Have you ever tried recording what you eat on a daily basis? How much of it you eat? When you eat it? You’d be surprised at what it can reveal about your diet and eating habits (or if you’ve tried, you’ll know). If you’re trying to lose weight, watch your nutrient intake, or just balance out the types of foods that you eat, a food diary or personalized diaries can come in handy. It helps you be more conscious of how, what, and how much you eat, which can help you stay accountable when setting and working towards diet-related goals.
So what exactly is a food diary?
A food diary is a record of foods that you eat on a meal-by-meal, daily, or weekly basis. You can include nutritional or other dietary information, organize and track foods by food group, and so on. This lets you monitor what, when, and how often you eat, as well as where your nutrition needs lie.
You should include several pieces of information in your daily food diary. These are:
- How much: List the amount of the food/drink item. This might be measured in volume (1/2 cup), weight (2 ounces), or the number of items (12 chips).
- What kind: Write down the type of food/drink. Be as specific as you can. Don’t forget to write down extras, such as toppings, sauces, or condiments. For example, butter, ketchup, or sugar.
- When: Keep track of the time of day you eat.
- Where: Make note of where you eat. If you are at home, write down the room. For instance, at the dining room table, in the kitchen, or on the sofa. If you are out, write down the name of the restaurant or if you are in the car.
- Who with: If you eat by yourself, write “alone.” If you are with friends or family members, list them.
- Activity: In this column, list any activities you do while you eat. You could be working, watching TV, or playing a game.
- Mood: You also should include how you feel when you eat. Are you happy, sad, or bored? Your mood can relate to your eating habits and help you change them.
Tips to Get Started With Your Food Journaling
Decide what format of food journal is going to work for you
One of the first things you should do when starting a food diary is plan out what you’re going to record, how you’re going to record it, and why. For example, are you trying to lose weight, fight an eating disorder, or just general bad eating habits? Are you trying to monitor a specific nutrient to make sure that you aren’t getting too little (or too much) of it? The reason you’re writing your food journal will influence what you put in it.
Also, think about how you’re going to record things in your diary. Some people may prefer writing a free-form list, others may prefer to organize things in a table, while others may find it easier to take pictures of what they eat and then analyze it later
Keep your diary handy
Take your diary with you wherever you go. If you have a digital/online one, consider taking notes on your smart phone, or download a diary-keeping app for it. Discipline yourself to record whatever you eat as soon as you start eating it; this saves you from having to remembering it later, which helps you stay accountable. Plus, it may make you think twice about eating something if you don’t want to go to the trouble of recording it at that moment.
While it may be tempting to not count certain things when submitting journal entries such as condiments, drinks, or light snacks – it’s not a good idea. Doing so may make you feel good in the short term, but in the long run, it will only frustrate you because you won’t be able to see why you’re not making progress. Remember, the more accurate your journal is, the better you’ll be able to identify areas of your diet that need improving. Besides, nobody else is going to see your entries so really, the only person who’s judging you is you.