A food journal contains information about what we eat each day. A food journal can be used to control diet and be aware of what we eat, and its effects on our health and lifestyle. For example, if you have indigestion or other medical problems, keeping a food journal regularly may help you figure out what food is causing the problem. In addition, a food journal can help you maintain or lose weight, or eat healthier. Start recording your diet, you may not think what can be learned from it.
Part 1 of 3: Recording What You Eat and Drink
Step 1. Prepare a journal
The easiest way to keep track of what you eat and drink is to write in a notebook or download a food journal app on your phone. You should be able to record the date, time, place, food eaten, quantity consumed, and extra notes.
- If you want to write by hand, use a blank notebook or buy a diary with enough space on each page to record your daily intake. You can find sample food journal pages that you can print and use, or copy into a diary.
- You can use an online tracking app or tool if you prefer. Because journaling is so popular, there are lots of great apps to choose from.
Step 2. Record everything you eat and drink
The most helpful food journals are the most accurate. Try to write everything that enters your mouth. Include all the foods, drinks, snacks, and even the ones you tasted while cooking.
- Make specific notes, separating ingredients in one dish. For example, don't just write “chicken buns”, break down the amount of bread, chicken, and accompaniments as separate entries. The same goes for other mixed foods, such as fried noodles and smoothies. This will help you remember what was in the dish or the calorie count.
- Do not forget to record any snacks or snacks you eat, such as cakes provided at the office.
- Record all drinks. Don't forget to also record your water intake. Keeping track of how much water you drink will give you an idea of whether you should drink more to keep yourself hydrated.
Step 3. Write down the accurate quantity
If you want to know how many calories you eat, it's important to keep a journal of the quantity of food you eat. You may have to purchase a food scale or measuring cup to make sure the quantity is correct.
- Before changing your diet, start counting the foods you normally eat. If the portion is too large or too small, make the necessary changes.
- Count food using a scale, measuring cup, bowl, or other well-measured container. This will ensure accuracy. Guessing or guessing is not an accurate method and generally understates food intake and total calories.
- You may have to estimate quantities when eating at restaurants or buying foods that are difficult to weigh. If you eat at a franchise restaurant, try going to the internet and looking for information on the quantity of ingredients in each serving. Also, try to find the various units of measurement that are widely used to describe the amount of food. For example, the size of a deck of cards is 85–120 grams, cup is 60 grams, or 1 egg equals cup.
- Record calories. If you're trying to lose or gain weight, keeping track of your daily calorie intake can be very helpful. Some food journal applications are equipped with calorie and nutritional information. If you use a notebook, look up calorie information online. One good resource is Choosemyplate.gov.
- Start by keeping track of how many calories you normally consume in a day, and make changes as needed.
- Reducing or adding 500 calories each day can cause a weight loss or increase of 0.5 to 1 kg.
Step 4. Write down the date, time and place to eat
It's very important to find patterns in eating habits. If you want to change your diet or lifestyle, this information provides reasons why you eat certain foods at certain times.
- Try to write down the exact time, not just “afternoon snack” or “midnight snack”.
- If you want to be really specific, write down exactly where you eat at home. Do you eat in front of the TV? At the desk? Sometimes, certain places or activities will trigger the desire to eat. For example, maybe you eat out of boredom while watching TV.
Step 5. Record how you feel after eating
Whether your goal is to keep a food journal, perhaps to lose weight or look for allergies, mood is very important. Write down how food affects how you feel.
- Wait 10–20 minutes after eating to assess feelings. It takes about 20 minutes for the body to know that you are satisfied. Record how satisfied you are after eating it.
- Also, try to record how you feel before eating. This may reveal eating problems related to emotional states. For example, it turns out that you eat more or choose fatty foods when stressed.
- Record hunger levels before and after eating. If you are starving before a meal, it may appear that you are eating a larger portion.
- Don't forget to include any physical symptoms or side effects after eating. For example, feel nauseous and stomach pain after eating foods made from milk.
Part 2 of 3: Analyzing Data
Step 1. Find the pattern of the food you eat
After a few weeks of recording food and drink intake, a pattern may already be established. Some patterns are obvious, such as eating the same breakfast every day, while others are enlightening. Check your journal and think about the following questions:
- Is there a pattern regarding the effect food has on mood?
- What foods seem to keep you hungry, and what's more filling?
- In what situations do you tend to overeat?
Step 2. Count how many snacks you have each day
Many people are surprised when they see how many snacks they consume in one day. A handful of nuts here, a piece of cake or two there, a bag of chips while watching TV at night, which ended up being a lot. Use a journal to assess whether your snacking habits are healthy or need improvement.
- Do you tend to opt for healthy snacks, or grab whatever is close at hand? If you're on the road a lot and don't have time to prepare fresh food every time you need a snack, try to think ahead and bring a snack, rather than buying whatever you have on the road when you're hungry.
- Do snacks fill you up or make you hungrier? Evaluate the notes on how you feel after eating the snack to analyze whether the snack should be replaced or not.
Step 3. Compare weekdays and weekends
For most people, work and school have a huge impact on eating habits. You may find it difficult to find time to cook on weekdays, but spend more time in the kitchen on holidays. See if there are any patterns that might be influencing your eating habits.
- Do you tend to eat out on certain days? If there's a record that you're buying food from delivery four times a week because of overtime, it may be a sign that you should prepare meals on weekends to help implement healthier meals during the week.
- Use this information to plan meals. If you already know you won't be cooking on a certain night, plan to prepare healthy meals in the refrigerator.
Step 4. Make notes about your emotional connection to food
Find out what situations might affect your diet on a given day or week. There may be a pattern in food choices when stressed, lonely, or bored. Maybe you can't sleep well enough to have a snack in the middle of the night, or you're opting for a tasty, high-calorie meal after a tiring day at work. This information is very helpful for planning eating patterns.
- See if there's a problem with overeating when you're angry or sad. If so, when you're stressed, try engaging in calming activities instead of turning to food.
- On the other hand, if certain foods seem to cause negative emotions, you may have to stop eating them to see the effects. For example, you may feel anxious and restless after drinking too much coffee.
Step 5. Watch for food intolerances
Look for patterns in how food affects the body. You may notice you can't tolerate lactose when your notes always show nausea, stomach pain, and bloating after eating dairy foods.
- See what foods make you bloated, have a headache, feel nauseous, or feel full. Keep these records to give to your doctor or nutritionist.
- Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other ailments will improve with dietary changes that stop the consumption of certain ingredients. If you have symptoms that lead you to believe that certain foods are making the problem worse, take a food journal to your doctor to discuss the possibility that dietary changes could help.
Part 3 of 3: Noting Additional Useful Details
Step 1. Record physical activity
If you're keeping a food journal as a way to keep track of your calories and stay in shape, it's also important to include physical activity.
- Record the type of activity and how long you do it. If you can, also add how many calories burned during the activity.
- See how exercise affects your hunger levels and what you eat. Note whether your hunger increases or if you starve immediately after exercise.
Step 2. Record nutritional information
If you keep a food journal to make sure you're getting enough of a particular nutrient, jot down the nutritional information for each food. Nutritional information is easy to find on the internet, and many food journal apps already provide it. Examples of nutrients to note are:
- Vitamin D
Step 3. Record the progress to the destination
A food journal can be used as a motivational tool if there are goals related to diet. Your progress log will inspire you to keep going and show you that there is still room for improvement, whether it's to lose weight or just try to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption. Below are several ways to track progress:
- Record weight. Write it down every weekend so you can see the fluctuations.
- Record important achievements. If you manage to stop eating gluten for a month, write it down in a journal.
- Record how much exercise you can do. For example, your progress to be able to run 5 km.
Step 4. Record expenses for food
Since you've already written down all the food you eat, why not include the price at the same time? This is great for making sure your expenses are within your daily, weekly, and monthly budgets. You may be surprised to see where the most money is spent.
- Record how much you spend on one dish. Include dishes you cook yourself and dishes eaten outside.
- Look for patterns to determine how much you spend on food each week or month, and figure out which items can be cut back.
- It helps if you total out your expenses for food purchased outside the home. For example, you spend money on an afternoon coffee or lunch out with coworkers. Over time, these small expenses pile up.
- If you're keeping a food journal because you want to lose weight or because you have an eating disorder, you may need to add the "Feelings when you eat this" column. This information will help you figure out why you are eating.
- You can use the food log on the web or an app, such as iEatWell or MyCaloryCounter
- You don't need to take detailed notes every day, but the more often you take notes, the more information you will get. If you don't log every day, at least do it a few weekdays and one weekend.