One good way to monitor your health and promote healthy eating is to create a food diary. By taking the time to write down what foods you eat in a day, you make more conscious decisions about what goes into your body. This can translate to better maintenance of your mental health because of the way that diet affects how the mind processes your emotions. Basically, this means that the things you drink and eat can affect your mood.
Food diaries can be helpful in a number of ways, including calorie counting and weight loss. In August 2008, a study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that observed the impact of tracking food consumption in U.S. adults. The almost 1700 participants aged 25 and older were encouraged to keep food diaries, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. After 6 months of this routine, the participants lost about 13 pounds on average. The researchers found that the participants who wrote in their food diaries almost every day lost about twice as much weight as the members who wrote once a week or less (1).
Before you get started on a food diary, it is important to figure out why you are creating one. Is it because you want to understand your eating habits? Are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to minimize your caloric intake? Once you figure out what it is you want to achieve, you can then decide how best to proceed.
Tips on how to write a food diary:
- Choose how you want to record your information
- Figure out how often you want to write
- Be honest with what you write
- Some things you could record:
- Food eaten (if any)
- Portion size
- Where did you eat
- What did you do while eating
- You could also write down how quickly you ate
- Record the foods as soon as you can
- Think about how you’re feeling after eating
- Set food goals that are comfortable and somewhat achievable for you
- Review your diary at set intervals, such as every two weeks or every month (2)
After using the food journal for a while, you might be able to notice patterns in the way you eat. Certain vegetables might cause you to feel bloated or a certain fruit might give you energy burst. Once you've taken notice of these responses, you can make educated choices later on as to what foods to buy. Maybe you'll avoid the broccoli that seems to cause gas and instead buy the avocado that helps your digestion.
This is perhaps the most important part of keeping the diary: you draw important information from the data you record, allowing you to take action. By keeping a food diary can give you insight into how your body works with the fuel it takes in.
1. Hitti, Miranda. “Keeping Food Diary Helps Lose Weight.” WebMD, 8 July 2008. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20080708/keeping-food-diary-helps-lose-weight.
2. McManus, Katherine. “Why keep a food diary?” Harvard Health Publishing, 31 January 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-keep-a-food-diary-2019013115855.
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