Starting a food journal. Sounds insane, right? But there are a couple of surprising benefits linked to it. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or attempting to eat healthier, a food journal can help you make some positive changes to your daily intake. And it doesn’t have to last forever – you can commit to a month or two and see the results.
A food journal or diary is exactly what it says – keeping a log of what you eat and drink every day. Keeping track of your eating habits and holding you accountable for what you consume. By writing all these items down, you’ll get an idea of where you can make some changes – eliminating, reducing, changing, or substituting foods and drinks.
How To Keep a Food Journal?
Purchase a notebook if you want to keep things on paper or download a food journal app to capture everything that goes into your mouth. There are several points to include, apart from just jotting down that you’ve eaten an apple.
- How much: Measure your food in volume (cups), weight (grams), or numbers (for example, 9 grapes) to determine how much you’ve eaten.
- What kind: The key is to be very specific and to keep track of the time of day, as well as the space (home, office, couch, kitchen, etc.) you eat and drink. Write down all the extras, such as toppings and sauces.
- With whom: Who did you eat with? Eating alone versus eating with friends and family, versus even eating lunch at work with colleagues does result in different intake.
Activity: List the activities you do while eating or drinking. Are you watching TV, working, or hanging out with friends?
- Mood: One’s mood often impacts what we eat and drink. So, write down how you feel at that very moment – happy, sad, or bored.
- Immediately: Try to write it down as you go and ensure to include everything and be specific; for example, if you’ve eaten a hake wrap, don’t just write down ‘hake’.
Tip: You must be honest if you want to succeed. Cheating won’t bring you anywhere, especially when sharing this with your doctor or dietician to review and plan for a healthier lifestyle.
What Happens After Capturing What You Eat & Drink?
Capture at least one week’s food and look at what you’ve recorded. Look for trends, patterns, or habits and ask yourself some questions to determine your SMART goals.
- Questions to ask could include:
- How healthy is my diet?
- Am I eating vegetables and fruit every day? If so, how many servings?
- Am I eating whole grains each day?
- Am I eating foods or beverages with added sugar? If so, how frequently?
- Do my moods affect my eating habits? Do I reach for unhealthy snacks when I’m tired or stressed?
- How often do I eat on the run?
- Example of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) Goals
- Food diary observation: You order takeout three or four nights per week.
- Goal: Cook more at home.
- SMART goal: Order take out no more than one or two nights per week.
- Healthy home recipe: Try out Honey Dijon Chicken and Veggies Foil Packs.
Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal
- Leads to the right choices: Being aware of what you consume daily will make you cautious of all unhealthy foods every time you eat. Having a diary makes you more true to yourself, and you end up taking in fewer calories, naturally.
- Helps to lose weight: Obviously, you have to keep track of what you’re eating when you’re dieting – you’d be amazed by how little people actually keep track when on a diet. By capturing your eating habits you can track your weight loss process.
- Helps to determine the source of your problems: Stomach pain, an upset stomach, or constant headache, sometimes do originate in the food we eat. Keeping a food journal could help you determine deficiencies, patterns, or exceptions to avoid these problems in the future.
The benefits are endless, and it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Take the first step and start creating the habit – you’ll see, it’s as easy as pie!
So, what did you have for breakfast?