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When you’re diving into a meal, the last thing on your mind is diligent note taking. However, tracking your food intake is a productive way to understand (and improve!) your eating habits. We reached out to Jody Halouska, Bariatric Coordinator and Registered Dietitian at Lutheran Weight Loss Center, who provided helpful information about food journals and their benefits.
What is a food journal?
A food journal is a way to track and analyze what you consume. Most people associate them with weight loss, but there’s more uses than identifying excess eating. They can be an excellent tool for those with illnesses (such as diabetes or cancer) or even those who just want to understand their eating behavior.
How do I make a food journal?
There are many ways to make a food journal. You might prefer a handwritten pen-to-paper method, or something more digitized like an app or spreadsheet. Either way, food journaling should track three baseline things:
- Time of day
- What the food is
- Amount of food
Knowing these measures can help find patterns. Perhaps you’ve got a sweet tooth, and food journaling helps determine what is in moderation and what is excessive sugar. Or maybe your daily breakfast notes reveal that starting with a light meal makes you consume more calories throughout the day. Over time, you’ll gather insights to make informed dietary decisions.
Depending on your reason for starting a food journal, you might track additional things, such as reason for eating (hunger vs boredom) and mood. These records are for your health, so feel empowered to customize!
How do I remember to food journal?
You might think that tracking food intake sounds like a lot of work. And we won’t lie to you, it can be time consuming. Thankfully, there are ways to keep the record straight. “Try to make it easy and journal right after you eat,” said Jody Halouska. “If you wait until the end of the day, you might forget what you’ve eaten and other insights.”
Jody Halouska also suggested journaling on specific days of the week, instead of every day. Even a few days of notes can provide a look into your eating behaviors.
The most important thing is to be honest with your food journal. You might not feel comfortable tracking foods you feel embarrassed eating, but tracking food intake helps make lifestyle changes, not dieting changes.
If you want to make healthier lifestyle changes, it can never hurt to meet with a dietitian, like Jody Halouska. “Somebody may not notice small things that should change, so it may be helpful to have a professional review their food behaviors,” she said.