It’s been shown that the simple process of writing down everything that you eat on a day-to-day basis can effectively help you identify unhealthy patterns in your diet, and make more health-conscious decisions. While many fitness companies have developed apps promising a convenient and accurate food tracking experience, many such apps offer clunky functionality, limitations in food and portion options, and tedious data entry requirements.
When it comes to keeping an effective and insightful food journal, nothing is easier, and more impactful, than documenting your meals using traditional, reliable, pen and paper. Read on for tips for keeping an effective food journal.
Record More Than Just Meals
One of the ultimate goals in keeping a food journal is to identify bad habits, dangerous patterns, and opportunities for improvement Don’t just write down what you eat and when. Write down what you’re doing while you eat, and how you’re feeling. For example, if every day you come home from work, feeling stressed, and binge on some chips, or you tend to eat cookies in the evening while watching TV, those may be two opportunities to focus on healthier decisions that could result in overall reduced calories. For example, instead come home from work and exercise, instead of snack. Or, swap your late-night cookies for some crunchy carrot sticks.
Be Honest with Yourself
No one has to see your food journal but you if you don’t want them to. Be honest with yourself. Don’t be tempted to leave off the three pieces of hard candy you ate during your work meeting. Add those calories up and see the true impact they made on your total sugar and carb intake for the day. Seeing those numbers may help you to think twice the next time you walk past the office candy dish.
Clearly Document Your Portions
Writing that you ate “spaghetti and meatballs,” won’t do enough to tell you if you have an opportunity to reduce your portion sizes. Be specific, and honest, and document that you ate a cup of spaghetti, with half a cup of marinara, and three 2-inch sized meatballs. Then estimate the calorie impact as accurately as possible. Maybe next time, you’ll cut back by just a third of your total portion, with positive results.
Choose a Portable Journal
Food journaling is most effective if you document everything you eat as you eat it. Tryingto recall an entire day’s worth of meals and snacks at the end of every day could cause you to forget small items that add up quickly—like the fact that you finished your son’s mac and cheese at dinner time. It may also make you more likely to underestimate portions as you watch a day’s worth of items fill the page.
To be successful, choose a notebook that is small enough that you can carry it with you throughout the day. That way, you can keep it more accurately updated and chart your progress on a continuous basis each day. We recommend an A6 size notebook, like the Leuchtturm1917 Notebook Pocket A6 with a softcover and blank pages for ultimate flexibility in note taking.