Writing down what you consume shows your daily and weekly intake in a snapshot. Research shows that people who kept food records lost twice as much weight as people who didn’t track what they ate. Food tracking can help you identify your healthy habits, such as choosing nutritious snacks, and habits that need improving, such as drinking too many sugary drinks.
Think about your health goals. Lose weight? Cut back on sodium? Reduce your cholesterol or blood pressure? Write down your goals. This will keep you stay focused on why you are tracking what you consume.
Here are some ways to keep a food diary:
- Write down what you eat and drink on paper, keep notes on your computer or digital device, or use a food tracking website or app.
- Track what you ate, the times you ate and portion sizes. Add notes about what you were doing while you were eating. Working? Watching TV? Also include how you were feeling at the time. Hungry? Stressed?
- Include the amount of specific nutrients, such as calories, sodium, saturated fat and/or fiber, depending on your health goals.
At the end of each week, review and analyze your food diary. Are you meeting your goal? Do you see any patterns or triggers that are barriers? For example, maybe you notice you crave a snack in the afternoons and head for the vending machine. Now that you have identified this as an unhealthy pattern, you can think of ways to combat it. For instance, you can pack healthy snacks at home, such as unhealthy nuts or unsweetened dried fruit, and leave them in your desk. Or bring portable fruit, such as grapes, an apple or a banana, with your lunch. By doing this day after day, you’ll create a new, healthy habit.
Once you identify the obstacles, you can focus on ways to overcome them. But start small. You can’t tackle them all at once.