Not a day goes by that I don’t use my food scale (okay, except when I’m on vacation or something, ya got me). But seriously, food scales are probably the most underrated kitchen tools out there — and can I just say…they are cheap AF.
And it’s not just because I have an unrelenting passion for meal prep and macro-counting…I use my food scale for all my cooking and baking measurements (even when I bake dog treats) simply because it’s so accurate. As my chef-trained boyfriend loves to tell me, “Baking is a science — being short a tablespoon of flour can make or break some recipes.“
As you probably already know from my never ending posts, reels, blogs, and podcast episodes, every little gram matters for us women under 5’3″. And being off a few grams on the weight of your food, means you’re a few grams off your macros which could be the difference between seeing progress and now seeing progress.
So, if you really want to see changes in your body composition (lean out, get stronger kinda-thing), I highly suggest measuring out your portions with a food scale before you chow down and here’s why…
The LESS MESS Weigh to Measure
Forget measuring spoons and cups, that’s like the snail mail way of measuring.
First off, the last thing I want (or have time to do) is wash 12 measuring spoons…
Just think about how much extra cleaning time that alone adds to the cooking process. Sometimes it feels like I’m cleaning more than I’m cooking so I am always looking for ways I can cut down on the things I have to clean and a food scale helps me do just that.
But more importantly, measuring cups and spoons leave us with nothing but a good chance of human error.
More often than not, we end up take a heaping scoop. Wanna doubt every tablespoon of peanut butter you’ve ever consumed? Just weight your next tablespoon of peanut butter. I bet you’re way off from the 16 grams listed on the label (I know I was). Same goes for protein powder…just weigh your next scoop and get ready to be shocked.
And if you’re anything like me… you’ll begin to wonder “If I’m off this one time, how many other times was I off? And omg how inconsistent have I been all this time?!“
So, if you’re taking the time to log & track your food, you might as well be as accurate as you possible can. The best way to do that? Use a food scale.
You might have once thought using a food scale is tedious and time-consuming but I’m here to tell you…
- You won’t have to dig through your cabinets and drawers for the right sized cup.
- You’ll have fewer measuring spoons to wash.
- And…It’s. Just. Faster. Like, a lot faster. Did I say that already?
Here’s How To Use A Food Scale:
Starting with the obvious, invest in a food scale. This is the one I currently use.
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- Place your bowl, plate, or meal prep container on the food scale.
- Zero out the scale by using the “tare” button or corresponding function key. Most scales allow you to toggle between grams* and ounces (some even include milliliters and fluid ounces).
- Add your first ingredient to the mixing bowl until you reach your desired amount.
- Zero out the food scale again.
- Add the second ingredient and repeat this process until you’ve added every ingredient.
*I prefer to measure almost everything in grams as it’s the smallest measuring unit and therefor the most accurate. But whether you use grams or ounces, it’s important to stay consistent with each time you measure that specific food. (For example, if you measure your dry oat meal in grams, always measure your dry oats in grams.)
The great debate: Measure Raw or Measure Cooked?
There’s a short and a long answer here.
The short answer is that you if you weigh your food in it’s cooked form, then you should log your food as a cooked entry… Or if you log your food in is raw form then you should weigh it in its raw form. Use whichever is most convenient for you at the time.
Which means, it will depend on what the food is. For example, if I’m measuring oatmeal. I measure it dry, log it dry and THEN I cook it. Since oatmeal absorbs water when it cooks and I don’t always use the same amount of water, the weight of the end result will always be slightly different so I always measure that one dry.
But sometimes I can’t measure it before it’s cooked and so I will measure it in it’s cooked form and log it as cooked. For example, If I’m roasting a whole chicken, but I’m only gonna eat the breast, I can’t exactly weigh only the breast raw unless I cut it off but then I wouldn’t be roasting a whole chicken so why not just grill a breast, right? In this case, I would weigh it cooked and when I enter it into MyFitnessPal I would log it as “roasted chicken breast.
Which brings us to the longer answer which is this: When you cook some foods, the food actually changes in weight (like, meat which tends to shrink and grains which tend to expand).
The end result isn’t always the same weight because the exact amount of water loss (and therefore, scale weight) depends on how you cooked your food.
If you were to cook a steak, some of the moisture in the meat will be released when you cook it (that’s why you’ll often see a puddle of liquid in the bottom of the pan when you pull your meal out of the oven). The more you cook meat, the dryer the meat can be and the less weight it will have on the scale. So if you have a 5oz raw piece of meat it’s possible it will cook down to 4.2oz, or 4oz, or even 3.5oz if it’s well-done. See how those are all very different measurements but they all were once 5oz raw.
The opposite happens with something that starts out dry, like rice, and absorbs water during cooking. Differences in preparation can influence how much a serving of rice weighs by the time you’re done cooking it.
So all this means is that weighing the food raw, and using the entry for raw weight, is usually more accurate.
But to be fair, not ALL foods change that much. Like green beans raw vs cooked don’t vary much in weight. And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just don’t have the option of measuring it raw and therefore measuring it cooked is the best option and the most accurate option you have. Always keep in mind an educated guess is still better than nothing.
Truth of the matter, we won’t always be perfect but we can be close and that’s really the goal. Do the best you can with what you got and you’ll be golden!
The Reverse Weigh
Weighing foods the traditional way is simple but this method is more fun. Reverse taring is the measuring hack you’ve been waiting for for those more tedious items, like peanut butter. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the entire jar of peanut butter(cap off) on the food scale. (See video below)
- Zero out the scale.
- Take a spoon, knife –or your finger (no judgement)– to slowly remove some of the creamy goodness.
- The number on the scale will be negative and tell you how much peanut butter is “missing” from the jar. Keep going until you reach the amount you were aiming for. (Remember, you can always put some back if you go over!)
Another time this comes in handy is when you have a hot skillet that needs a bit of oil or a giant bowl of dressing-less salad that won’t fit on your food scale.* For example:
- Place the entire bottle of oil on the food scale.
- Zero out the scale.
- Remove the bottle and add the oil to the pan, slowly.
- Place the bottle back on the scale. The number on the scale will be negative and tell you how much oil is “missing” from the bottle. That’s how much you used.
*This method works best for times you don’t need precision. If you need exactly 5 grams of oil, I wouldn’t recommend this method.
BONUS Tips & Tricks
- put a sheet of plastic wrap over the scale to quickly portion raw meat and other stuff that would leave a mess
- weigh your most commonly used bowls and pots empty and write it down somewhere; makes it easy to weigh a bulk cooked dish and divide it into servings. For example, I measured my Instapot insert and wrote the grams & ounces in sharpie on the outside itself.
- I plan my measurements for each food first to meet my macros and will adjust measurements on the fly as needed.
- some commonly used numbers/conversions that I rely on all the time are:
- 1 Tablespoon peanut butter = 16 grams
- 1 Tablespoon oil = 14 grams
- 1 teaspoon oil = 5 grams
- 1/2 cup = 114 grams
- 1oz = 28 grams
Hope you find these tiny but mighty tips and tricks helpful!
Forever Funsized & fierce,
P.S. Are you subscribed to The Funsized Podcast yet? Aside from the gram, this is my main hangout, and it’s where I dive DEEP into all things nutrition & fitness (and beyond) for petite women! >>> Come hang!