It’s just as important as ever to focus on what you feed your body and keep track of your diet. Food journals are a great way to be more aware of what you eat and how those meals make you feel. Additionally, food journals offer insight into personal eating habits and trends. Whether the goal is to eat healthier, lose weight, or find a possible food intolerance, start a new habit and keep track of your diet.
Ways to keep track
Starting a food journal is a great way to encourage a change in diet and reinforce some of those good eating habits. Getting started really depends on what’s more convenient for you, though. For some using their phones and downloading a free app is easiest, and others may prefer a paper journal.
Both digital apps and physical journals offer a convenient way to keep track of what you eat, when, and how much. Digital apps can offer a bit more of an analytical look at your overall journal, which may work better for you. Whereas physical journals have more of a personal connection to what you’re logging. Either way, find a way that fits your needs so you can keep track of your diet, consistently.
What to track
After you’ve established whether your journal is physical or digital, it’s important to keep logs basic until you get into a rhythm. Initially, you’ll want to track:
- What you ate and drank
- When you ate and drank
- How much you ate and drank
These three items are imperative for effectively tracking your food journey. What you’re eating and drinking helps establish those repetitive behaviors. Additionally, knowing what you’re eating can help when it comes time to find ways to improve your diet. Logging exactly when you ate can provide a bit of insight as to why you may be hungry in different parts of the day, or point to why you may be unable to fall asleep at night.
Lastly, keeping track of just how much you’re eating may indicate that your portion sizes are a bit too big, or maybe you’re not eating enough for certain meals like breakfast or lunch. If you’re just getting started with journaling your meals, start off with basic measurements using common items. Listing one tennis ball worth of mashed potatoes is a lot more realistic in a pinch than not listing any sort of weight. Knowing how much you’re eating can help you figure out a proper serving size and incorporate other foods to help you feel fuller from less food.
Over time and as you become more consistent with your logging, incorporating more details can help advance your food journal. Some more in-depth measurements can include:
- Precise food weights and drink volume
- Caloric and Macro intake per meal
- How each meal makes you feel
- Who you’re eating with
- When you feel hungry throughout the day
After you’ve got a good grasp on logging your foods, incorporating a food scale for more precise weights can help you determine if you’re getting enough of certain food groups in each meal. For instance, according to the National Institutes of Health fruits and veggies should be half of your meal. Knowing exactly how much you’re eating with each meal can also help you track your food’s macros and calories.
Macronutrients or “macros” include the main nutrients you eat the most: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Including these macros in addition to calories makes sure that your body is getting the fuel it needs to keep going. If the goal of keeping a food journal is to lose weight, tracking calories and macros is the first step before knowing how much exercise is necessary to burn more calories than the body is consuming. This is where digital food journal apps are very convenient. With a database full of foods from popular restaurants and fast food joints, certain apps make tracking macros and calories as simple as inputting the meal name and pressing search. When using a physical journal, ask for a nutrition guide or look it up on your phone to get all of the details on that meal.
Certain foods, especially those from fast food joints, can make someone feel a bit bloated even immediately after the meal is finished. Tracking how you feel before your meal and after can provide some insight into which restaurants or foods to cut from your diet. Combining how much food is in a meal with how the meal made you feel can also help figure out if you’re eating too much or not incorporating healthier foods into your diet.
Similar to how meals make someone feel, who they eat with can influence eating behaviors. For instance, eating alone might make someone eat too much whereas eating with a partner or friends can limit their intake. Food journals are a great way to identify those behaviors and prepare accordingly. We’ve all been there, it’s 3 p.m. and you’re ready for a snack or a nap or both. Figuring out when to increase your meal size or incorporate more “filling” foods is a key way to feeling better each day.
Why it’s important to keep track
Whether the goal is to lose weight, eat healthier, or identify some problem foods, food journals are great for tracking your meal habits. They can help find small ways to improve your diet overall. For instance, if each breakfast consists of sugary cereal, switching to something like yogurt and granola can help someone feel fuller, longer while incorporating healthy foods. Small changes can add up over time and lead to better behaviors and healthier eating.
As studies indicate that over 20% of the world’s population have a food intolerance, journaling can keep track of moods after certain foods. These changes in how you feel can indicate a food intolerance or a more serious food allergy. Since some foods don’t display intolerance symptoms for 48 hours, getting a food sensitivity test answers your immediate questions about how your body reacts to certain foods. With convenient testing available, find your local ARCpoint Labs and schedule your food sensitivity test. While food journaling is great for keeping track of what you eat, getting tested can help you get the most out of your diet.
Whether you opt for a digital app or a physical journal, keep track of your diet this year. It’s important to note though, that food journaling is not intending to make you feel guilty for certain foods. It’s an informative way to look at your diet overall and reinforce good eating behaviors.