Are you eating too much or not enough? Wondering why you aren’t losing weight even though you think you’re eating clean? Is something in your diet triggering a health condition? Keeping a food diary can unlock the answers to these questions.
There are many benefits of keeping a food diary and it’s an activity I encourage my nutrition clients to do. Studies have shown that keeping a daily food journal can help you lose weight. In fact, one study found that those who log their food and drink everyday are twice as likely to lose weight than those who don’t.
Consistently logging what you eat and drink can lead to significant changes in your health. Here are 5 benefits of food journaling and some tips to help you get started.
1. Creates awareness
There are hundreds of hidden calories in what we eat and drink without us releasing, even in foods we think are healthy. Small, sugar-filled snacks and drinks soon add up and prevent you from losing weight, so keeping a diary is the only way to see how much of a problem they are.
2. Keeps you on track with your goals
If you’re aiming to decrease or increase your calorie intake, logging your food is the only accurate way to track your calories and macronutrients. When you log your daily food and drink, you’ll be able to see if you’re eating too much or not enough and make appropriate changes. You’ll also be able to see progress and achievements. It’s not about beating yourself up!
3. Helps you create healthy habits
You may be thinking “I don’t even eat that much junk food!” but when you log all those treats, you’ll see if they’re really getting in the way of your goals or not. Logging your food may help you realise you tend to snack more in the evenings or you fall off the wagon with your nutrition plan on certain days of the week. Once you know the problem areas, you can start addressing them to create sustainable healthy eating habits.
4. Can identify problematic foods
If you have a health condition that’s aggravated by foods in your diet or you suspect something isn’t quite right, a food diary can help you isolate troublesome foods. For example, you may have a suspected gluten intolerance, nut allergy or migraine trigger that you want to clarify so you can take some information to your doctor. Logging your food everyday can shed some light on foods harming your health.
5. Keeps you accountable
Most of us eat more food than we realise and we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re not eating that much. One of the key benefits of keeping a food diary is that it keeps you accountable. Logging all your snacks, drinks, sauces and cooking oils ensures you’re aware of what’s going into your body. This isn’t about shaming or becoming obsessed with calorie counting – it’s about making choices that are better for your health. Without this information, you can’t make meaningful changes to achieve your goals.
How to Keep a Food Diary
1. Choose your method
There are apps with built-in databases to help you log your food accurately, such as MyFitnessPal and Fitbit. Some people prefer to make notes in their phone or a journal. Choose a method that works for you.
2. Log everything
Yes, I mean everything. Everything you eat, including all the trimmings – sauces, seasonings, oils and all. Every glass of wine, every takeaway, every snack from the vending machine. Being honest with yourself is the only way to achieve your goals. Review it on a monthly basis to check your progress.
3. Do it after every meal
If you can, update your food diary right after you’ve eaten. This ensures your diary is accurate and helps you gain a routine of logging consistently. It only takes a few minutes, so no excuses!