Keeping a food diary is not just for those who want to lose weight.
Keeping track of what you eat is one of the best ways to improve your health because it gives you the opportunity to mindfully notice what foods are working for your body and what foods are not. Once you identify unhealthy patterns in your eating, commit to making small changes over time to develop new, healthier habits.
A food diary is one of the most inexpensive ways to make a positive impact on your diet and nutrition. You can use a pad of paper, a journal, an Excel spreadsheet on your computer, or one of many food tracker apps (some that are free: MyFitnessPal or SparkPeople). Ready to get started?
Tips on Keeping a Food Diary
When making an entry into your food diary, be honest and write everything down (including the sample from your grocer’s cheese counter or a bite of your kid’s food). Use “Who? What? When? Where? How?” for your entries.
- Who did I eat with? Myself? Family? Friends?
- What did I eat and drink? Write down the amount (or approximate) of food consumed and include toppings (i.e. on a salad or a sundae) and condiments (i.e. on a burger).
- When did I eat this? Write down the time.
- Where did I eat this? At the table? In front of the TV? While running errands?
- How did I feel after eating this? Happy? Satisfied? Stuffed? Bloated? Guilty? Tired?
Tip: Write your entry right after eating your meal or snack.
Bonus Tip: Write the entry before eating your meal or snack. This can help you stick to the portion size that you plan to eat.
The Benefits to Keeping a Food Diary
Once you have tracked your food and drink intake for a week or more, make time to sit down and evaluate how your diet is affecting you. I guarantee that you will have some revelations! Some of the benefits of keeping a food diary include:
- Revealing which foods you may have an intolerance for by examining how you felt after eating them.
- Discovering the amount of food – healthy and unhealthy – you are actually consuming.
- Identifying triggers that lead to unhealthy eating by looking at the time of day and activity. For example, perhaps you are grabbing a coffee and a processed food snack when you’re out running errands or you eat popcorn and chocolate while watching late night TV.
- Figuring out what foods make you feel not optimal (i.e. bloated, stuffed, tired, etc.,) and which foods give you energy.
- Uncovering excessive calories (i.e. from evening cocktails or from snacking on samples at your grocery store).
If you happen to be trying to lose weight, it’s been found that people who consistently use a food diary to evaluate – and alter their food intake – tend to lose more weight than those that don’t.
A food diary is just one component towards building a healthier lifestyle. For more tips, visit this blog post.