Helpful Tips to Keeping a Food Journal
You write down what you eat. Check. All done. It’s not that complicated, right?
It does seem really simple. A food journal is basically an assortment of information identifying what you’ve had to eat and drink over a specific period of time.
The quality and usefulness of this gathered information could vary significantly based on how it’s presented. Whether you decide to keep a paper or electronic food journal, there are basic elements to include that will help you and your Registered Dietitian get the most out of this journaling experience.
Top Five Essential Components of a food journal:
1. Write down EVERYTHING that you consume
This is not an earth shattering recommendation, but you’d be surprised how often very crucial details are left out. Remember to include:
All food eaten at meals
Nibbles taken while cooking
Everything that you drink
2. Measure and weigh your food portions
Let us start off by saying that you do not need to measure and weigh everything that you eat for the rest of your life. That’s not realistic or healthy. However, when just starting out, it can help you better understand how much you’re actually eating and drinking versus how much you think you’re eating and drinking. Measuring cups, measuring spoons, or a food scale can all help you get started.
The time that you eat can provide a lot of insight into your overall eating pattern and dietary quality, while influencing other behaviours and health components such as:
Hunger and appetite management
Portion sizes at meals
Blood sugar control
4. Write down WHY you’re eating
Eating is a complex relationship. We eat when we’re hungry, but we also eat when we feel sad, angry, guilty, stressed out, happy, bored, or simply out of habit. Connecting how you feel with what you eat can help you gain more insight into whether emotions are playing a greater role in your relationship with food than you may think.
5. Recognize your limitations
Keeping a food journal is not typically a fun activity for most, but it should also never reach a point where you feel so anxious and overwhelmed by the information presented or the task at hand. You need to recognize your threshold of discomfort. For example, if you know that counting calories will negatively impact your ability to make positive dietary changes, calorie tracking should not be an essential component of your food journal.
Food journaling is not an easy task. We know that writing everything down is not a natural behaviour and can take time to finesse. Avoid getting discouraged or stopping completely because you forget to track one meal/snack or even an entire day. This does not have to be an all-or-nothing experience, but instead, a tool to help you out. When just starting, remember that recording your dietary intake even occasionally is progress. Over time, the more often you record your food intake, the easier it will be to keep going.
Adam, Sarah, and Stephanie