Customizing Your Nutrient Goals

There are two related articles on customizing goals: this one and another entitled Planning Weight & Calories. If you have questions regarding how to customize calories, then please refer to that article.

This article will cover nutrient planning – how default values are set and how to customize nutrient values.

When you first started to use MyNetDiary you probably noticed that you had to answer a series of questions before starting. Specifically, you provided your height, weight, age, sex, and activity level so that the program could calculate your calories as well as the amount of essential dietary nutrients needed for your age and sex group. Both the calorie estimate and the nutrient levels come from the Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). If the DRI for a nutrient has a published Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), then that value is used. If not, then the published Adequate Intake (AI) value is used. If the nutrient has no DRI value at all, then MyNetDiary uses guidelines published by the American Heart Association.

Currently, there are 40 nutrients that MyNetDiary members can customize and track. To be able to track and customize all available nutrients you will need a Maximum membership with MyNetDiary. When you commit to this level of membership, you get the power and flexibility you need to completely plan and customize nutrients according to your needs. To get the most out of nutrient customization, be sure to login into MyNetDiary's web application and explore the Plan tab. You will be able to view and customize all available nutrients for tracking under the sections entitled Macronutrient Targets and Other Nutrients To Track. There is extensive help and recommendations for goal setting for all 40 nutrients.

Tip: After creating MyNetDiary account you can access your diary data via all MyNetDiary-supported devices with the same login information!

You can select which nutrients to track in either the web app (Plan tab) or in mobile apps (Meals screen, tap gear icon at the bottom ). However, to customize all possible nutrient values, use the Plan tab.

With a Free membership you can track calories plus 11 nutrients found on most food labels: fat, carbohydrate, protein, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, net carbs, fiber, sugars, and calcium. Although you can customize calories, you cannot customize nutrients at this membership level. For a comparison of features between Free, Pro, and Maximum membership levels on different platforms, please see MyNetDiary products.

Customizing Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates

Fat, carbohydrate, and protein are macronutrients, as they provide the energy – calories, and they constitute the bulk of what you eat. As described in the Planning Weight & Calories, to lose weight one must consume fewer calories than she/he expends. Eating fewer calories also means eating fewer grams of carbohydrate, fat, and protein.

It is very important to reduce macronutrient consumption properly, as your body needs all of them – you cannot simply cut out all fats or carbohydrates. The key is to consume all three macronutrients but in amounts that support your health, meet nutritional needs, and help you lose weight.

The DRIs include an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbohydrate, fat, and protein. These ranges ensure adequate intake of essential dietary nutrients as well as help reduce risk of chronic disease. The ranges are wide and support a variety of diet plans and eating styles. MyNetDiary uses the midpoint of the AMDR as the default value for automated macronutrient goal setting.

Macronutrient Acceptable Macro­nutrient Distribution Range MyNetDiary Recommen­dation
Fat 20—35% of total calories 35% of total calories
Carbo­hydrate 45—65% of total calories 45% of total calories
Protein 10—35% of total calories 20% of total calories

Is there an ideal macronutrient mix for weight loss? Not necessarily. Research reveals that there is a wide variety of intake that can help one achieve both weight loss and ensure adequate nutrient intake, and the AMDR captures that range. However, that does not mean you will be eating poorly if you choose to consume above or below the AMDR. The types of foods you consume as well as your total caloric intake will both affect diet quality. For more help on choosing an eating plan (e.g. low fat vs. low carb), please read Diets – which one is best for you? article.

You can customize your intake of fat carbohydrate, and protein with either Maximum or Pro memberships, but not with a Free membership.

Mobile App: planning calories and macronutrients

To update both calories and macronutrients according to MyNetDiary's recommendations, open home screen, then tap My Plan → Customize → Reset → Use Recommended → Select → Save.

If you prefer to customize your values instead, then instead of tapping "Reset", simply enter the values you wish to use in each row for calories, fat, carbohydrate, and protein. You can choose to customize by percentage of calories or by gram amounts. The system helps you by automatically finishing the last macronutrient's value so that the percentage of calories add up to 100%.

Web App: planning calories and macronutrients

Fat, carbohydrate, and protein goals will update automatically with Target Daily Food Calories if AutoPilot feature is turned on in Plan section. When your body weight starts decreasing, AutoPilot helps you avoid "weight plateau" by lowering target calories and adjusting macronutrient plan whenever you enter new weight in Plan or Details section.

If you prefer to customize your values, then uncheck "AutoPilot to Target Weight" to access these values for customization. You can customize macronutrients by percentage of calories or by grams.

More on Carbohydrates

MyNetDiary uses 45% total calories to calculate the default carbohydrate goal. The RDA value for carbohydrate is only 130 grams. This amount provides our brain with a sufficient amount of its primary fuel source – glucose. MyNetDiary's default value will meet or exceed the RDA of 130 grams if the caloric intake is at least 1000 calories. Adults who are NOT pregnant or lactating can consume less than 130 grams of carbs if they choose to follow a low carb eating plan. The brain will adjust to using ketones as an alternate fuel source when necessary. There are pros and cons to this type of eating plan so please read About Low Carb Diets article for more information.

Tip: The RDA for carbs is higher for pregnancy (175 grams) and breastfeeding (210 grams). As well, the RDA will likely not be sufficient for those of you who engage in aerobic endurance sports or training.

More on Fat

MyNetDiary uses 35% total calories to calculate the default total fat goal. Although there are two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid) that are required in our diet and have DRIs, we can typically meet our requirements for these fatty acids when we consume enough total fat to fall within the AMDR of 20—35% total calories. Therefore, we do not include these individual fatty acids for tracking. As well, tracking these individual fatty acids would not yield accurate results since food labels do not display values for these two fatty acids. That is, there are many missing values on vendor's food labels.

If you follow a very low fat diet, then be aware that individuals who eliminate or severely restrict fat in their diet are at risk for fatty acid deficiency. For more information about these essential fatty acids, please see the AMDR tables.

Although there are no DRIs for cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and monounsaturated fat, the American Heart Association has recommendations for these nutrients to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. MyNetDiary borrows from these goals but has defined defaults more specifically for some nutrients:

  • < 7% calories from Saturated Fat
  • 10% calories from Polyunsaturated Fat
  • 10% calories from Monounsaturated Fat
  • < 300 mg of Cholesterol

If you have Maximum membership, then these recommendations have been calculated for you. You can view a detailed description of each nutrient and the recommended value in the web app.
Go to Plan tab → Other Nutrients to Track → Edit Other Nutrients and then click the blue arrows to the right of each field. Enter those recommended values or customize the field if you wish. If you do not enter a value in the nutrient field, you can simply click a check box sitting on the left from nutrient target field, this will allow the system to compare your intake against a goal at Food tab.

Tip: When you are not sure which nutrient is important to track, do not feel that you have to select everything for tracking. It is always possible to analyse your historical food entries with "All Nutrients" option on Food reports or go back and change your tracked nutrient selection at Plan tab.

Tip: Unlike macronutrients, Nutrient target values within Other Nutrients to Track section will not be automatically updated when Target Daily Food Calories value updated. You can always see the system's recommended value by clicking on the blue arrow for each nutrient and manually update the field.

For basic information about fats, please read Fats article in MyNetDiary's library.

More on Protein

MyNetDiary calculates the protein goal as 20% of total calories – this will meet one's RDA for protein under weight maintenance conditions. However, if your goal is weight loss, then a lower calories goal also means a lower default protein goal. If your Target Daily Food Calories is 1200 calories or less and your current body weight is greater than 175 lbs, then the default protein level will be too low for you compared to your RDA. The RDA is 0.8 grams/kg body weight (or, about 0.36 grams/lb body weight). Consider customizing your protein intake if MyNetDiary calculates a protein goal below your RDA. Here is a cheat sheet to help you determine your RDA for protein.

Body Weight RDA for Protein (0.8 grams/kg body weight)
175 lbs (79 kg) 63 grams
200 lbs (91 kg) 73 grams
225 lbs (102 kg) 82 grams
250 lbs (114 kg) 91 grams
275 lbs (125 kg) 100 grams
300 lbs (136 kg) 109 grams
325 lbs (148 kg) 118 grams
350 lbs (159 kg) 127 grams

Tip: If you lower your Target Weekly Rate of weight loss at Plan tab, then your Target Daily Food Cals will increase which in turn, will increase your protein goal. Read this post for more tips: setting a healthy target weight.

Unless you have been told otherwise by your physician, it is typically safe to eat more than your RDA for protein. For more information on heart healthy protein choices, be sure to read Protein Foods article.

Customizing Sodium Intake

MyNetDiary uses the DRI's Adequate Intake (AI) level based upon a person's age and sex group. The DRI value is considered a limit and is very difficult to achieve unless you eat almost entirely unprocessed foods. If you prefer to customize your sodium goal, then there are some alternate goals you can consider using.

1500 mg. This is the goal set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all people who are over 50 years of age, for African American adults of all ages, and for those who have high blood pressure, kidney disease, and/or diabetes. This goal is still difficult for most people to achieve.

2300 mg. This is the DRI "Tolerable Upper Limit" as well as the higher goal set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for adults up to 50 years of age who do not have high blood pressure, kidney disease, and/or diabetes.

2400 mg. This is the sodium level used as the goal on nutrition labels in the United States. Some people prefer to use this goal since it makes reading food labels a little easier.

If you train vigorously in high heat or sweat profusely, then your sodium loss will be greater and therefore, you will need to consume more sodium to cover your loss. Please consider working with a sports medicine team if you need help customizing water and electrolyte needs for sport, especially aerobic endurance activities. That is, your sodium need could be higher than the DRI as well as higher than any of the other goals listed above.

Tip: DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has been shown to effectively reduce blood pressure at both 1500 mg and 2300 mg sodium intake levels. Blood pressure lowering was greatest with an intake of 1500 mg sodium in those with high blood pressure. The DASH Diet emphasizes intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and low fat/fat free dairy products to insure adequate intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, in addition to a lower sodium intake.

Customizing Vitamin D Intake

MyNetDiary uses the current DRI RDA value for vitamin D, based upon a person's age and sex. Vitamin D is found in foods such as cold water fish (those that are high in omega-3 fatty acids tend to be high in vitamin D as well), cod liver oil, liver, and fortified dairy products and cereals. This fat soluble vitamin is needed for many important bodily functions, including calcium absorption and bone health. We get the lion's share of our vitamin D from the sun (technically, when our skin is exposed to sunlight). You might have a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency if you:

  • get very little sun exposure
  • have darkly pigmented skin
  • have fat malabsorption disorders (e.g. liver failure, Crohn's disease, Whipple's disease, or Celiac disease)
  • take certain types of medications (e.g. glucocorticoids or certain seizure medications)
  • are over 65 years of age

Ask your doctor if you should be taking a vitamin D supplement. The DRI Tolerable Upper Limit is 4000 IU daily – this is well above the typical 1000 IU and 2000 IU doses found in most supplements.

Customizing Water

The default value is currently calculated at 35 ml/kg body weight. The DRI's Adequate Intake level is 3.7 liters (3.9 quarts) for men and 2.7 liters (2.9 quarts) for women. This value could be higher or lower than MyNetDiary's calculation – it depends upon your body weight. And as with sodium, if you sweat profusely then your requirement for water will rise. Please customize water goal as you see fit.

Tip: Clicking the water glass icons (Details tab in web app, Water section in mobile apps) is a helpful reminder to drink enough water, but it will not be included in your food log or in your reports.To ensure that your total water intake is displayed on reports, be sure to log your water intake as a food entry. You can use "Municipal Water" food item for this purpose.

There is an article devoted to water and alternate ways to estimate your water needs.

Customizing Other Nutrients

There are certain medications and disease states that can cause an increased or decreased need for certain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Please work with your doctor or dietitian to customize values for those nutrients. As mentioned earlier, you can view MyNetDiary's recommended values (if applicable) in your Plan tab in the web app after clicking on the blue arrow sitting next to nutrient target field.

Missing Nutrient Data

Although MyNetDiary provides over 45 nutrients to track, it is important to realize that food labels are only required to list about 13 nutrients: total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbs, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Some manufacturers voluntarily provide data on other nutrients as well. For nutrients other than those found on the food label, you are more likely to find missing nutrient data. You can minimize missing nutrient data by using generic foods as much as possible where the calories difference is negligible. For instance, using generic nuts, seeds, and their oils instead of the brand name oil typically means you get more complete monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat data in your food record, and therefore, in your nutrient reports. In general, using generic veggies and fruits will give you much more complete information for nutrients, especially for potassium and magnesium. If you are surprised that a report shows you to be low in a particular nutrient, then be sure to look at the food item detail report to see if there are missing values for that nutrient.


MyNetDiary's default nutrient values are evidence-based and work well for most folks. However, all nutrients are fully customizable via the Plan tab in the web app with the Maximum membership so take advantage of this flexibility and tweak as you see fit. Mobile apps will let you select which nutrients to track, but you need to use the web app to customize the values. As well, please use the web app to see the extensive and detailed charts and reports available that include all possible nutrients.

Good luck with your plan and feel free to post questions on Community Forum regarding nutrition, weight control, exercise, and how to work with MyNetDiary.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE
Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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