Food Diary

How Keeping Track Of What You Eat Supports Better Choices

By Marina Mason, Certified Health and Wellness Coach

You may be under the illusion that you don’t eat much sugar, are getting your fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water, etc. We don’t always eat because we are hungry either. Emotional eating is a cycle that can make us feel worse without removing the emotional pain we are feeling. With a food diary, you get real about your eating habits to make healthier food choices. So whether you are looking to shed a few pounds, increase fruit and vegetable intake or better understand what you eat and why you eat, try recording your choices in a food diary.

Why use a food diary?

There’s no right or wrong way to use a food diary, it’s up to you to decide what feels best for you. Food diaries are most commonly used when you feel out of balance in some way, whether it’s overeating during holidays or using it seasonally to check in on your eating habits. What you want to achieve by using a food diary is clarity about what you are ingesting.

Keeping a food diary should be done with a positive outlook and open mind. You don’t want to shame yourself or make the exercise frustrating. Rather, be kind to yourself when embarking on this exercise.

How to use a food diary:

Grab yourself a notebook and note the following on a daily basis:

Food and drinks:
List all food and drinks consumed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t forget to include snacks in between.

Physical and emotional:
Write down physical and emotional responses to the foods and drinks consumed at each meal. By identifying these, you will see patterns or imbalances emerge that interfere with your overall sense of wellbeing. Common physical responses: headache, nausea, jittery, energized. Common emotional responses: irritated, anxious, restless, happy.

Reflections and intentions:
Take time to reflect on your food diary at the end of each day. Write down a few accomplishments like “I brought fruit to snack on at work today.” or “Took a walk around the block at break time instead of staying at my computer.” Then, create an intention for the next day that helps you reach your goal. For example, “Tomorrow, I will remind myself to stay positive.”; “I will take 3 deep breaths when I’m feeling overwhelmed.”

Look back at your daily food diary. Eating is highly psychological. Identify physical and emotional responses that emerge before, during or after eating. Becoming aware of the your physical and emotional reactions to food offers a glimpse at those that work for your body and those that don’t. This is where you can take control of what foods you should have more or less of in your diet.

How does a food diary help me healthier food choices?

By making clear connections through physical and emotional response to food, you learn the power of food. With this awareness, you can see for yourself which foods serve you and which do not. Food diaries put the power in your hands to make lasting, long-term shifts in your eating habits. Ultimately, leading you to a happier, healthier you!

Need help starting, keeping or interpreting your food diary? Connect with a health and wellness coach!

Publisher’s Note: Marina Mason is Yoga Alliance Certified Instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.