12 Months to a Healthier You Series-April: Keeping a Food Diary
Here we are in the month of April, and I hope you’ve been following along with the 12 Months to a Healthier You Series. If you missed the months of January, February, or March, you should definitely go back and check those out.
Do you have a food diary? If you’re serious about your health or getting healthy you should! Keeping a food diary is an effective way to keep track of the number of calories that you eat every day. Whether you are trying to lose weight or simply maintain a healthier diet, a food diary can help you out.
There are a number of beneficial reasons that you should start keeping a food diary today. Here are some of them:
A List of What You Eat
This is one of the most underrated aspects of keeping a food diary. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write down what I’m eating, I will forget. You probably think that you know exactly what you’re eating every day until you really start thinking about it. You might also be rounding off your calorie intake. In reality, unless you are writing down everything, the amount of calories you consume is probably a lot more than you think. It’s easy to forget that trip to the vending machine or that handful of chips you grabbed in between meals when your day is busy.
Assist With Weight Loss
By seeing exactly what you eat every day, you can begin to cut certain types of food out of your diet. You might be surprised to see that some foods that you thought were healthy actually have the highest amount of calories according to your food journal. By taking this into account, you can cut these calories by finding healthy alternatives for your diet.
Plan Your Meals
In the beginning, you may only use your food diary to keep track of the food you eat. But eventually it can become a good source for figuring out meals plans so that you’re more consistent and eating healthier food.
Show and Tell
When you have a food record you can better understand what’s actually going into your body. You will discover some foods that need to be a part of your diet that are lacking, or what you need to eat more of. Writing down your food intake tells a story. The discovery process can be very telling in what adjustments need to be made. Are you getting enough vegetables? Are you skipping lunch or breakfast too often? Knowing what foods you may be deficient in can be helpful in planning your meals.
You may not realize it right away, but over time, your food diary will actually make you want to eat healthier. Each time you write down a food you eat that may not have been the best choice it will make you think. There’s nothing like having the truth right there in front of you. It may become a fun challenge to see if you can go the whole day without writing down anything unhealthy or sugary in your food diary. Looking at food in a new light may result from your food regimen. Tracking what you eat will bring more consciousness to what you’re really eating, and where you need to improve in your choices.
Here’s some mistakes a lot of people make when starting their food journaling journey.
Forgetting Portion Size
Frustration can set in when you’ve been documenting everything and still can’t seem to lose any weight. Are you paying attention to the amount of food you’re consuming? It might be because you just wrote down “chicken” for dinner instead of “3 chicken breast”. I hope no one is eating 3 chicken breast for dinner but if you end up having a “moment” and get a bit out of control you must write that down. In addition when you write down quantities of food you’re more likely to notice if perhaps you’re eating a lot at dinner to make up for that small breakfast you had. Or maybe you’ve been eating too many brussel sprouts every night for dinner so now you feel deprived and found yourself eating a cookie at lunch.
We all experience it at some time or another in our lives. When do you indulge the most or get off track with healthy eating? Is it when you’re lonely, sad, happy, or bored? Keeping a food diary can help you find your triggers that may cause you to detour from your health goals. So next time you write in your food diary make sure you write down how you are feeling and record any events or conversations that may have happened that day.
Eventually you will notice a difference in how you feel after eating certain foods or meals. Pay attention to how each food item makes you feel after you eat it. That spaghetti plate may taste delicious as you’re eating it, but how do you feel afterwards. Are you energetic? Alert? No? No surprise there? You’re kidding yourself if you think there is no direct correlation between eating healthy and how you feel. There have been times when I’ve felt great and full of energy only the next day to feel not so great. At those times I look back at what I ate the previous day compared to the current day and it’s almost always tied to the food choices I made in each of those days.
Sure there are a lot of fancy and not so fancy apps out there that can help you keep track of your food intake. However, I have found that actually writing down what you eat is a lot more therapeutic and satisfying. This “back to basics” approach still works very well for many people. Simply writing it down also offers more flexibility so that you can include different types of information.
What to Write in Your Food Diary
A basic food diary should include a list of every food and drink you consume at meal time or between meals. And I mean everything!
Along with the food name and portion size, you should also include basic nutritional facts. Jot down the total number of calories consumed for each food that you list if you know this information.
Other helpful information or notes that you might want to have in your diary include:
The reason for eating, level of hunger, emotional state before and after eating, how you feel physically before and after eating the food, any symptoms you experience, and your eating environment.
Using Your Food Diary
Keep your food diary for at least a month to get a true and accurate picture of your journey before you evaluate the information. Make adjustments as necessary for the next month and see if there are any improvements. As each month goes on, and you are able to look at your food diary each month, valuable information will be at your disposal. You will know what foods to eat that make you feel good and lose weight. You will also know how to adjust your portions accordingly. Recognizing emotional triggers and knowing what to do before they take control will be one of the biggest assets in your health journey.
So as you can see, food journaling is not just simply writing down what you eat each day. It can be a valuable and beneficial tool to help you along your health journey. I’ve been using this food diary and I absolutely love it! It helps you track your food and exercise and has lots of extras in it.
To get you started go here to access the resource library to get your free food diary template and other valuable tools. Then check back often as content is added and/or changed periodically to help you on your health journey.
Eat Well. Be Well. Repeat.
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