There are dozens of reason why you’d want to keep a diet diary. Whether you need to monitor eating habits to manage a health condition or because you want to lose weight, keeping a diet diary is a powerful tool for gaining insight about what, when, and why you are eating.
Too often we eat mindlessly, which leads to poor choices and over indulgence—and it can even raise the risk for developing heart disease, obesity, diabetes, allergies, colds and food sensitivities. A diet diary shows us how to improve our food choices and helps create a foundation for good health.
Diet diaries are easy to use. You can opt for paper-and-pencil journal formats, or you can use an app from sources such as My Plate, MyNet Diary, My Fitness Pal, Yazio, or See How You Eat. Apps can provide superior data capture and long-term tracking so you can more easily spot pitfalls and see your success.
Regardless of the format, try to track your eating habits during weekdays and at least one weekend day; do it for at least two weeks, but ideally for a month. If you’re striving to manage a health condition, your doctor will have additional suggestions for you.
What to Track in a Paper & Pencil Diet Diary
1) Food Factors
- What did you eat? What time of day?
- Portion size (measure food or estimate: “palm-full of granola”); include # of grams of fat, carbohydrates, protein and calories
- Why did you eat? (physically hungry? have a craving?)
2) Mind Factors
- What was your overall mood? Stress level?
- How did you feel after eating? (satisfied, guilty, ill)
- Were you distracted or attentive/mindful about your meal?
3) Social & Environmental Factors
- Who were you with for the meal?
- Did you eat in a rush or were you relaxed?
- Were you doing another activity while eating? (working, watching TV, cooking)
4) Physical Factors
- Did you have any physical symptoms during or after eating? (indigestion, reflux, gas, bloating)
- Did you have headaches, or mental/emotional fatigue?
Review your journal at the end of each day and summarize your habits. Note the key factors for why you chose to eat at the times you did, whether you made healthy or unhealthy choices, and what were the key triggers for eating at different times.