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I love to cook and experiment with recipes. While I'm aware that calories are not a perfect measure of what makes you gain weight and what doesn't, I would still love to have a rough idea of the energy values of the dishes I'm preparing, and ideally be able to fiddle with the ingredients just to see what happens to the calorie count.

How would I best approach this?

My vision is that of a tool that

  • lets you enter a recipe's ingredients and amounts, and can calculate an approximate calorie count for the most common ingredients

  • ideally, lets you add other ingredients and their energy values?

I know for a fact there is software like this, but all the good products I've seen are for professional diet advisors, nutritional consultants and the like, and tend to be very expensive.

I guess the basic functionality could be achieved with an Excel sheet, but where to get high-quality nutritional data from? Are there industry-standard databases for this?

This question matches mine in the title, but seems to be more about the calorie differences between cooked and raw food, which is not my concern.

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6 Answers 6

Lose It!, a free weight-loss site, has this feature. To use it I think you need to start an account. To access it, you hit the Settings tab and then select Recipes in the left-hand column. Then select "New" and follow the prompts. This calculator allows you to enter the ingredients of a dish you are preparing. Most common ingredients will pop-up in the site's list with their respective caloric values. You can also manually enter in the values if you know them or if the ingredient is not in their list. You then set the "serving size" of your dish as its total volume. Then, when you enter in the amount you are eating into your daily food log, the site automatically shows you the caloric value of your portion.

The fifth screenshot here, shows you what it looks like.

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Wolfram Alpha has high quality nutritional data , with common ranges, not just absolute values. It will gives amount per 100 grams, or per cup etc.

Load it into a Google Docs Spreadsheet (or Excel) and go crazy. Feel free to share your Google Docs Spreadsheet when finished :-)

Calories are a very good indicator of excess food consumption. Eating more calories than you need will stuff you or the loo up

The cheat sheet is:

 - Carbohydrate  1 gram = 4 calories
 - Protein       1 gram = 4 calories
 - Fat           1 gram = 9 calories
 - Alcohol       1 gram = 7 calories

E.g.

  • 50 g slice of bread has around 70% carb & protein, and a little fat, so ~140 calories
  • Glass of wine (150 g) at 13% alcohol has ~130 calories etc.

Some starter spreadsheets

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http://www.rippedrecipes.com allows you to build a recipe ingredient by ingredient, it calculates all the nutritional information automatically, it also allows you to search for other recipes by nutritional goals (300-500 calories, at least 20g of protein etc...).

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Tool calculation: alacalc.com - vast database of stock ingredients and some branded, professional results outputs. Even has a function to 'nudge' ingredient quantities up or down and watch the key nutrition values go up or down.

Lab calculation: Make your dish, send it to a food testing lab, wait a couple weeks and get your results

Manual calculation:

*Do this calculation for every component you wish to know the value (e.g. calories/protein/carbs/etc). Get the data from USDA SR26.

( (<component quantity of ingredient 1> x <quantity of ingredient 1>) + ... + (<ingredient *n*> x <quantity of ingredient *n*>) ) x (<weight after cooking> / <the total weight of all ingredients>) x 100 x <portion size>
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The USDA provides the data you want, but you'd have to roll your own software. You can currently download the data from here:

http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=8964

That's Release 26; they do update the database, so if the link breaks or this post is old, you may want to search for the current version.

They provide the nutrition values per 100 g of ingredient. The last few columns of the excel sheet have translations from common measurements (e.g. 1 cup) to grams.

There is a simplified excel table and a more comprehensive raw ascii relational database. The excel version documents fewer nutrients and only gives the first two "weights for common measures".

You can explore some of the data online through this page:

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/

(It also links to the full database, currently via the About the Database link in the top nav bar.)

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HappyForks's Analyzer is a tool you are looking for.

  • It's designed to copy-paste list of ingredients. Sometimes manual corrections are needed, unfortunately it's not 100% automated.
  • Detailed report, you can know what you want.
  • You can combine several recipes, also mixed with individual products/ingredients. So you can add ingredients to existing recipe on your list and next go to report.
  • Analyzer is not required, you can manual add every product/ingredient to your list and go to report.
  • It's possible to see nutritional values of individual ingredients: analyzer -> [add to list] -> open saved recipe -> go to bottom and see links to ingredients
  • It's free and you don't need to create an account.
  • Generally, it's easy to make changes on products/ingredients list and see how nutritional values are changing.

I use this for personal purposes, but I would not risk to use it commercially.

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