A food diary is a useful tool that helps you to log what you consume daily. The simple act of writing down what you eat daily helps you to understand what you eat and drink, helps you to identify the good and not so good foods that you consume. You can be someone trying to lose weight, or even just get healthier, but keeping a food journal helps you to make positive changes. Tracking every good or not so good food and drink that you may consume makes you accountable to yourself and your health.
A study, that was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that those who kept daily food journals consumed fewer calories, resulting in twice as much weight loss, as those who did not keep journals. The study indicated that about 70% of participants lost enough weight to lower their health risks because they kept track of what they eat daily.
What must you include in a food journal?
What you eat– This must include not just what you eat, but also method of preparation. Do not forget to update intake of any pickles, condiments, sauces, chutney etc. Every bit of information matters.
How much did you eat- The best way would be to weigh and measure what you eat, but if that is not possible you can use common household measure like teaspoon, cups etc. to log in the quantity consumed.
When did you eat– Time of meal consumption is also very vital, it not just helps you maintain a schedule, but also helps identify and prevent habits like late night snacking.
Other details you can include in your food journal can be about where you ate a specific meal at home, at a restaurant, at a friend’s, place etc. l, with who did you eat (alone, with friends, with family.) and also details like your mood when eating (tired, bored, happy, stressed etc.), as this will help you also keep emotional eating in check.
You must also try and update your diary as soon as you finish a meal. Avoid logging it all at the end of a day, as you may end up missing some details. Accuracy and consistency are very important to be able to successfully write your food journal. Also important is to be completely honest. You have to remember that by lying in your journal to look food to your dietician or doctor or to even make yourself food good, you are actually cheating yourself and your health.
Benefits of keeping a food journal
- Weight loss/Improved health/Improved food habits- Keeping a food journal can help you understand and analyze your eating habits like calorie consumption, junk food consumption etc. Which in turn can help you to say no to the wrong kind of foods, which in turn can help you in weight loss, improved eating habits.
- Identifying triggers to unhealthy eating habits- keeping a track of your mood and time of food consumption can help you understand what kind of role your emotions play on the type and quantity of food consumed. For example- if you reach for a candy bar each time you enter the office, then stressful environments may cause you to crave sugary foods. Tracking the time of food consumption can help you to try and avoid late night snacking.
- Better nutrition – Keeping track of your every meal will also show whether you are eating enough of each food group. If your food diary consists of mainly carbohydrates and proteins, then you’re not getting the vitamins you need from fruits and vegetables. Keeping a food diary will allow you to analyze what foods you are not eating enough of, or which ones you’re eating too much.
- Disease Management-Keeping a food diary also helps you understand how your diet is affecting your current medical conditions. For example, it’s important to track the intake of your sugars and carbs for better diabetes management. Keeping a food journal will help you do that and improve your food habits for better disease management.
- Food allergies/intolerance’s- Food diaries can also help determine if you have a severe reaction to certain foods. Writing down what you eat and how you feel afterwards can help you realize what foods your body reacts negatively towards.
Just keeping a food journal is not the goal. The actual goal is to learn from your journal entries. After completing fortnight’s journal entries, do look back and try to analyze what you have been doing right and wrong and how you can improve. Things this can teach you is;
- How healthy is your diet?
- Do you tend to stress eat?
- Do you get enough portions of fruits and vegetables?
- Are your getting enough of all the nutrients?
- Are you having too much of beverages with sugars?
Set yourself realistic smart goals that can be achieved, start with small goals try and eat 2-3 servings vegetables daily, switch to healthy snacks like nuts and fruits at work as opposed to chips and cookies. Take help from a nutritionist or your doctor to understand how you can do better and lead a healthier lifestyle.