How to Calculate a Recipe’s “Nutrition Per Serving”

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Antique-SpoonIt isn’t difficult, and I find it much easier to do it by hand – on paper — than plug data into software or use an online calculator.  That is because so many ingredients seem to have peccadilloes and sometimes the software doesn’t accept your data OR doesn’t have that specific item in its database or won’t let you put in a weird measurement like a pinch.  Here are my tools:

  1. your recipe
  2. paper
  3. pencil/pen
  4. calculator
  5. packaging from ingredients, if using (canned beans, bread crumbs, all have the data on them)
  6. reference book or various websites or just Google a specific food

Elements most recipes list are Calories, grams Protein, grams Carbohydrates, grams Fiber, grams Fat, grams Saturated Fat, milligrams Cholesterol and milligrams Sodium.

This is how I do it:  on paper (or if you are an Excel fan, make yourself a table), make columns like below.  List your ingredients by the recipe’s quantity, then look the item up (see 6 above).  Using your calculator, calculate the value of the QUANTITY of your ingredient for each column.  For instance, if your recipe calls for three carrots and your reference gives values for one carrot, then multiply by three.

For packaged foods (maybe you are using graham crackers for a crust), use the data on the side of the box.

THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO DO THIS IN COLUMNS, AND BY YOUR RECIPES’ QUANTITIES.  And don’t overlook ingredients like salt and pepper.

When all done with your ingredients, total your columns.  That is the value of the full recipe.

Finally, divide your totals by the number of servings of your recipe.  Serving sizes are a debate amongst lots of folks, but think in terms of about a cup per serving.  A cup of Homemade Chicken Soup, a cup of pie, a cup of lasagna – you can kind of visualize.  Or look up a similar recipe on a reputable site to see THEIR number of servings (Good Housekeeping, Sunset, Martha Stewart, Epicurious).

ingred cal pro carb fiber fat sat fat cho sod
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
6 cups broth

AGREED, this is not a perfect science because it assumes your family will eat everything in the pan, like
drippings.  And you cannot use this method if you are creating a package label, that has to be done by a professional program.  But if you are writing your own recipes and want to know if you’ve created a nutritionally sound recipe, do it this way to get your feet wet.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 biz319 September 23, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I use MasterCook, but its an older version and you won’t find things like agave nectar or any of the newer ingredients.

Before MC, I did the pen and paper routine, its time consuming but at least accurate!

2 Linda September 20, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I use a program called AccuChef…it’s data base is straight from the FDA and you can also customize it for ingredients that are unique. I use a lot of protein powders, almond four, sugar subs – and just plug those in once, and it’s done.

It’s fairly easy to use – might be something you’d be interested in.

3 Dragon September 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Thank you for doing this. I’m going to try it with my recipes. 🙂

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