Weighing Food Raw vs Cooked when Tracking Macros

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Well, well, well, it looks like we’re talking about the never-ending debate of raw vs. cooked food when it comes to tracking macros. Tracking by raw weight might seem like the obvious choice, but measuring after cooking also has its benefits.

So, what should you do?

Let’s find out.

Benefits of Weighing Your Food

  1. Precision – Weighing food means you know exactly how much you’re eating, so it’s easier to hit your macro goals.
  2. Consistency – Consistency is key to making progress with your health and fitness goals. Weighing food helps ensure that you’re eating the same amount of food each time so you can stay on track.
  3. Learning – Weighing your food can teach you a lot about portions, serving sizes, and what’s best for your diet. This knowledge is helpful for maintaining healthy eating habits in the long run.
  4. Accountability – When you’re tracking your macros, it can be easy to fudge the numbers or conveniently forget about that extra scoop of ice cream. But when you weigh your food, you can’t hide from the truth.
  5. Flexibility – Weighing your food doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing every day. In fact, it can give you the flexibility to eat a variety of foods while still staying within your macro goals. So go ahead and enjoy that slice of pizza – just make sure you weigh it first!

How To Use A Food Scale

Ah, the humble food scale. It might not be the most exciting kitchen gadget, but it’s definitely a helpful one when it comes to tracking macros.

  1. Calibrate it correctly – First things first, make sure your food scale is calibrated correctly to get accurate measurements. Some scales come with a calibration weight, while others have instructions for adjusting using a household item.
  2. Zero it out – Once your scale is calibrated, place your container or plate on the scale and hit the “tare” or “zero” button. This will set the scale to zero and subtract the weight of the container or plate, so you’re only measuring the weight of the food.
  3. Place the food and measure – Next, add your food to the container or plate. Be sure to do it slowly and carefully so it doesn’t spill. The weight measurement on the scale displays the weight of the food.

Here’s a pro tip for you: If you’re using a container to weigh your food and want to weigh it accurately, try the “weighing by subtraction” technique. First, place your container on the scale with the food inside and zero it out. Then, remove some or all of the food from the container. The negative number on the scale is the weight of the food that you removed.

It’s your lucky day because here’s another pro tip: If you’re weighing something that weighs less than an ounce, just weigh it in grams for more precision.

Counting Calories Vs. Tracking Macros

What is the difference between these approaches? Both are ways to monitor your food intake, but they have different focuses.

Counting calories is pretty straightforward. You simply aim to consume a certain number of calories each day, usually based on your weight, height, and activity level. The idea is that if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. If you consume more than you burn, you’ll gain weight. It’s a simple equation, but it doesn’t take into account the types of foods you’re eating.

Tracking macros, on the other hand, is a more nuanced approach where you aim to consume a certain percentage of each macro (proteins, fats, carbs) daily, based on your goals.

Now, don’t get me wrong, counting calories is a useful tool in weight loss, gain, and maintenance. But tracking macros offers a more well-rounded understanding of your nutrition and helps you reach your objectives in a healthier, more sustainable way.

For an in-depth discussion of this topic, check out our “How to Track Macros” article.

Do You Weigh Food Before or After Cooking?

According to registered dietitian Sidney Fry, “The best way to get the most accurate and consistent food measurement is to weigh and log foods before cooking.”

When it comes to weighing food for tracking macros, weighing food raw is generally recommended to get a more precise measure of the macronutrients consumed. However, there are some exceptions to this, like baked goods. In this case, it’s important to follow the recipe to a tee (or as close to it as possible!) and weigh your ingredients accordingly to ensure your macros are accurate.

Why Cooked Food is Inconsistent

While cooking is an important part of preparing food, it can make tracking macros more challenging. This is because raw ingredients can change during the cooking process due to evaporation, moisture loss, or absorption of oils and sauces.

Plus, most information available online (like USDA) and those on menus and nutrition labels are based on raw weight. This is unless the labels say something like “Pan-Fried,” such as those you see in bacon packages. Otherwise, labels imply that the food inside is based on raw or uncooked weight.

Now, don’t get me wrong, tracking macros isn’t an exact science, and it’s normal to have some discrepancies in your measurements. But by weighing your food raw, you can reduce some of that variability and get a better sense of the macros you’re consuming.

Do Macros or Calories Change When You Cook Food?

Cooking can affect the nutrient and calorie content of your food. But the extent of the changes can vary depending on the cooking method and other factors.

Because of this, cooked foods have less moisture (as it evaporates) and maybe less fat (as it is rendered out). But the majority of the macros remain the same.

Meanwhile, you won’t have much problem tracking calories since calories won’t change; they will just increase (or decrease) in density. This excludes the extra things you use when cooking, such as oil, condiments, etc.

For example, pan-frying or deep-frying can add calories from the oil used in the cooking process. Grilling or roasting, on the other hand, helps reduce your food’s fat content by allowing the fat to drip away.

Why You Should Weigh Food Before Cooking

Accuracy

If you want to track your macros, you need to know exactly how much of each nutrient you’re consuming. Estimating the weight of food can be wildly inaccurate, and eyeballing portion sizes can lead to overeating or undereating.

Weighing your food before cooking will give you a precise measurement of how much you’re eating, making it easier to track your macros with accuracy.

Convenience

When you weigh food raw before anything else, then you can focus on cooking and prepping.

However, from personal experience, I also weigh some things after they are cooked. This usually happens when I’m in a hurry or cooking for other people.

During these instances, I will eat my share and input the closest food entry in the app I can find. For example, selecting “Grilled Chicken Breast” in my food logging app is close enough for convenience when I don’t want to bother with the raw weight.

How to Manually Convert from Raw to Cooked 

Once you get the hang of it, doing manual conversions is actually very simple. I use this formula when making a bulk meal that I either have to portion or share with others:

Raw Weight/Cooked Weight = Ratio

Then, simply multiply the cooked food you ate by the ratio you calculated.

Let me give you a quick example: Say you are grilling 16 oz of raw chicken breast for your family. After it is finished, weigh all of that chicken again. Let’s say you get 10 oz (signifying 6 oz of water lost in the cooking process. Calculate the raw/cooked ratio as 16/10 = 1.6

Now if you eat 4 oz of your grilled chicken, that equals 6.4 oz of raw chicken (4 x 1.6 = 6.4). Easy, right?

This can be applied to any raw and cooked foods. Even complex recipes or baked foods. Simply total up all the ingredients and their raw weights, then divide by the weight of the finished product.

Remember: In the end, it will all come down to personal preference, whether you want to weigh in raw or cooked food.

Raw and Cooked Weight Conversions

Note that the list below is not exact conversions. It can vary depending on ingredients, cooking methods, and other related factors.

Here’s the breakdown of calories and macros of common food:

Raw Chicken and Other Raw Meat

In general, raw meat, fish, and poultry lose 25% of their raw weight. So, 100 grams of raw chicken will become 75 grams of cooked chicken breast.

This is easiest with very lean meat like chicken breast since there is very little fat to drip off. With fattier cuts, you should also take into consideration how much fat is lost in the cooking process. Do note, however, that the “drippings” from meat are not 100% fat, they also contain water. Because of this, it’s a bit challenging to get a true measurement, but estimating is better than not tracking at all. 

Pasta

In the case of pasta, the raw weight is the one you see outside the package or box. Pasta will increase by about 2.25 times once cooked. You can use this ballpark conversion, calculate the true raw/cooked ratio on your own, or find a cooked pasta entry in your food logging app.

Rice

Brown rice doubles in weight when cooked, while white rice triples.

If you have a trusted tracking app, you can input “cooked” (versus “uncooked” or “dry weight’) and see if there’s already a conversion available on the database.

The Best Apps for Nutrition Tracking

  1. MyFitnessPal – This app is one of the most popular nutrition tracking apps out there, and for a good reason. It has a huge food and restaurant database of nutritional information from the app team and its users. Plus, it syncs with a lot of other fitness apps.
  2. Lose It! – Lose It! makes setting goals fun with its “Challenges” tab and has a social component that lets you connect with a supportive community.
  3. Noom – If you’re looking for an app that offers more than just nutrition tracking, Noom might be just what you need. It takes a holistic approach to wellness and offers personalized coaching to help you make healthier choices.
  4. MacroFactor – MacroFactor focuses on your body mass changes as a reflection of the body’s stored chemical energy and energy balance. It recommends macro and calorie targets by estimating the user’s daily energy expenditure and offers a verified breakdown of foods for accuracy.

What I’ve Learned

I never thought I would have so much fun while searching for the answer to the “Raw Vs. Cooked” question when it comes to tracking macros. After all, I’ve been weighing foods both ways depending on the situation for years now.

It might sound silly, but since weighing food is critical to reaching health and fitness goals, many take it seriously. And yet, many are still scratching their heads at the justifications for how people weigh their food.

So let me break down concepts most people find confusing:

1. Macros and calories don’t change after cooking

This is unless you add calories through cooking fat or remove calories from fat dripping off. In these cases your cooking methods do affect the food’s nutritional value.

But take this for an example:

I have 100 grams of uncooked rice that has about 350 calories. When cooked, it’s now 200 grams because of the absorbed water.

It’s still 350 calories. However, it now has fewer calories per gram.

Uncooked rice: 350 calories/100 grams = 3.5 calories/gram

Cooked rice: 350 calories/200 grams = 1.75 calories/gram

The act of weighing your food is what’s most important. Whether you weigh it raw or cooked is more a matter of personal preference.

There are no set rules for weighing food. But tracking after cooking increases the chances of errors. Except those with nutrition labels.

Conclusion

It looks like the debate between tracking macros using raw and cooked food is still sizzling. While weighing raw is the recommendation, there is nothing wrong with using cooked weight as well. Just make sure you aren’t mixing up the nutritional values by logging cooked food as raw food or vice versa.

Ultimately, whether you choose to track your macros using raw or cooked food comes down to personal preference and your individual health goals.

So go ahead and cook up a storm or chow down on some raw veggies; as long as you’re getting the nutrients your body needs, that’s all that really matters. Bon appétit!

FAQs

How do you calculate macros from raw to cooked?

To calculate macros from raw to cooked, you’ll need to weigh your food raw and then again after it’s cooked. Then, you can use a food database or nutrition calculator to determine the nutritional values of both raw and cooked foods.

Next, divide the cooked weight by the raw weight to find the cooking yield percentage. Finally, adjust the macro values of the cooked food by multiplying the raw macro values by the cooking yield percentage. This will give you a more accurate representation of the macros in your cooked food.

See the above section “How to Manually Convert from Raw to Cooked” for an example of this.

Do macros change when cooked?

The chemical composition of macros, which include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, remains the same when cooked, but their physical structure and availability may change. Cooking can break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, denature proteins, and melt fats, making them easier to digest and absorb. However, overcooking can destroy some of the essential nutrients and antioxidants found in food.

Do I weigh food cooked or uncooked?

It depends on your specific dietary needs or recipe instructions. If you are tracking your caloric intake or macronutrient ratios, it’s recommended to weigh your food raw or uncooked to ensure accuracy. However, if a recipe or nutritional information is based on cooked weight, then it’s appropriate to weigh the food after cooking.

It’s important to note that cooking methods and ingredients can affect the weight and nutrition of the food, so it’s essential to adjust accordingly.

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