If you’ve ever looked into following a specific diet, you’ve probably heard about food journals. Food journals are just like a normal journal, where you keep track of what you’re doing, but you use it to keep track of what you’re eating.
What should you keep in a food journal?
Your food journal should include the details of all the foods you have eaten. Choosing to leave certain foods out of your journal will only mean that you don’t have an accurate picture of what you’ve been eating, so use it to be as honest as you can about your diet.
Some people find it easier to use a yearly diary with dates already set out, but you can use any notebook and just make a note of the dates and times yourself.
If you are looking at your overall wellbeing and nutrition, as opposed to just calories or certain nutrients, you should also keep track of how much water you are drinking. You may even want to include other information, such as medication you have taken and at what times, which days you have your period (for women), and whether you are taking supplements.
Why should you keep a food journal?
People often wonder about the benefits of keeping a food journal.
- It helps to assess your diet and how it is making you feel. Many people using food journals find it useful to record how they are feeling, either at the end of the day or half way through the week. This can help to spot patterns when it comes to the food you are eating and whether there are foods which are making you feel bad.
- Food journals are also able to help with spotting allergies or confirming certain allergies. Once you are serious about recording what you are putting into your body, you’ll become more aware of the ingredients. If there are days where you feel like a certain food has affected you, compare this to another day where you felt the same and look for similar foods.
- It can help you to lose weight and get healthier. Studies have shown that people who write down exactly what they are eating and drinking are less likely to eat something they shouldn’t. It can help you to eat a healthier diet, thus keeping you feeling great even if you don’t have weight loss goals. The element of self-control is a good reason to start keeping a food diary if you don’t already have one.
- Keeping focused on a healthy lifestyle is another reason why people use food journals. This is particularly true if you are recording calories or macronutrients, and it’s also useful if you’re recording time spent at the gym. Having it written down will make it appear more obvious to you when you’ve missed three days.
How to start keeping a food journal
If you are worried about certain aspects of your health and that’s what is prompting you to keep a food journal, you should first visit your doctor. Explain that you are thinking about keeping a food journal, and explain the reasons why. Your doctor is likely to be very supportive of this, and may even ask to see it on your next visit. It can help your doctor to get a clearer picture of your diet and more easily diagnose a potential problem.
You can start with a blank notebook or diary. Or you can buy a daily food journal if you prefer. Depending on the time of year, many people prefer to use a plain notebook and mark in the dates themselves rather than keeping a yearly diary. As well as the date, you should make a note of the time at which you ate, drank, exercised or took medication.
The secret to keeping a good food journal is to update it regularly. Take it to work with you, take it when you go out, and if you forget it, don’t forget to update it later. Because of this reason, it helps to use a notebook which isn’t too heavy as you can then carry it around. Alternatively, you can make the most of food journal apps which can be downloaded to your phone, although not everybody finds this an easy way of tracking their food.
Finding a way that works for you is important. A food journal should be something that you are able to keep for a long period of time, so you need to find a method which is sustainable for you. If it doesn’t work for you to write down the details of your meal immediately afterwards, fill in the details at the end of the day before you go to bed. Making small notes and then elaborating on them when you have more time is another way to make keeping a food journal easier.