Food Journals- A Powerful Tool

“The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.” - Julia Child

Image by By MStewartPhotography

Actually. I think it's never. The key to healthy eating is not to starve on rice cakes and pine away for "bad" foods, but to be conscious of what we eat and how much we actually eat of it.

Without even realizing it, it can be very easy to eat much more than we planned without realizing it. Luckily, for the planning and realizing part, there's a food journal- a handy-dandy tool for healthy eating.

What the %$*# is a food journal?

A food journal can take on many forms, but basically it's a place where you record what you've eaten and, if you like, what you'd like to eat throughout the day. It's used to help keep track of adherence to a food plan or diet, and manage what you eat. It's good for keeping track of progress toward a food goal, planning the days that get you towards that goal, and helping to determine intolerance to food.

Why would I want to keep a food journal?
They can not only give you a great record of what you've been eating, but studies show that they can actually help you change your eating habits. Why? If I have to write down that I ate a whole bag of cookies, not only is there going to be a record, but I become more aware of what I'm eating.

Also, it can help me to identify when I'm doing that- ex: I always eat so many cookies when I'm watching TV, or right when I come home.

Knowing that can help me to think of strategies to fix that: ex: I could crochet to keep my hands busy when I watch TV, I could make dinner first and watch the show online once I've had a good meal, I could have handy, healthy snacks ready since I'm too hungry to cook at that time, I could avoid buying cookies, put them out of sight, or buy smaller packages, etc.

If something is out of whack on some days, keeping track of what's different about those times is a good idea. Information about things like quality and amount of sleep, the weather, daily activities, and food can be a good place to start your investigation. Not only can this help you figure out what was different on those days, but if the problem needs to be addressed by a healthcare professional, this can be very useful information. A food journal can be used to discover foods that bother you. Your diet has a profound impact on your life and can be responsible for things as obvious as stomach upsets, to mood changes, headaches, and energy levels.
Photo by theresac

How a food journal
So, now you know it's awesome, but how would you actually put this into practice?
Basically, write down what you ate and drank, how much of it,  and when,  as well as any other factors that you feel you would like to keep track of (what you were doing, how you felt, where you were, who you were with, the weather, etc). 

This National Library of Health page recommends to keep a record for about a week and then review it. They have a good outline of how to keep a food journal as well as a few goals you may want to consider and tactics that can help you achieve them. One thing that I like about this page is that it asks you to recognize your good habits. Maybe there are some things you want to improve, but there are probably some things you are doing right and you can be proud of that.

Once, you've taken a look at your journal, you can identify habits you want to change and set a SMART goal. This could be as simple as trying to follow Canada's food guide or trying to consume more of your calories during the more active parts of your day.  You can then use your food journal to help you measure your progress and obstacles in attaining your SMART goalFor the food guide example above, I would need to keep track the portions of the different food groups I ate, as well as those that didn't fit- like chocolate bars or soft drinks to measure my progress. Keeping track of the other aspects, like mood, time of day, etc. can help me identify where I'm doing well, where I'm having difficulty, and some potential solutions.
Photo CJC

For more information about nutrition or setting nutritional goals, I highly recommend the nutrition PDF put together from Concordia's Health Services. Talking to a healthcare provider is also an awesome way to get a boost towards your nutrition ambitions.

I wish you all the best with your health goals and an awesome day!

Live and eat well, Charlotte


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