Have you ever had one of those moments when someone asks you what you had for breakfast and you really can’t remember? We put so much of our energy into other things that we forget to focus on what we are putting in our bodies.
And when you think about it, that is kind of sad because food is what fuels us!
Feed it something nutritious and you can have more energy and focus for the day. Feed it something not so nutritious, like fast food, and well you tend to get sluggish and feel not so motivated.
I know this happens to a lot of people in my office when we order out. Sometimes we pick a healthier option to order from and everyone is just fine the rest of the afternoon. On the other hand, when we order Chinese, pretty much everyone overeats and has no motivation the rest of the day. Everyone is full and gets tired, which does not make for a productive end to the workday.
Now, I am sure you have experienced this at one time or another. But maybe you don’t realize just how often you aren’t making the best choices to fuel your body. And that is where a food journal comes in.
What is a Food Journal
A food journal is actually something super simple and can really help you in the long run. It is a detailed record of what you eat and drink during a given period of time.
These records are usually split up by day, where you document what you eat and drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And you note all of the nutritional facts for those foods and drinks.
You can keep a food journal for whatever period of time that you want. It could be a day, a week, a month, etc.
Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal
There are many different benefits to keeping a food journal and they are important to keep in mind as you document in your journal.
A food journal can help to show you trends in your eating patterns. The more you document the easier these trends will be to see.
When you are just looking at the day to day, you really might not be able to see where your faults are. But when you jot this stuff down and can actually look at it as a whole, you can really start to see what is going on.
And you might realize things you never would have before. Like the fact that you thought you only occasionally grabbed a piece of chocolate from your co-workers candy dish, when in reality you had 20 pieces over the course of a week.
Now that might not actually be you but you can see my point. Trends are important to recognize so you know where you can improve.
Keeping track of the time you eat, your mood, and your location, can help reveal how work, stress, and particular people affect your food choices as well.
For example, you might discover that every time you have a terrible day at work, you get together with your best friend and the two of you down an extra large pizza and a 12 pack of beer.
Knowing what those unhealthy trends are and what types of triggers you have, can, again, help you see where to make changes. This can help you to make more nutritious choices.
A food diary can also help you learn to better portion control your food. You might not actually realize how big your portions are, until you write them all down and analyze them.
All of these benefits can ultimately help you to lose weight as well. By keeping an eye on your triggers, making those healthier food choices, and controlling your portions, is going to help you shed some weight.
How to Keep a Food Journal
Now for the part you really care about. How to keep a food diary. I am not going to lie to you. This can be a little time consuming, but I promise it will give you some great insight.
First, you are going to want to have some journal pages.
Feel free to go to my Printable page and download the pdf of my food journal template. Then you can print out however many copies you need.
They do make diaries that you can buy, like the one below.
Or you can always create your own that has whatever you want to track on it. I created a pdf with what I find to be the best areas to watch. And I will say it did take me a little bit of time to create it. So if you are looking to go the quicker, easier route, I would suggest downloading the pdf or purchasing an already made journal.
Next, you are going to want to determine how long you are going to keep your food diary for.
Personally, I do not feel a day is enough. It won’t show you the trends and triggers you want to find. I would suggest doing it for at least a week or 2.
That means you have to commit to it!
Take your journal with you so you can record when you eat or drink something. DO NOT rely on your memory. You want accurate notes! Trying to remember everything you had throughout the day is just not going to cut it.
Important note: Remember on this journey of yours we do not half ass things! We are making lasting changes, so go the extra mile and write everything down as you consume it and in detail.
You are going to want to write down as much as you can about the food and beverages you are consuming. You can get this from the nutrition facts label on your food or drink.
If it is something without a label, such as something you made, you will want to use a food calculator to get a good estimate of it’s facts.
In my last post we talked about that. So, if you missed it and are looking for more information on nutrition or nutrition facts and calculators, read my post, Why You Need to Focus on Nutrition.
If you are using my pdf, you will be tracking portion size, calories, carbs, fats, and protein, for the foods or drinks you are having. If you are using a different diary, or your own version, this will differ.
I do want to point out it is important to cover multiple nutrition facts. Do not get caught up focusing on just one thing. For example, carbohydrates. This is meant to show you what you can work on and focusing on just one aspect won’t do that for you.
You want to learn what you don’t already know. Again, see my important note from above.
Analyze You Food Journal
Once you have reported in your food journal for the amount of time that you determined, it is time to analyze your results.
Don’t get thrown by me saying you will have to analyze your results. It is much easier than you think.
You will look at your journal and just make note of what you see that pops out.
Maybe you find that you are eating out too often. Or you are drinking way more soda than you thought you did. When you are stressed, you eat much bigger portions.
Whatever trends and triggers you find, jot them down. This will help you to make a game plan on how to fix what you are seeing, such as using meal planning and portion control.
It’s always a good idea to compare your results to what the recommended daily intake is, to know if you are having too much or too little of something.
Based on the Dietary Values information, a person who consumes 2,000 calories per day should consume:
- less than 65 grams or 585 calories from fat
- less than 20 grams or 180 calories from saturated fat
- at least 300 grams or 1200 calories from carbohydrates
- approximately 50 grams or 200 calories from protein
- less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium
- less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol
- about 25 milligrams of dietary fiber
Go For It
Making lasting changes that you will be happy with can take some time and effort. Keeping a food diary can help you to see what kind of eating habits you have.
Whether you are using my food journal template, creating your own, or purchase one, always make sure to keep it with you and fill it out completely.
This will give you the opportunity to see what triggers you have, so you can better determine where to make changes. Those changes can help with any weight loss goals you might have.
Sometimes the best way to make the changes you want, is by meal planning.
So, make sure to read my post on How to Weekly Meal Plan.
And if you want to dive deeper into your eating habits, check out What’s Wrong With What I Eat? Conquering Your Eating Habits.