How to track calories without counting them?


Tracking calories is one of the first steps to ensure that you are not underestimating or exaggerating your calories intake. One can keep count of calories and track them regularly using popular apps such as MyFitnessPal or Loseit!. However, counting calories can be overwhelming for some, and not everyone enjoys the underlying process.

Some of my clients have expressed concerns that recording everything you eat and drink every single day, in an app, is a tedious task. It gets even more frustrating when some of the food items have incorrect calorie estimates. To make life easier for everyone, I will explain how to track calories without counting them. I will also share my current diet, so you get a better understanding of how to apply this method. 


What do you do when you feel you are not saving enough money? First of all, you calculate how much you should save to reach your financial goals. Then, you track your finances to understand your expenses. Finally, you make the necessary changes and plan investments, to accomplish your financial goals.

Similarly, when it comes to your health, the first step is to calculate how much you should eat to reach your fitness goals. To understand how to do that, use any nutrition calculator available online or read this article:

How much should you eat? Calculate your macro portions

For the purpose of this article, we’ll use my daily energy intake to understand how to track calories without counting them. 

My appropriate daily energy intake for maintenance = 2800 – 3050 kcal

The macro portions are as follows:

  • Proteins = ~142 gm
  • Fats = ~98 gm
  • Carbohydrates = ~370 gm


For the vast majority of individuals, precisely tracking each and every calorie you consume is not essential. In fact, our daily energy intake calculations are also an estimate and not exact.  

The accuracy of the calorie counters available online is based on the assumption that the recipe handbooks, websites and their databases’ calorie estimates are correct. They are often not!

Using measuring cups and kitchen scale to calculate the exact quantity of food is too much of a drag for most people. Moreover, it gets impossible to track calories when you are travelling or at social gatherings. No wonder so many people give up and get back to their older eating habits. So, let us use a method that is feasible and does not even require your smartphone.


Calculate the number of portions for each macronutrient as given in the table below. As a guideline, we separate portions for veggies such as spinach, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower etc. as they are usually low in calories and nutrition-dense.


Number of portions



Daily requirements (in gm) ÷ 30
Daily requirements (in gm) ÷ 25
Daily requirements (in gm) ÷ 15
Daily requirements (in gm) ÷ 12
Daily requirements (in gm) ÷ 40
Daily requirements (in gm) ÷ 35
6-8 portions daily
4-6 portions daily

Let us calculate the number of portions I should eat, using formulae (for men) from the above table.

Protein = 142 ÷ 30 = 4.73 or 4-5 portions

Fats = 98 ÷ 15= 6.53 or 6-7 portions

Carbs = 370 ÷ 40 = 9.25 or 9-10 portions

Veggies = 6-8 portions


This is the fun part, and understanding this simple method will allow you to track your daily energy intake even while travelling or at social gatherings. We will estimate portion size using our hands for reference. 


A plant-based curry (Indian vegetarian) which has protein-rich foods such as lentils, beans, chickpea, peas etc. can be measured using a bowl (Katori) that fits in your palm as shown in the images below. Use your other hand as a reference for the quantity. Fill the bowl up to a level where your middle finger of the other hand starts (see bottom image). This comprises half portion carbs and half portion protein. 

Bowl of beans curry that fits your palm
Use a bowl (katori) that fits in your palm
Bowl of beans curry filled up to a level where your middle finger of the other hand starts
Fill the bowl up to a level where your middle finger of the other hand starts


The portion size of protein-dense foods such as chicken, red meat, fish, paneer, eggs, dairy or non-gravy based beans can be estimated using your palm. One portion is equal to the amount that fits in your palm as shown below. The thickness of the portion should also be equal to that of your palm. 

Palm sized portion of protein (meat) to track calories
One portion is equal to the amount that fits in your palm

For gravy based dishes such as chicken curry, goat curry, beef vindaloo, matar paneer, paneer tikka masala etc, use the same measurement method as that of plant-based curries. However, in this case, one bowl (Katori) equals one portion of protein. 

Here are some other examples that you can categorise as one portion of protein:

  • 1 standard scoop of protein supplements (~30 gm)
  • 1 bowl (Katori) of yogurt
  • 1/2 litre milk
  • 3 hard-boiled egg whites


The portion size of fats dense solid foods such as nuts, seeds (chia, flax etc.), avocado etc. can be estimated using your thumb as shown in the image below:

Thumb sized portion of solid healthy fats to track calories
One portion is the amount equal to your thumb

For liquid or semi-solid fats such as oils, butter, nut butter, ghee etc. measure the quantity using the thumb area as shown below. It should be roughly 2-3 level teaspoons.

Portion size for liquid or semi solid fats to track calories
Use the highlighted thumb area for liquid or semi-solid fats


Similar to plant-based curries, carbs dense grains and starches such as cooked oats, muesli, porridge, rice, poha, upma etc. can be measured using a bowl (Katori) as shown below. Fill the bowl up to a level where your middle finger of the other hand starts. One bowl equals one portion of carbs. If you are adding dry fruits, fruits, seeds etc. then account for them separately using respective portion sizes.

Bowl of rice filled up to a level where your middle finger of the other hand starts
Fill the bowl up to a level where your middle finger of the other hand starts

If a bowl is not available or if it is hard to measure, one may estimate the portion size based on the quantity that fits your cupped-hand as shown below. This method works well for estimating portion size for fruits.

Cupped handful of fruits to track calories
One portion is the quantity that fits in your cupped-hand

Sometimes, using a bowl or cupped-hand can be tricky in which case we make relevant estimations. Here are other examples of a single portion of carbs:

  • 1 slice of a 12-inch pizza (cut into 6 slices)
  • 1/2 bottle of 500 ml Cola 
  • 1 medium-size tawa roti (phulka) or poori
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 2 medium-size idlis
  • 1 small scoop of ice cream
  • 1 gulab jamun


In this section, I will share an example of my diet on a typical day. It will help you understand how one can practice using portion sizes to track calories. Keep in mind the portion sizes shown here are based on the size of my hand and will vary when you track calories for yourself. 

I will use the number of portions as discussed in previous sections, based on the daily energy intake of 2800 – 3050 kcal  

  • Protein  = ~142 gm or 4-5 portions
  • Fats = 98 gm or 6-7 portions
  • Carbs = 370 gm or 9-10 portions
  • Veggies = 6-8 portions







Breakfast Smoothie
Eggs (Optional)
Dry Fruits
Evening fruits
Peanuts/ Chana (Optional)
Protein shake (Optional)








Breakfast is usually a plant-based smoothie. It is a mix of green veggies, protein, fruits and healthy fats (see image for details). Breakfast can get easily neglected, so I prefer automating my breakfast. To know more and for a detailed smoothie recipe (with video), check out this link:

Automate your breakfast

Breakfast smoothie macro portions to track calories


The order of this varies depending on my schedule. I usually eat hard-boiled eggs (mix of whole and egg whites) on days I workout or feel hungrier than usual. So, eggs are optional and also depends on my mood. Some weeks I don’t feel like eating eggs, so I opt for a protein shake and sprouts. I eat a salad every day before lunchtime.

Salad macro portions to track calories


Lunch/ dinner is typically a protein-dense curry such as lentils or beans, sabzi (veggies) and roti/ rice. Roti usually has little ghee so that can be counted as one portion of fats. The below image has 3 rotis which account for 3 portions of carbs. Sometimes, I replace some or all of those carbs portions with rice or besan cheela.

Lunch or dinner macro portions to track calories


Fruits macro portions to track calories
Nuts and dry fruits macro portions to track calories


Sometimes, I consume a protein shake in the evening, depending on how much protein I have consumed throughout the day. Protein shakes are optional and should not be a replacement for your meals. Below are the links to some reliable protein supplement brands I have tried (in India). 

Optimum Nutrition Whey
My protein Whey
Unived Pea Protein (Vegan)
bGreen Vegan plant protein
OZiva protein (Women) 


As you get familiar with tracking calories using portion size, you may adjust the number of portions based on your goals. Track your weight or body measurement trends, as required, every 3-4 weeks and adjust your portions accordingly. One can start by increasing or decreasing portions from your daily intake. For example, if your goal is to lose fat, and you feel that you are not making enough progress. Reduce 1-2 carbs OR 1-2 fats portions from your diet and track for next 3-4 weeks. Pay attention to the results and adjust accordingly. 

Some people may not have body composition goals and want to track calories for general health improvement. In that case, consciously focus on how you feel after meals and adjust accordingly. 


The short answer is NO. Some people can intuitively understand when they are hungry and when they are full. However, some of us tend to overeat or eat less than required to reach our goals. In such cases, tracking calories can be beneficial. 

Not everyone needs Google Maps to go from one place to another. It helps when you are learning how to drive or are new to a city. But as you get familiar with the roads, you don’t feel the need to use maps every single time.

Similarly, over time you will get used to the process and will not feel the need to track calories every day. I do not track my calories anymore. I am not that strict with my diet either as I am comfortable gaining a few extra kilos. My diet also changes from time to time, depending on season and location. So, I try to eat what’s available locally and is convenient for me.

Healthy variety of whole foods

The goal should be to eat less processed, whole foods and a mix of macronutrients. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as they are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for overall health. I also eat based on how I feel rather than following fixed guidelines of how much I should eat. That said, I do tend to stick to similar meals, macronutrient splits and timings. It becomes intuitive when you practice it for long enough!

Bottom Line 

Counting calories by entering everything into apps can be tedious and can hinder your progress. The calorie estimates are not even precise, so why not use a straightforward method. Tracking calories using portion size is effortless and convenient to practice even while travelling or at social gatherings. 

Monitoring food intake may not be necessary for all. However, being aware of portion size will allow you to get to a level where you can start eating intuitively and develop a healthier relationship with food.

If you wish to read about 6 lifestyle changes to sustainably lose fat and improve long term health, click here

Thanks for reading this article. If you have any questions, feel free to message me on Instagram. Get regular blog updates and stay up to date on upcoming coaching resources. Subscribe here


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My recommendations for protein supplements: 
Whey Protein – Option 1
Whey Protein – Option 2
Vegan Protein – Option 1
Vegan protein – Option 2
Protein for Women
Other Option – Sattu
Read these amazing books to learn about mindset, what motivates us and how to form good habits, and break bad ones. 
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Atomic Habits
Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
7 Habits of highly effective people
30 Days

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