A lot of people use various sorts of charts, graphs, and apps (oh my!) to accomplish their balance but I have discovered that I am very bad at maintaining a food/exercise diary and I can't can't afford the techno-monitor options.
I also have a tendency to not eat for hours and hours and then stuff myself because I'm starving. Not healthy.
So I made a food-tracking program that works for me.
First of all, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian. I just know what works for me and thought there may be others that can relate. I don't have any dietary concerns except for a dairy allergy so I'm able to focus on just counting calories. This may be more difficult if you are watching your sodium or cholesterol intake.
I also don't keep track of balancing meat/starch/veggies/etc but I tend to eat healthier over all when I'm following this plan.
I started out on fitday.com. This is a free program where you can input all of your food/exercise and it will track all sorts of things for you. These are the only parts I use though:
Profile - age, height, and lifestyle activity level
Weight - I update this every few months.
Weight Goal - Make this something reasonable- not more than 1 lb/week.
--Calorie Balance-- This estimates how many calories you burn based on your lifestyle, what your calorie restriction has to be to meet your goal, and tells you how many calories you should eat a day.
If you want it to be more accurate then you can put in all the activities you do in a day but I'm fine with the estimates.
So, in order to meet my goal of weighing 125lbs on June 1st, I can have 2,002 calories per day. Again this is estimated on the low side of activity so I'm ok with rounding up to 2,100 because that's easier to divide.
I like eating every 2 hours and am generally awake between 8am and midnight. So I set my meals at 10am/noon/2/4/6/8/10pm - 7 meals at 300 calories/meal = 2100 calories/day.
Now comes the fun part...finding 300 calorie meals. Some of my easy-picks: 1/4 of Wal-Mart's sub sandwich, 1/4 c of chocolate almonds, 2 Taco Bell fresco crunchy tacos, 2 servings of veggie chips, 1 single-serve package of Oreo cookies.
When I'm cooking a meal for my husband and myself, I count the calories in the total meal and then divide out however much I can eat. For example, if the total meal is ~900 calories, I eat a third of it. And then another third two hours later.
Some meals I'm not that hungry so I just eat a handful of almonds or chips. Other meals I'm hungrier so I'll eat some chicken and a big salad. Generally, healthy foods have less calories so you can eat more of them. This means I end up making better food choices most of the time because I want to eat more food.
I have alarms set on my phone to remind me to eat but I've noticed that after a week or so they're not necessary because when it's time to eat my stomach is insisting that it hasn't been fed in weeks and nothing will convince it that we just ate a couple of hours ago.
Like I said, this may not be the healthiest plan ever but it's better than starving and stuffing myself.