They say you are what you eat, but it turns out that some of us don't have a good idea of what that is. If you tried to recall what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday, chances are you'd probably forget at least a thing or two. A food diary or food journal can make you more aware of your food choices and eating habits.
A food diary is more than just a tool for calorie counting. It allows you to keep track of what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel. And when you learn about what you're eating, your eating habits, and your patterns, you start to become more aware of your food choices so you can make the best decisions for you.
Here are four ways that a food diary can help you make healthy changes.
1. It keeps you accountable.
When you've committed to writing down everything you eat and drink during the day, you may find yourself second-guessing your afternoon cookie or late-night snack. It may help you stay true to your healthy eating goals or choose an extra serving of veggies at dinner.
2. It can help you lose weight.
There's a reason nutritionists often recommend keeping a food journal to clients who are trying to lose weight. A study of approximately 1,700 people found that those who tracked their food lost twice as much weight as those who didn't. Plus, if you know that junk food makes you feel bloated the next day, you may be less likely to choose it the next time around.
3. It can help you pinpoint emotional triggers.
It's no secret that people eat at times when they're not hungry. Many people also eat when they are sad, angry, or frustrated. By taking note of how you feel (hunger level, fullness, and emotional state) before and after you eat, you may reveal circumstances that spur you to eat even when you're not hungry. Plus, noting environmental factors like where and with whom you eat may reveal patterns that affect how much you eat.
4. It can help you identify food intolerances.
It's also helpful to write down how you feel physically after you eat. By jotting down symptoms like an upset stomach, brain fog, or rashes, you and your doctor can use your food diary to identify potential food intolerances or food allergies.
How to Get Started
When starting a food diary, find a method that works for you. For some, an online tool or app like MyFitnessPal is an easy, convenient way to help you keep track of your eating habits. For others, a good old pen-and-paper journal works best. For more visual thinkers, a photo journal consisting of snapshots of meals may be the best option. You have many options, so see what method you can stick to most easily.
Try to log your food right after you eat, especially as you're getting started with journaling. You may be more likely to forget something if you wait until the end of the day. Remember, a food diary is only helpful if you make a commitment to be honest with yourself, so write it all down—every sip and nibble.