1). Calculating Calories and Nutrients in Single Ingredient Meals:
It is not always feasible to calculate nutrition information for all of your recipes, but having information for some of your meals is better than having nothing at all. Calculating nutrition information for more standard recipes is a great place to start.
We hope you find the following suggestions on how to calculate calorie and nutrient information in three scenarios helpful:
1). Single Ingredient Meals 2). Recipes and Mixed Dishes 3). Full Meals
Nutrient analysis software, nutrient analysis companies and laboratory analysis are also listed below.
The calorie and nutrient content of single ingredients and individual foods can usually be found in the USDA’s National Nutrient Database. In addition, most packaged foods list information in the Nutrition Facts panel. Follow the steps below to find nutrition information for a single food or ingredient:
1. Go to the USDA National Nutrient Database at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list.
2. Search and select food item of interest. Sometimes there are multiple options (e.g. chicken breast with and without skin; roasted, fried, etc.) so choose the option that is the best match for the food you are using.
3. Input the amount of food and click “apply changes.” Note that there are gram values for all provided unit measures, which is the same unit used on the Nutrition Facts label.
For example, if you want to know the calorie content of 2 cups of a food item, adjust the numerical value in the column titled “cup” to 2.
Other unit conversions may sometimes be necessary if the unit of interest is not an available option. For example, if you want to know the calorie content of 8 oz of a food item but only the value for 100 grams is available, then you will need to adjust the numerical value in the column titled ‘value per 100 grams’ to 2.27.
1 oz = 28.4 grams
8 oz = 227 grams (8 x 28.4 grams)
227 grams/100 grams = 2.27 (so you would need 2.27 times the 100 gram value)
Calorie information is the second row and is titled “Energy.” Other nutrients commonly reported are in the rows immediately following: protein, total fat, carbohydrate and total dietary fiber. Sodium is in the section titled “Minerals” and saturated fat, unsaturated fat and cholesterol are located in the section titled “Lipids.”
Calories, nutrients and weights displayed for each food are for the edible portion of food (for example – without bones, etc.)
2). Calculating Calories for Recipes and Mixed Dishes:
A lot of the foods we eat have more than one ingredient. For example, a chicken breast is rarely prepared plain and may include some type of fat used during cooking, a sauce added afterward, or other ingredients. Multi-ingredient recipes can be calculated by entering data for each individual ingredient into an MS Excel® spreadsheet that has been set up for this purpose. The spreadsheet gives you the option to list how many servings the recipe makes and will calculate the calories and nutrients per serving. Follow the steps below to calculate the nutrition information for a multi-ingredient food or recipe.
Type the names and amounts of each ingredient into the spreadsheet.
Enter the data into the spreadsheet and it will add up values for the total recipe. When you enter the number of servings, the spreadsheet will determine calories and nutrients per serving.
3). Calculating Calories for Full Meals:
Typically a meal consists of several different foods, some of which may be recipes that contain multiple ingredients. An example would be a stir fry (recipe with multiple ingredients) with a side of rice (single ingredient). Calorie and nutrient values for meals can be calculated by entering the values for the individual ingredients and for the single serving portion of recipes into a downloadable MS Excel® spreadsheet that is set up for this purpose. Follow the steps below to calculate the nutrition information for a meal.
Type the names of the ingredients and the recipes, along with the amounts of each into the spreadsheet. Alternately, recipes may be copied over from the Recipe Calculator above.
Enter the information into the Meal Calculator spreadsheet including number of servings for each individual ingredient or recipe. The spreadsheet will then sum calories and nutrients giving you values for a single serving of the entire meal.
The USDA database does contain some ready calculated meals, however, we recommend you calculate the nutrient information for your dishes as described above, in order to obtain the most accurate composition for your own recipes.
The more precise you can be with the exact food, amount, and servings per recipe, the more accurate the calories and nutrient values will be. Also, be aware of often forgotten ingredients such as oil, butter, or broth used in cooking.
The methods described above assume that all of the fat used in cooking is consumed. For deep fried items, however, select the appropriate choice directly from the USDA database.