There are many reasons to keep a food diary, the most common being to watch caloric intake versus expenditure. However, you also may be interested in identifying what emotional triggers result in overindulging in unhealthy foods or recording the types of food you ingest. This article will guide you through the practical steps needed to create an effective food diary tailored to meet your specific needs.
What to write in your daily food log
What you write in your food diary will depend on the purpose of your diary. Not everyone keeps a food diary for the same reasons. The following are different types of food journals and suggestions for what types of things you might write in that kind of food log:
Overcome emotional eating
If you are concerned that you are an emotional eater, a person who copes with unpleasant emotions by eating unhealthy amounts of food or unhealthy food, you may want to keep a food diary monitoring your mood and your food choices. This kind of food diary does not need to include calories or nutrition details, but rather should cover your daily experiences with food. If you ate healthfully that day and were in a great mood all day, this should be noted. If you were doing fine both mood-wise and with your food choices until dinner and you found yourself eating a carton of Ben and Jerry's ice cream because you felt so lonely, you will want to make a record of this experience. This kind of a journal requires room for note taking about emotions, events, choices, and possible solutions for the future.
Some emotional eaters overeat when they are celebrating or rewarding themselves for overextending themselves, and some have the converse problem. Some people with emotional eating issues cannot eat when they are distressed, lonely, angry or otherwise upset. These people can also benefit from keeping a emotional eating (or not eating) food journal, making note of when they need to nurture themselves with healthy meals instead of starving their anxiety or sadness by starving their bodies.
Engage in more healthful eating
If you need to change your dietary habits in order to make more healthful choices, you will want to keep a different type of food journal. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes you may need to eat more vegetables and proteins and avoid foods with high sugar index ratings; likewise if you have discovered you have high cholesterol, you may want to change your diet to lower your cholesterol. Perhaps you simply want to switch from unhealthy food choices to healthier meals and snacks and you need help seeing the nutritional values of the foods you eat.
This kind of journal will focus on the nutritional values of the foods you eat. You will want to make columns in your food diary to record values such as calories, fat grams, types of fat, grams of fiber, and sugars. You'll want to keep track of what foods helped you move towards your eating goals. When you find yourself eating foods that go contrary to your eating goals, you can look up substitutions for those foods that might satisfy you. For instance, if you ate a plate of French fries, you might write down that next time you'll spray some potatoes slices with Pam, sprinkle some sea salt on them, and roast them in the oven as healthy French fries.
If your goal is weight loss, you may want to combine parts of both of the journals listed above for your journal. Keeping track of caloric intake versus expenditures in exercise may be the most important aspect of your weight loss food diary, but noting the other aspects mentioned above may help you in your choices.
What kind of daily food diary will work best for you?
What kind of daily food journal you choose to use will depend on your lifestyle and what works best for you. If you are at your desk most of the day and have privacy in your office, you may want to keep your journal online or on a spreadsheet on your computer. If you have a laptop, perhaps you'll want to create a daily journal on your laptop and use it throughout the day. Some people like to use their Blackberries or notepad on their phones, and some people like to handwrite their food log in a journal or tiny notepad small enough to fit inside a purse or computer bag.
You also need to consider how much time you have to invest in your food diary. If you have a lot of time to write in details and look up alternative strategies for the future, you'll want a more complex diary. If you're very busy and need something quick and easy, a tiny notebook in your purse might be the way to go for you. Consider what will be easiest for you to actually use and don't overwhelm yourself with too much obligatory information to record in your food diary.
Consider paying for an online food diary
There are several online food journal services available for low monthly fees. These services allow you to enter your meal choices and even calculate out calories consumed and calories burned through exercises. An online food diary service will most likely provide charts for measuring your progress, online support groups and forums for moral support, and articles about healthful eating and exercise.
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