Why would you keep a food diary? It is cumbersome, time consuming, easy to forget, and you can lie too…
First of all: it tells you how often you are eating during the day. Are you a grazer, or do you focus on meals? Do you eat late at night or do you tend to skip breakfast? You can add a column to jot down a few words or lines about your reason for eating and how you felt afterwards. Were you hungry, starving, bored, happy, sad, irritated, sleepy, frustrated? You name it. Afterwards; did you feel satisfied, bloated, guilty, sad, happy, fulfilled, awake? If you managed to stay honest in your diary you might be able to recognize a pattern.
Secondly, it tells you what you eat. Are you focusing on carbohydrates such as bread, crackers, chips, cookies, rice, pasta? Are you focusing on protein such as eggs, meat, fish, beans, tofu? Or are you focusing on fats; nuts, cheese, butter, etc? By now it might be useful to see if you can fit in these foods in the 5 recognized food groups: grains, fruit, vegetables, protein and dairy. Could you find a place for all the foods you ate and drank? Foods that don’t fit in the 5 food groups are for example: soda, juice,alcohol, energy drinks, and coffee. These foods won’t provide many essential nutrients that are not already provided by other foods. Note; sugar is not a food group, it only adds pounds. Sorry, I can’t recommend it unless you exercise enough to keep up with the extra calories and receive all important nutrients through your regular foods.
The size, weight or amount of food and drinks is important too. You can weigh and count everything and write it down, but at times when you don’t bring scales to your local restaurant this link might be helpful.
Why is keeping a food diary important? It gives us an idea on how healthy we eat. Healthier eating can make a difference in how you feel day to day, but certainly also how you feel long term. Professional runners, cyclists, swimmers, etc. know what I am talking about, but healthy eating can also make the difference in your office productivity, being able to walk to dog at night, your physical ability to catch the bus that you see arriving at the bus stop, or feeling strong enough to lift up your three year old.
A good start for many is Choose My Plate. This website can be overwhelming but it also can help you to figure out how much to eat, help manage your food diary while giving you feedback, it has 10 tips education series, and it even offers recipes.
Some other websites that help you keep a food diary are My Fitness Pal, and Spark People. This last website is aimed at people who would like to lose weight and if that is not your goal, this might not be the best place. There are many more places to go and if you have found one; I am happy to give you some feedback on it.
If you feel your health and your eating habits are out of hand; talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can help you to get back on track.