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TOPIC: Servings vs. volume vs. weight - a hassle of a problem

 
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September 23, 2011 8:21 PM
MyFitnessPal is oriented around servings. But many times the food I'm working with doesn't come in even servings. So I measure it.

Since I have a postal scale, it is much, much easier to weigh my food than to measure its volume. Packing all my food into measuring cups and spoons before I eat it is a huge pain. Plus, it wastes food to put wet things like salad dressing into a measuring spoon before I put it on my salad.

Instead, I like putting things on my plate one at a time and zero out the scale in between each item. I note the weight, eat dinner, then enter my food afterward. It only takes a few extra minutes without much hassle.

The problem is that MyFitnessPal presents things in multiples of servings instead of simply allowing oneto use the measurement that's most convenient. True, there is usually a 1 ounce or 100g item to help out, but what if I just weighed the item and you're only offering cups?

Tonight I ate 3.9 ounces of Trader Joe's shrimp fried rice. It's in your food database, so it should have been easy to enter, right? No. I had to pull the package out of the trash and do math in order to figure out how many ounces in each cup and then what portion of the 1 cup serving I had. I even edited the food item to put the grams per serving in the title, but I think this is not where that information should go.

My suggestion is, for every food, to ask for BOTH weight and volume of some amount (servings are fine but it doesn't have to be servings). Then, when asking for the total package size, allow servings to be used but prefer weight or volume. The package of fried rice said "about 4 servings" but when you look at the weight it's really 4.4 servings. Then, build some unit conversion into the application so that the person can enter cups, pounds, ounces, grams, quarts, gallons, teaspoons, tablespoons, or whatever is most convenient to him. With a known conversion factor you can always switch it to a canonical form for storage. Say you'll always store in ounces or grams, that's fine by me. I just need to tell you how much and your doing the conversion with a program is much better than me whipping out a calculator every time I eat.

If someone doesn't know the weight of something, he can leave it blank and another user can weigh the item some time and fill in the amount. But then all can use it!

If you would like some help with javascript and ajax I'd be happy to offer my services for free.

Erik
September 23, 2011 8:31 PM
The big thing to remember is that 99% of the foods in the database are entered in by members and that could be people who use metric measurements (UK) and standard (USA), so depending on where you are in the world the measurements will be different.

I have a scale that goes between ounces and grams and that helps a lot.
  7796878
September 23, 2011 8:46 PM
I totally agree. I have been using a scale, so the 1 ounce choice works great, but isn't available on many foods.
September 24, 2011 1:45 AM
I've added a lot of my favourite often used foods to the database myself in a measurement that's useful to be (I prefer grams). Then thy are there whenever I need them, even if it is a hassle to add manually. Another trick when using raw ingredients for cooking: it took me awhile to figure it out, but if you add the word "raw" to the fruit or veg in your search you get the MFP entry at the top of the list which has the widest variety of measurements (ie strawberries raw).

I feel your pain, though! It can be such a pain sometimes!
September 24, 2011 3:05 AM
Anything that's packaged shouldn't be that hard to figure out. Take salad dressing for example... if the serving size 2 tablespoons, it will say right on the bottle how many grams it is also. It says something like Serving size 2 Tbs (84g). I weigh everything and I don't really have any problems. If it's listed as 2 tbs in the database, if you just look at the bottle... you know how many grams to use!

QUOTE:
I've added a lot of my favourite often used foods to the database myself in a measurement that's useful to be (I prefer grams).


Sure... useful to you, but what about people without a food scale? Why make a duplicate of something that's already there? Just my opinion...
  5879332
September 24, 2011 3:56 PM
kel_be > The big thing to remember is that ... depending on where you are in the world the measurements will be different.
Converting between ounces and grams is a fairly simple task. Try "5.5 ounces in grams" as a Google search. My scale switches, too--I just don't know when weighing it whether the food is going to be given in ounces or grams. I prefer to eat without a lot of interruption, and make MFP entries after the meal.

In any case weight<->weight conversion is a LOT less hassle than the main thing I'm asking for which is weight <->volume. Yet, if MFP is going to add weight/volume translation to the application, then by golly add metric/Imperial and all unit conversion as well, please!

I counted out 24 pecan halves into a 1/4th cup measure the other day in order to convert between pieces and volume. It sure would have been nice to be able to enter this in MFP so no one else has to do it again.

Crystal817 > It shouldn't be that hard to figure out.
I'm a computer programmer, thus math and conversions are second nature to me. However, it is STILL a hassle. Weirdly enough, I'm ALSO (drum roll please) a *computer programmer* and I know how easy it is to program software to do the job.

Crystal817 > Just look at the bottle
You don't think looking at the package EVERY time is a hassle? Did you that miss I had to dig through the trash to find the fried rice package? Entering my food accurately is a ROYAL PAIN IN THE BUTT already, especially when the food was home cooked from scratch by someone other than me (lengthy quizzing session on ingredients and portions to follow promptly after dinner). Anything that can be done to make the task just a little easier on folks will help them stick with active use of MFP longer.

> I've added a lot of my favourite often used foods to the database myself in a measurement that's useful to me
The proliferation of duplicates and near-duplicates is a problem. Instead, you should be allowed to choose a unit of measure that's convenient for you and have the software do the work. Duplicate items waste people's time trying to figure out which one is going to work for them.
Edited by ErikEckhardt On September 24, 2011 3:57 PM
October 9, 2011 12:32 PM
It would be best if the food database would standardize on weight. Metric or imperial does not matter, conversion can be done on the fly. Servings or volume descriptions are fine, but the author of the database entry should then indicate how much this description weighs when he inserts it. In that way, everyone can use the insertion method he or she prefers. So I agree with ErikEckhardt.
October 9, 2011 2:06 PM
I completely agree that there needs to be an option for MFP to convert the servings for us. I used Chronometer a few years ago and the program would figure it all out for me when I used my diet scale to weigh stuff. Even with the recipes, I could enter the ingredients and it would figure the nutrition based on the total weight of the recipe versus the weight of the finished product that I plated and put on my scale. The only reason I do not go back to Chronometer is that this is available on my phone and I can enter with barcodes to make it quicker!!
Edited by _Chantel_ On October 9, 2011 2:07 PM
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October 9, 2011 2:21 PM
The MFP database is built by members. Members copy what the nutrition facts on the package say. If the serving size is two tablespoons, that's how they'll enter it. It's not up to MFP to do math for you when you want to do things differently. It wouldn't be possible to calculate all those conversions for everyone ahead of time. The database is not a smart program that knows the weight and volume of every single kind of food.

Try not throwing out your food labels until after you log....

The math really isn't that hard. The website can't do everything for you.
October 9, 2011 2:34 PM
There is no one conversion rate for everything. It would be pretty much impossible to create a database of conversion values. Different items with the same volume can weigh out differently. Even different brands of the same product could have different conversion factors. I don't really see an accurate way of doing this, especially when the database is user created.
November 3, 2012 1:42 AM
QUOTE:
The MFP database is built by members. Members copy what the nutrition facts on the package say. If the serving size is two tablespoons, that's how they'll enter it. It's not up to MFP to do math for you when you want to do things differently.


You make me laugh. A deep, belly-roll of a laugh. You're acting like I'm putting some awful and unreasonable burden on some poor wounded soul who is only trying to help. And you're exposing your ignorance of what databases and computers can do.

Just stop that ridiculous thinking!

QUOTE:
The math really isn't that hard. The website can't do everything for you.

If the math isn't hard, then the website CAN do it. I'm a computer programmer. It is not at all impossible to encode these things in a computer program and save people from having to deal with it themselves. I'm not asking for *everything* from "the web site" or from "the phone app", just for unit conversions, and that's not *that* hard.

I spent a few hours once researching all sorts of unit conversions, including weight, volume, acceleration, time, and so on, with factors to scale each unit to a selected base value. I entered all the resulting data in a SQL Server database with an Access ADP front end and before long had unit conversions working beautifully. I parsed the text of the units, which had to be given in the format m/s/s or m*m for example, and then stored the value in a canonical unit (such as grams). To make a long story short, it's possible, and reasonable. If you think that unit conversions can't be done, try a Google search for "speed of light in furlongs per fortnight" or "5.3 grams in ounces" or "60 mph in kph".

QUOTE:
Try not throwing out your food labels until after you log....

Oh, shut your mouth. Why are you even arguing with me? Do you think improving the unit entry of MFP is a stupid idea? Do you think that a system that requires its users to jump through hoops is a *good* system? Do you think I need YOU to tell me that I should keep the packages out of the trash? The point was that *I thought I had enough information* but due to MFP's limitations I had to go back and do manual calculation again. I trusted the system and it failed me. Are you saying you personally would *hate* for it to accept different units?

QUOTE:
It wouldn't be possible to calculate all those conversions for everyone ahead of time.

If you were paying attention you would have noticed that I said the people entering foods would provide the weight/volume equivalency for that food, which would then be the base ratio that could be used to calculate any transition between any unit of weight and volume for that food. I put as many pecan halves as possible into a 1/4th cup measure, then weighed them. I then used the ratio to calculate what MFP was demanding. I could enter this ratio in the database, and in the future when someone listed weight, it could be converted to volume. It doesn't have to be *perfect*. Close enough is fine.

MyFitnessPal is not the only food-tracking application out there. They are competing against many others for your and my attention and ultimately our wallets as potentially capture by us clicking through on the ads. They aren't doing it for philanthropic reasons, and I have every right to ask for more and expect more, and if some other company puts out a better product then I will switch. I can download my food database and script the entry of it into another site, even (at least the calories), so I'm not worried about losing what I've entered.

QUOTE:
The database is not a smart program that knows the weight and volume of every single kind of food.

Thanks for explaining this detail to me. I had no idea the database was not "smart". Now that I know better, I'll stop asking for improvements to the site since it is so unfortunately stupid. Do you have any idea why the MFP folks picked such a low IQ database? What a shame. Can its brain be upgraded or replaced or something? Can't the database "program" be taught to read and then sent through grocery stores packed in a robot so it can read all the food labels ahead of time? This should be possible with modern technology. And if you believed any of that it's just a demonstration of what I am trying to say about a certain someone's qualifications to be commenting on this topic.

One thing I think you're missing is that if MFP is too big of a hassle, people will simply stop using it. That means they will no longer see ads, and no longer potentially generate revenue. It is the #1 top priority of the MFP folks to try to retain users, and removing barriers to food entry is of key importance. Why else would they invest in allowing hardware manufacturers to post data electronically to your log (such as step counters & bathroom scales)? Because this makes it more convenient and attracts users, the life blood of the site's continued operation.
Edited by ErikEckhardt On November 3, 2012 1:53 AM
November 3, 2012 1:06 PM
For example.

I just made a smoothie, and used frozen strawberries. I measured the amount by weight with my blender jar on the scale. But noooo when I go to enter this in a recipe to calculate my portion of the smoothie, it wants cups only. So I have to trek out to the garage to find the frozen strawberry bag and discover that the 1 cup serving size is 140g. Of course, I measured in ounces, since so many times I've measured in grams but the MFP item was in ounces. So now I get to convert units and divide.

Do NOT tell me that MFP cannot do this or that wanting this feature is an unreasonable request. In most cases it is a simple matter of recording the serving volume and weight *as stated DIRECTLY on the package*. This is a huge flaw and makes me want to find another food tracker, if one can be found that is better.

And before you reply saying "Well then if you hate MFP so much why don't you just leave" remember that I started this thread simply stating an improvement I would like to see. It is constructive criticism. If no one ever bothered to let the MFP system owners know where his pain points are, they would not be able to respond to their population's actual desires. Me leaving won't solve MFP's problem, and that I am motivated to share my pain points instead of just silently leaving shows my commitment, conscientiousness, and willingness to contribute to others.

If you went to a pizza place that always had dirty and sticky tables, would you just stop going--the easy way out? Or would you take the time to complain to the manager so he or she could take action to improve the restaurant whose food you enjoy? It's the lazy or fearful person's way out to just leave. The customer who cares trusts that the manager *wants* to hear the feedback and *wants* to know exactly where the problems are that are risking losing customers. If no customers ever say a thing and they all just leave, the business will fail because it has no feedback to correct itself.
Edited by ErikEckhardt On November 3, 2012 1:09 PM
November 3, 2012 5:47 PM
There are "tons" of entries in the database for most foods, because of the various serving options. User created foods are limited to one serving size option, which could be plate, bowl, glass, ounce, grams, serving, cup.. 100 grams... the MFP entries (those not marked with *) in the search results on the computer tend to have multiple options where you can pick the one you want to use from the one entry, or you can pick another search result until you find the serving size you DID measure in. I'd much rather click through a couple database entries to find the one that offers cups if that's what I measured in than leave the computer dig through the garbage for the package to check.

MFP staff "response" on a related problem (serving size issues) - the last part may be of the "most interest" I'll bold the statement
QUOTE:

Hello,

Currently, the options in the "Serving Size" area are limited to the options entered when the food item was created in our database. If the MFP team entered it, there may be several options available if you tap the Serving Size field, but if another user entered the item there is typically only one choice.

However, by manipulating the "number of servings" value, you can accommodate for different serving sizes. So, if the serving size was 1 cup, and you use 3/4 of a cup, you could enter .75 as the number of servings and accomplish the same goal.

Also, if the item is listed as a serving size of 10 oz, for example, the serving size menu should also offer a single unit of this measurement. So a 10oz serving should also have the option of 1 oz, which can then be modified, as mentioned above, by adjusting the number of servings.

If you are looking for a different serving size (for instance, ounces versus grams) it's likely that another user has created an item in the database that measures the food you're searching for in the units you prefer. If you examine some of the other items that appear in the search results, you may find one that matches your preference.

We are definitely looking into expanding the options for converting Serving Size choices in future updates.

Cheers,
Scott
MyFitnessPal Staff

From http://www.myfitnesspal.com/topics/show/779898-recipe-add-ingredients-problem
Edited by Pandorian On November 3, 2012 5:48 PM
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November 3, 2012 9:01 PM
Thanks for the input, Pandorian! It's heartening to know that the MFP folks at least are aware of this and have ostensible plans to do something about it.
November 8, 2012 2:55 PM
Why can't each database entry have the option for different ways to measure serving size? As someone pointed out, serving size on packaging is often listed both in terms of volume and weight. Weight is much more accurate and (if you have a scale) much easier, as it doesn't require any extra vessels. I often find foods that I'm eating have only been entered in the database with volume only, even though the package lists both. Wouldn't it be easier if I could just edit the entry and add a field for weight and use all the same nutrient info?

Also, I appreciate the math that MFP does when I select a single unit of weight. For example, I may not want to use an even multiple of 79g of frozen veggies (which is the real number I'm dealing with as I fix dinner tonight). I'd rather just weigh my veggies at 131g or whatever and say "1 serving of 1g each," which is what I normally do. This is really easy with weights, and much less simple with volume.
  22543473
November 8, 2012 3:00 PM
If you're looking up chicken, boiled, for instance, you don't have to choose the first option. Keep going until you find the one in the right measurement. My favourite is banana, though, because every measuring option available is listed :P
  28737300
November 8, 2012 3:08 PM
This approach might help some people in the short term: I picked up a food scale for $11 at K-Mart that flips back and forth between ounces and grams. (Down side: button is on the underside of the scale, so you have to take everything off to switch).

I've gotten into the habit of checking MFP's database *before* I measure out the food and if the database entry is in ounces, I flip the scale to ounces, likewise for grams. It's helpful that lot's of packages give you the conversion to grams (e.g., 1 cup = 8 dry ounces = 55 g of my cereal), but if I don't have the package I use the units already in MFP. It takes some planning, which doesn't always work out, but overall the effort has been worth it.
  3078654
November 15, 2012 7:38 AM
I have to agree with ErikEckhardt wholeheartedly. BodyMedia gives you quite a few options for measurements. For instance if you were to select granulated sugar you would be able to choose from oz (fl oz for liquid), gram, cup, tbl, tsp, etc. It does all the conversions for you. Using a scale really isn't a viable option. Many of the items list weight only for the full container but have only measurements like tbl or tsp. Worse yet are those that list the quantity by cup and you need to enter tsp. You would have to determine how many tsp in a cup, covert it to find the decimal equivalent of 1 tsp, and then multiply that by the number of tsp being used. That's very messy and, to the user, prone to easy error.
November 15, 2012 8:34 AM
I just took 8.5 oz white seedless grapes for an AM snack. I checked the database and found entries by the number of grapes or cups. Now, I don't know where others get their grapes but the Kroger I shop in sells them in bunches. Each bunch has grapes of varying size. Since grape sizes are not standardized the measurements by quantity are relatively useless. The same goes for measurement by cup. Depending on the different sizes of grapes the weight of a cup of grapes could vary widely. Now, the obvious solution would be to just make a new entry but Mother Nature doesn't put nutrition labels on her produce. I seldom use packaged food. I cook my own meals using fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats that I buy by the pound. None of these items have nutrition labels on them. With the exception of meat most of the items are measured in cups or whole items. I'm making stuffed peppers. How many cups is a whole pepper? Since that can't be measured accurately we'll go with weight. How many oz/grams in a whole pepper? Hmmm, my peppers all weigh differently. That pretty much cancels out an accurate measurement by whole pepper. That leaves measurement by weight and none of the entries have weight.
Edited by rmajew On November 15, 2012 8:37 AM
January 3, 2014 3:46 AM
I have a serving weight-related question...I have a food scale and weigh certain foods for logging. I've noticed that the servings listed on the nutrition label don't match the weight of the food inside the bag. For example, a bag of pistachio nuts says there are 12.75 ounces total (361 grams). A serving is 60 grams (with shells), and there are "about 7" servings. 60 * 7 = 420, which leaves 59 grams...almost another serving's worth that is completely missing.

What's up with this? Are they allowed to be a whole serving off with their weights? Are they implying that a serving is actually less than 60 grams due to shell variations? I'm curious because I rely on weighing food and want to be sure I have an accurate assessment on what I'm eating, particularly with a calorie-rich food like my trusty pistachio.
January 3, 2014 8:04 AM
QUOTE:

kel_be > The big thing to remember is that ... depending on where you are in the world the measurements will be different.
Converting between ounces and grams is a fairly simple task. Try "5.5 ounces in grams" as a Google search. My scale switches, too--I just don't know when weighing it whether the food is going to be given in ounces or grams. I prefer to eat without a lot of interruption, and make MFP entries after the meal.

In any case weight<->weight conversion is a LOT less hassle than the main thing I'm asking for which is weight <->volume. Yet, if MFP is going to add weight/volume translation to the application, then by golly add metric/Imperial and all unit conversion as well, please!

I counted out 24 pecan halves into a 1/4th cup measure the other day in order to convert between pieces and volume. It sure would have been nice to be able to enter this in MFP so no one else has to do it again.

Crystal817 > It shouldn't be that hard to figure out.
I'm a computer programmer, thus math and conversions are second nature to me. However, it is STILL a hassle. Weirdly enough, I'm ALSO (drum roll please) a *computer programmer* and I know how easy it is to program software to do the job.

Crystal817 > Just look at the bottle
You don't think looking at the package EVERY time is a hassle? Did you that miss I had to dig through the trash to find the fried rice package? Entering my food accurately is a ROYAL PAIN IN THE BUTT already, especially when the food was home cooked from scratch by someone other than me (lengthy quizzing session on ingredients and portions to follow promptly after dinner). Anything that can be done to make the task just a little easier on folks will help them stick with active use of MFP longer.

> I've added a lot of my favourite often used foods to the database myself in a measurement that's useful to me
The proliferation of duplicates and near-duplicates is a problem. Instead, you should be allowed to choose a unit of measure that's convenient for you and have the software do the work. Duplicate items waste people's time trying to figure out which one is going to work for them.


If I am eating something new, I always check whats on my packet with what is in the food database to make sure that it is correct. If the FD is incorrect, then I will do the corrections for next time. This is all on us as the user to ensure that what we put into our mouths is correct, not on MFP.
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