You may have a to-do list or to-buy list, like most of us do. But how many of us would record the food we eat? What we eat affects us every second, as they provide the necessary nutrients, or if you eat unhealthy food they can be harming your bodies…so how can we know if we’re eating right?
By keeping a food diary, you will be surprised and amazed by the difference simply recording what you eat can make to your overall health and well-being.
Sherrie Delinsky, PhD, a staff psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says: “food diaries can unveil patterns of overeating. They can also reveal and identify triggers to avoid, such as not eating enough throughout the day and then overeating at night, or overeating when drinking alcohol.”
Benefits you will see when you log your food
1. You will cut down on calories
By paying attention to your calorie intake you can better control the amount of calories you are eating. Your awareness will lead to an ability to limit and restrict your daily calorie intake. Experts say that the simple act of keeping a food diary can encourage you to eat fewer calories and thus lose weight.
2. You will snack less
By looking at how many snacks you have during the day you can cut down on unnecessary calories. Snacks can add up and can greatly contribute to your calorie intake. You may find that your meals are proportional but that you are snacking too much. By cutting down on snacks you can gain a trimmer waist line.
3. You will see the difference between weekends and weekdays
Another thing you will see is the difference between what you eat on the weekdays and what you consume on the weekend. As you generally have less time during the week you may find that you are eating more takeaway or quick meals with a high fat content. By noticing how you may cut corners on weekdays you can, for example, make an extra effort to cook during the weekend so you have pre-prepared healthy meals ready to eat during the week.
4. You will listen to your mood
By logging your food diary, you will discover your emotional connection with your food. See if your good eating days correspond with a positive mood. Also look to see if you feel good after you eat healthier meals. You may find that your mood is bad when you overeat and indulge. By being more aware of your mood you can prevent overeating and thus reduce your calorie intake.
5. You will feel more comfortable and healthier
By highlighting any food intolerances or allergies you may have you can get rid of unnecessary discomfort and things that are potentially bad for you. By paying attention to what foods make you feel bloated or give you indigestion you can eliminate these foods and feel much better. Some symptoms could be more serious like a rash or nausea. If you experience these kind of reactions to certain foods consult with your doctor.
How to keep a food diary
What to include?
In your diary you will need to keep a record of the date, time, place, item eaten and quantity consumed. You may like to write by hand; if this is the case you can purchase a blank notebook or a daily diary. If you prefer to use electronic media there are many online tracking devices and apps available.
When you keep your diary remember to record everything you eat and drink. The more specific and accurate you are the more benefits you are likely to gain from keeping your diary. You should include all meals, drinks and snacks that you eat throughout the day. It is worthwhile being very specific and including what ingredients are in the meals you eat. For example, if you eat a pasta bolognaise include the pasta and the meat and the tomatoes. Also, do not forget to include you daily water intake, as keeping a record of this will let you know if you have drunken too much or too little water.
Keep track of quantities
It is important to pay attention to how much of a given food you are eating. You may be eating healthy foods but the serving sizes could be too large. It can be useful to purchase a food scale or measuring cup to make sure your quantities are appropriate.
Pay attention to your mood
You may be keeping a food diary in order to lose weight or you could be trying to isolate a food allergy. In both these cases your mood plays an important role. Before and after you eat you can make a note of how you feel.
It takes approximately 20 minutes for you to feel full and satisfied after a meal so it is best to wait 10-20 minutes before you write down how you feel.
If you make notes about your mood before you eat you may notice that, for example, you eat more when you are feeling stressed or low.
Seek out patterns and regularities in the food you eat
After a while you may see the emergence of some patterns in your eating habits. These patterns may be related to your feeling before and after a meal. It could be that you are eating similar foods at lunch time; for example, a sandwich. You may also notice that you overeat when you are feeling very hungry.
You may want to record the nutritional benefits of your food. This can help you gain insight into what nutrients you are getting and what you might be lacking. This way you can add certain foods to your diet to make up for the gap in your nutrient intake.
Your physical activity has an effect on how many calories you should be consuming. Making note of what physical activities you are taking part in will help you to know what sorts of food you should be eating.
By sticking to the routine of keeping a food diary and following some of these suggestions you can make a change to the way you are eating. You may find that by recording your food intake you feel motivated to embark on a better healthier eating path and this will lead to a slimmer waist line and a greater sense of energy and comfort.