Leading dieticians have long been promoting the use of personal food journals. A food journal is a diary that logs your daily calorie consumption, portion size, time of meals, etc. Keeping a food journal has many benefits and can be used for a variety of reasons including:
Weight loss • Food allergy detection • Blood sugar stabilisation • Tracking of eating habits • Deciphering emotional eating
If you identify with any of these reasons, then maybe starting your own personal food journal is what you need. Here are our best tips on how to compile a successful food journal.
- Throughout the entire day, record everything you eat and drink.
- Record a detailed description e.g., salad – baby spinach, tomato, cucumber, low-fat cheddar, green olives, no dressing.
- Include the time and quantity.
Observe Your Emotions
If you are feeling particularly stressed for a specific period, note this on each day. Include a rating scale: Breakfast – stress levels = 8/10. You will soon begin to notice a pattern of how your emotions affect what you eat.
Identify Side Effects
If you eat high-fibre bran cereal for breakfast and immediately notice abdominal cramps and bloating, jot this down. It could be simply because you ate too quickly, but when you begin to track these side effects over a time period, you will easily be able to identify when your body is signalling an intolerance to specific foods. Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and the like are often triggered by certain foods. Your food journal will greatly assist your doctor in understanding your symptoms.
Common Allergy Foods
It is important to understand the difference between allergy and intolerance. Allergy is an immune response, while intolerance is a chemical reaction. Food intolerance causes physical discomfort such as bloating, cramps and diarrhoea. An allergic reaction on the other hand causes wheezing, swelling, difficulty breathing, stomach upsets and skin rashes. Severe allergic reactions – known as anaphylaxis – are life threatening and need immediate medical attention.
Use an App
If you find remembering to write in a journal a bit too cumbersome, then why not opt for one of the many food tracking apps available?
- Myfitnesspal is an easy to use app which can connect with your mapmyrun account, your fitbit, ihealth and a pile more.
- EasyDietDiary is an Australian food tracking app with a great collection of foods to make tracking your calories and nutritional breakdown simple, you can even scan the barcodes of your favourite foods
- Lose It! is a very user friendly app that allows you to track everything from food consumption to barcodes.
- Fatsecret is a fantastic app for easily viewing the complete nutritional breakdown of any food. The app will also show the fat content and amount of calories to help you easily track your daily intake.
- Calorific categorises food into green, yellow and red for easy coding of which foods are to be eaten in large quantities and which are high-fat occasional foods.
Be Kind to Yourself
A food journal is a tool to assist you in changing your eating habits and promoting positive changes. Remember to always be completely honest in your journal. Don’t conveniently forget to log certain foods because you’re afraid it will push your calorie intake above your target. At the end of the day, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. If you have a slice of decadent chocolate mousse cake, please don’t scorn yourself for the rest of eternity. Record the fact that it was delicious and that you really savoured every bite. And then leave it be and focus on making tomorrow healthier.
Building a positive relationship with your eating habits is more important than always being meticulously healthy. Changing how you perceive food and loving your own body should always be the main focus – and if you just happen to drop a dress size in the process, then great, what a bonus!
Good luck with starting your new food journal.
And remember: Relax! Enjoy! And have fun!