Use this free food diary PDF and food journaling tips to help create sustainable healthy eating habits. Thanks so much to my intern, Erica Gambino, for putting together this article on the benefits of food journaling!
I have always been a fan of journaling. It keeps me motivated, on track of my goals, and focused. And there is no wrong way to do it!
A food diary can be utilized in many different ways– to help reach long term health goals, to ensure you are eating a balanced diet, to make peace with food, or to identify intolerances.
5 Benefits of Food Journaling
No. 1 | BETTER NUTRITION
Possibly the biggest benefit to food journaling—the awareness of tracking your own nutrition will help you make better dietary decisions. Logging your food intake can show you if you’re eating a balanced diet.
With a journal you can analyze what foods you are not eating enough of and which ones you’re eating too much of. If your journal shows a diet of mostly carbs and protein, then you can be more mindful of adding fruits and vegetables into your meals.
Keeping a food journal helps you compose a meal that is balanced with the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat.
No. 2 | PORTION CONTROL
A food journal holds you accountable for the size of your meal. Controlling portion size is important because it helps with digestion, aids in maintain a healthy weight, and keeps control of blood sugar levels to keep you energized throughout the day.
Before you start journaling do some research on food portioning, then use that information to help construct your meals.
No. 3 | HEALTH GOALS
Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain weight, to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, keeping track of what you eat can have a positive effect.
Recording what you eat will help you make healthier choices about what you put in your body and help you track unhealthy habits.
No. 4 | ACCOUNTABILITY
A food journal holds you accountable and creates a personal guide that can inform your future choices. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat.
This can help your dietitian or physician understand your food habits and help you identify unhealthy patterns. It can also be beneficial to note time of day, mood and who you are with when keeping a food journal since stress, work, and people can affect your food choices.
Noticing certain triggers will help you get rid of unhealthy habits. In addition, if weight loss is your goal, a food journal can help keep you honest about your daily caloric intake.
Research has shown that most of us (dietitians included!) underestimate our daily caloric intake by 10-20%-over time this can really add up!
No. 5 | IDENTIFY FOOD INTOLERANCES
It may take some detective work to identify which foods you may have intolerance to, as reactions can happen hours (even days) after food consumption.
Writing down what you eat and how you feel after can help you and your dietitian identify what foods your body reacts negatively towards.
Tip! If you still have trouble identifying food intolerances after keeping a food journal for several weeks, you may want to consider food sensitivity testing. Get in touch with me to learn more!
Get started food journaling! (It really helps!)
To start food journaling, simply track when, what and how much you eat and drink each day.
To keep a more accurate account, try and record what you eat and drink immediately after eating. If you wait until the end of the day, it’s easy to forget everything you’ve eaten!
You can also learn about your eating habits by tracking the types of food and beverages you consume each day. For example, the number of fruits and vegetables you have.
What you track in your journal should reflect your healthy goals. For instance, if you’re following a low FODMAP diet for IBS, it’s really helpful to track your digestive symptoms along with your stress level.
I also recommend writing down your mood, energy level, fullness level, what you are doing, and who you are eating with, to learn more about your individual eating patterns.
The longer you journal, the more you will learn. Take time to review what you’ve recorded and notice any trend and patterns that appear after a week or two of tracking.
Questions to consider…
- How healthy is my diet overall?
- Am I eating whole grains?
- Did I eat enough fruits and vegetables today?
- Am I drinking enough water?
- How often am I eating out?
- How frequently am I consuming sugary drinks?
- Do I “boredom eat”? What other moods are affecting my eating habits?
What is the best food journal?
There are so many ways to keep track of what you eat. Use the option that works best for you. Whether you write it down by hand in a notebook, use a food tracking app or website, or take photos of your meals.
I personally enjoy handwriting my journals in a notebook. (If you are looking for a new planner that can also be used for food journaling, be sure to check out the gorgeous Silk and Sonder journals!)
Remember! Journaling is not about judging yourself or guilting yourself over what you eat. Use your journal to encourage yourself and support healthy decisions.
Check out our Free Food Diary PDF to get started food journaling today!
Let’s Chat! Do you keep a food journal? If so, how has keeping one helped you with your health goals? Do you have any questions about food journaling? Leave a comment below!
Erica Gambino is a Nutrition and Dietetics student at Queens College, New York. She is the current president of the Queens College Dietetics Club. Erica shares her experiences as a dietetics student and posts healthy recipes on her Instagram page to inspire her followers to eat healthfully without sacrificing
taste. Follow her @ericagambino.rd2b.