There are plenty of good reasons to keep track of what we eat. Recording our daily intake even for just one week can provide benefits, whether we’re counting calories, engaging in athletic training, dealing with gastrointestinal issues, feeling off balance or simply curious.
Many people eat mindlessly - while driving, watching TV, working or doing something else besides eating. We may be surprised to learn how much our dietary intentions and actual eating habits diverge when we pay attention to our intake, instead of shoveling down our food. Insights will follow, patterns associated with our mind and body reveal themselves through our eating habits—good and bad.
Many health issues have a relationship to dietary habits—too much sugar, too much fat, too much junk food, certain food additives, etc. What we eat may affect our mood and vice versa.
Several approaches to keeping a food journal or food diary can be taken, ideally tailored for your specific goals, such as weight loss or dealing with digestive problems, maybe adding some muscle, or some other personal reason. The journal can be as simple or detailed as you want, depending upon your goals for insights about your eating habits and well-being.
There are many ways that you can start recording your intake. You can use a simple notebook or buy a fancy spiral-bound food journal, download a free food diary from the Internet, or use a smartphone food journal app.
It’s important to track everything you eat or drink immediately. Be specific and include any extras like gravy or a taste from someone else’s plate. Don’t depend on your memory at the end of the day, because it’s easy to forget or overlook something. Even a small piece of candy, can of soda or handful of peanuts counts.
Food journaling is about more than simply recording calories. It is important to be consistent about tracking any selected variables such as portions or sugar intake, how you felt emotionally and physically before and after eating, what you were doing and your physical location while eating. Be honest; no one has to see your food journal besides you. This level of detail makes it easier to spot unconscious patterns when you analyze your food journal entries at a later time.
Consider whether you ate healthy meals, enough vegetables, fruits and fiber from whole grains, whether you selected healthy snacks to satisfy cravings or ate junk foods. Note portion sizes, intake of sugary and high-calorie foods and beverages. Ask yourself how hungry you were before eating. It may be helpful to track the time of day you ate.
It might be interesting to include a journal column to track whether you ate alone. Otherwise, you can list the friends or family members you ate with, who may influence your own eating habits in unsuspected ways.
Try keeping a food journal for 2 weeks and seek what you discover about yourself. You might find that it helps keep you on track for a healthy lifestyle! Share your experience here!