BF Basics: How to figure out a recipe’s nutritional information

Every now and again I will get a blog post comment or a question on Facebook or Obesity Help about the nutritional stats of my recipes.

And I always give the same answer: in general, I do not give nutritional stats for my recipes. (click that link to find out the many reasons why).

BUT it always leaves me feeling sort of like the Grinch. I mean, my intentions are good. I founded Bariatric Foodie to help empower post-ops to take control of their eating life. That includes knowing how to figure up the stats to your recipes AND determine if those stats are acceptable to your eating plan. It is my fondest wish to give you the tools you need to be able to do that.

And that’s when it hit me. I haven’t given folks the tools they need to know how to figure out their own nutritional information! That’s why I’ve been feeling like Stinkmeaner about this whole thing!

So…without further adieu…here is how you figure out the nutritional information for ANY recipe you make.

Online method:

Step One: Get to Tracking!!!

Log-into (or join) an online food tracker like FitDay, Sparkpeople or LiveStrong (what up with the two word in one names, food tracking sites???).

Most of these sites have functions that allow you to make a custom entry into a daily food journal. I can only speak for LiveStrong, which is where I track. Under MyPlate, there is a tab that says “recipes.” If you click it then you can go to “Create Recipe” and its pretty straightforward from there.

Step Two: Don’t leave ANYTHING out

Log every single ingredient, even if you don’t think it has any caloric value. Include Splenda and salt as well. Those things are important to your daily intake numbers.

Also be sure to indicate the measurements YOU used. If you tweaked a recipe, don’t put the amount of an ingredient called for in the recipe, but the amount you actually used. Again, LiveStrong makes this easy by letting you put in any amount of anything you want (1 tbsp of Fiber One for example) and does the math for you!

Step Three: Divide and conquer

Some trackers (like LiveStrong…I swear this is NOT an endorsement, it’s just what I know!) ask you for the amount of servings your recipe yielded. Some do not. If they do, when you are finished inputting your recipe you simply publish it and the tracker will tell you how many calories, carbs, protein, etc. is in that one serving. If not, when you publish, the food tracker will give you the stats for the entire recipe. DO NOT FREAK OUT. It’s for the whole shabang. You’ll need to divide by how many servings you got.

Don’t know? Understandable. Some of us pre-portion our foods and therefore know how many servings a recipe yields and some folks cook it and eat it until it’s gone. Neither way is wrong. Here are some tips:

  • If you made a casserole, try pre-cutting the casserole into the sized pieces you would eat. Yes, the fam might get annoyed at having to take five slices to make a regular portion, but they’ll get over it!
  • For stews/soups/chilis, I immediately transfer to a storage container (even if I am serving it that night). I do so with a cup measure (for me that’d be an 8 oz. cup measure…for you it may be smaller). Do that and count the number of times you ladled out…and there’s your number of portions!

The “Hand Method”

For those that don’t want to use a food tracker, you can always do this by hand. It requires a little more time and a bit more diligence about adhering to the portion sizes that the particular food product calls for, though.

Step One:

Take down the stats of each food you used in a recipe (from the nutrition label) and the number of servings of each food you used. (That’s the easy way. The hard way is using however much of a food product you want and then figuring out the math for how many calories that is based on the serving size they provide…but who wants to do that???)

Step Two:

Add up all the stats from each ingredient. This gives you the stats for the total recipe. Again, do not freak. Don’t do it!

Step Three:

Divide that number by the number of servings.

In closing I’d like to say once you start paying attention to your nutritional information (and here’s a good primer on what to pay attention to), this almost becomes second nature. At four years post-op I can guesstimate, within just a few calories, any recipe I make or eat. It just takes practice.

But I’m sorry, dear Foodies. Much as I love you, adore you, can’t get enough of you, I’m not going to start posting nutritional stats! And that’s that! 😉


  1. Just to let you know you spelled sparkpeople wrong.

  2. Ah…that I did. Thanks.

  3. To meet the requirement of water you should keep water in any form in your arm’s reach as it helps a lot to drink more water…
    Nutrition and Hydration week 2014

  4. I just had to tell everyone I made Nikki's pumpkin chili and it is AWESOME. It is was so easy to make (a must for me) and yummy. This is the third or fourth dish of hers I have made and they all are great. I thank you Nikki!!!!
    Mary Grisaffi

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