The thought of writing down everything you eat and drink for any amount of time makes most people groan and grumble. Amy Schumer has joked about it, and yes, it is a bit of a burden. However, "food journaling" is a very useful and rewarding practice and I highly recommend it. I will let you in on a little secret: I don’t really like logging my food either. When I was in nutrition school at Bauman College, I found this to be the single most tedious task. That being said, when I feel like my eating habits are out of control and I am blindly eating all kinds of things without any awareness, the first thing I do is start logging my food intake for at least three days. I am always amazed at the results. Sometimes I am eating way too much fat, sometimes I am not eating enough calories during the day and snacking majorly at night, etc… The results vary greatly depending on factors such as; stress levels, sleep, workload, how my kids are behaving, etc… But it is always very informative and helps me look at my life try to figure out why my eating habits have gone askew.
There are many websites, apps, and software programs out there to make logging your food intake easier. I recommend trying a few and figure out which one works best for you. For the longest time a notebook was really the best for me. Now, I like MyFitnessPal because it is simple to use and their food database is very extensive. Here are some other popular sites worth trying if you don’t like MyFitnessPal:
- Evernote (not branded as journal, but you can keep track of your food and enter it into a database or email it over to your health care provider)
To be successful at food journaling, a few things are important: first, you make it as easy as possible by finding the tool that works best for you and your lifestyle. Next, you log absolutely everything and check in with how you feel before and after eating. This will really help you (and your healthcare providers) identify any possible irritants, allergies, or sensitivities. Finally, reveal the types of foods that give you energy versus deplete it.
One of the benefits of using one of the apps is that they will give you loads of interesting data about your total calorie intake, macro and micro nutrient breakdown, etc… I have discovered fascinating things like: some days I eat way too many calories because I never actually have a full meal, and the next day I naturally eat very little, leveling out my calorie intake without realizing it at all. Another benefit is that journaling can help you make decisions about what to eat for your next meal. For example, if you are considering what to eat for lunch and you notice that you have already had a lot of fat for breakfast, you can chose to eat a lower-fat lunch.
The obvious catch with food journaling, is that YOU have to do it. You only need to do it for a few days to get extremely helpful and interesting feedback. It can be as easy as logging data on a piece of paper that you enter into your computer at the end of the day, or an app that you can check in with during meal times.
If you think you might want to keep a food journal, but you aren’t sure that you feel comfortable getting started on your own, contact me and I can help brainstorm some additional ideas on ways to make it work for you. Or, if you have already kept a food journal but you aren’t sure what it all means, contact me and I can help you figure it out. I promise that you if you do it once, it will be far easier the next time.