select “Fasting” after pressing “Analyze” to keep the photo in your history but not count it as food.
Using the batch upload feature
We've discussed how the system works, and what to do in certain situations, but maybe you’re thinking when am I going to have time to actually analyze?
Once you take a photo and add a label, it is stored in your food report. You can go in and press “Analyze” whenever you like!
Some people will find it easy to analyze everything as they eat, similar to how other calorie counting apps work. Others who are very busy may prefer to just take photos on their phone, and upload a large batch later and go through the analysis when they have time.
If you’re trying to hit a calorie or macro target each day, you may like to analyze your earlier meals, so you can see how much room you have left for your later meals.
But maybe you don't care so much about that. The great thing about this system is its flexibility, and the batch upload feature allows you to just take photos of food as you go about your day, and you can upload them all at the same time whenever is convenient.
You can then add labels and analyze everything all at once if you prefer, then go through the data as it sits alongside everything else in your daily report.
How you choose to do it is totally up to you, and will be dictated by your goals, personal preferences and free time.
Logging the whole meal at once vs logging each ingredient
To finish, let’s just look at the two main ways you can approach this. Logging each item as a separate photo, vs the whole plate at once in one photo.
These are of course only really options if you are preparing your own food. If you are eating out, option 2 will likely be the only viable option as it’s all delivered in one plate.
Let’s break them down:
1 Taking one big photo of your meal, and analyzing everything at once.
- Pros: quick and easy to take just one photo, capturing the food for later
- Cons: can be a bit more fiddly when adding multiple items, especially when values need to be adjusted. Harder to reuse.
This is arguably the most convenient way to capture your eating history.
By this, we mean you don’t need to log every ingredient as you’re preparing food, but it may mean a more challenging analysis.
For example, if you have more than one item where the food label is slightly different to the database, then it can get awkward adjusting values as some manual maths will be involved.
We recommend this approach if you are eating a simple meal, such as meat or fish with a selection of vegetables. Or if you are in a social setting (ie. with friends or on a date) and spending 5 minutes on your phone logging what you’re eating would be rude. Then just snapping a quick photo and uploading/analyzing it later is probably your best bet, and still lets you accurately capture your history rather than relying on your memory.
If you are preparing a more complex recipe, especially preparing at home, then option 2 may make more sense…
2 Logging each ingredient separately as you go
- Pros: Can make for a cleaner, more accurate analysis. Easier to reuse
- Cons: Requires more photos to be taken, which may interfere with the flow of your cooking or entertaining (perhaps socially more intrusive)
For the most accurate analysis, every separate ingredient in a meal or recipe will be accounted for, and the quantity used will be as accurate as possible.
It stands to reason that the cleanest way to do this, is to take a photo of each ingredient as it comes. If you have a food label with the ingredient, even better - you can take a photo of the label and swiftly analyze it from there.
This also avoids any of the issue we spoke about above regarding confusion over quantities or ingredients, and if you prefer you can come back and analyze each item later on.
The downside to this could be that more awareness and time is having to be put into the logging of things when you perhaps want to be focused on the preparation. Or maybe you’re entertaining guests or cooking for a date and don’t want to have to keep pulling your phone camera out.
Whichever option you choose will influenced by preference, circumstances, time, type of meal you’re eating and more. You’ll no doubt use a mix of both, and probably even find your own techniques to make the process even smoother.
Just remember, this is a handy tool to track energy balance and learn about the energy content of your food, but it’s not 100% accurate, some flexibility and initiative is required to navigate certain situations, but after doing it for a while you should learn some powerful insights about the food you eat, and your own eating habits.