Try thinking about what you ate yesterday. What was the first thing you had to eat? Okay, how much? Anything to drink? Can you remember what you ate after that?

Why You Need to Start a Food Journal

It’s hard to remember! That’s very common for most people. So what is the best way to remember what you ate? There is one very simple solution that anyone can do. Keep a food journal! You might be thinking, “Why does it matter if I remember?” Today is your lucky day my friend because we are going to dig into the benefits of why you should keep a food journal and then explain how to do it.

As a dietitian who works closely with people who are trying to lose weight and improve their diet, one of the first things I have my patients do is keep a food journal. This helps us see patterns of what they are eating and allows us to set specific goals to help them achieve a healthier lifestyle. I meet with patients everyday who have basic knowledge of portion control, know what foods are healthy and what foods should be limited. They know exercise is beneficial to their health and that they should be drinking more water and less soda. However, I often find that people are missing a key component and it is one that is so important. I’m talking about behavior changes. Knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. Here’s an example. A patient is skipping meals so we set a goal to eat 3 meals a day. This patient comes to their next appointment and is very excited to share their food journal because they accomplished the goal. It is amazing to see the progress in their food journal! That’s a behavior change and it’s a major deal! Visually seeing progress is motivating and can help a person keep working toward their goals. Keeping a food journal becomes empowering for patients who are making lifestyle changes.

It also really helps people become more aware of their food choices. When it comes to eating a healthy diet and losing weight, it’s not just about calories. The quality of your food matters! A food journal can help us determine if you are lacking variety in your meal pattern and if we need to increase or limit certain nutrients. Once you have your food journal ready, a registered dietitian can help you sort through all of the information that you have collected and help formulate a plan just for you! Keeping a food journal ultimately leads to healthier and more balanced eating habits.

Research actually shows that tracking what you eat is one of the best ways you can manage your weight. A study from the National Institutes of Health showed that participants who kept  a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who did not track what they were eating. Physical activity was another key factor to the success of the patients in this study.

If you’re still not really sure yet, think about these specific benefits. A food journal can help people with diabetes gain better control of their blood sugar. The timing of meals and amount of carbohydrates that are consumed affects blood sugar and this can all be recorded in a food journal to make adjustments if needed. A journal can also help pinpoint specific food intolerance’s or sensitivities, such as lactose intolerance. A “food and mood” journal is a tool that can help people overcome emotional eating by connecting how you feel with your food choices. Keeping a food journal can even serve as a tool to help with meal planning. When you look back through your journal, it can keep you organized as you are planning out a weekly or even monthly menu.

So now that you know all the benefits of how to keep a food journal, I know you will want to get started right away! There are several different ways to keep a food journal. My favorite is the old fashioned pen and paper method. You can use a simple notebook or diary for this. If you need more structure than a blank page, do a google search for “food journals” and there are a ton of options that you can print out and keep in a 3 ring binder. You can even purchase really cute food journals, like these found on Etsy. Another method would be to download an app like My Fitness Pal, Lose It or Super Tracker. These are free apps that have a database to pick from or you can even scan food items into it as you go, which can make journaling even more convenient. These apps are especially helpful if you are tracking calories. One last way to keep a food journal is to take pictures. This can work well for people who are short on time or who do not like writing out what they are eating. If you have a camera on your phone, you can take pictures of your food before you eat it. People always have different preferences so find a method that works for you, that way you will be able to continue doing it.

Once you have your method picked out, you are ready to get started! Earlier, we talked about how it can be hard to remember everything you ate, so the best way to capture everything is to journal as you go. Don’t rely on your memory to catch everything that night or the next morning. Record amounts so you can pay attention to portion control. Don’t forget dressings, sauces beverages and exercise. If your goal is weight loss, you can even track your weight in your food journal. Make sure you record everything in your journal and be sure to include what I always hear people call the “bad” days. Part of real life and positive behavior changes is moving forward and not beating yourself up over the past. Indulging in your favorite dessert every once in awhile is not a reason to throw in the towel and give up on your goals. The purpose of a food journal is not to feel judged, but instead it is a powerful tool that can help improve your nutrition habits and lifestyle.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]