What you eat can affect your overall health. If you’re having stomach troubles, feeling tired all the time, or not feeling yourself, it could be something to do with your diet. Here’s why a food journal can help.
What’s a Food Journal?
A food journal is simply a place where you keep track of what you eat each day, how the food makes you feel, and more. You can make your food journal as simple as a pocket notebook where you log each day on a new page or an app.
Whatever tool you use, you’ll want to track things like what you ate, when you ate it, how much you ate, and your general sense of well being and other details. We’ll talk more about that in a moment, but let’s look at some of the reasons you may want to keep a food journal first.
Dieting isn’t always easy, and keeping track of your diet is a big part of making it work for you. Your food journal gives you a place to track your meals, what time you’re eating, calorie counts (if you’re counting them), and whether or not you cheated (everyone deserves a cheat day on their diet, but too many will ruin your progress).
Identifying Food Allergies or Intolerances
By tracking what you eat each day, and how you feel physically after eating, you may be able to find out if you’re lactose intolerant or have a food allergy. The idea is that you’ll be able to go back and look at previous meals that made you feel unwell and look at the similarities to help you pinpoint the culinary culprit.
Use your food journal along will your elimination diet to keep track of which foods are OK when introduced back in your diet, and which ones you can no longer eat.
Breaking Bad Food Habits
Your food journal works as a reminder of which bad habits you want to break when it comes to diet and nutrition. You can track cravings, and what you do about those cravings. You can mark down the times you fall off the wagon and how eating things you don’t want made you feel.
Some bad food habits many people work hard to get away from include:
- Too much salt
- Too much sugar
- Bigger portions
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Drinking soda
Tracking Emotional Connections to Food
Are you an emotional eater? If you eat when you are stressed or angry, or even if you eat more when you’re bored, a food journal may help you break your emotional connection to food.
Keep track of your overeating or undereating. Use your journal to help you stay accountable, and help you as a springboard to talk to your doctor about your emotional food attachments.
How to Start a Food Journal
Starting your food journal is as easy as grabbing a notebook and a pen. If you don’t have a guided food journal to tell you what to include within, here are some sections you’ll want to create to help you track how food is affecting you.
You want to keep track of each day. It’s easy to miss a day in your food journal, especially when you first get started. If you write the date down, you won’t be confused about what you ate each day, or when your last cheat day was.
When you miss a day; don’t fret. Start putting in new entries. If you travel a lot, consider starting your food journal online with Google docs or using an app like My Fitness Pal. With an app, you may be able to set up daily reminders, so you don’t miss a day.
List of Meals
Make spaces for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You will need room to record what you ate each meal, what you had for dessert, and what you drank. Snacks can all go one in one box; they don’t need to be separated.
If you want to make sure you’re eating at the same time each day, write the time by each section or each snack. Tracking meal times will also help you make sure you’re not eating too close to bedtime, which can affect sleep, cause heartburn, and increase chances of weight gain.
Water is critical in nearly every biological process in the body, including digestion. When you work out, spend time in the heat, and go to the bathroom, you’re losing some of that water, and it needs to be replaced for optimal health.
Some foods help with water replacement. Foods like lettuce, watermelon, and cucumbers are high in water content. You should still drink some water each day, of course, and how much additional water you need varies from person to person (there’s no set rule like everyone must drink X ounces of water a day). To get an idea of how much water you need, you guessed it: you should track water intake in your food diary.
Make a space to record any cravings you’re having and what you do about them. This will help you hold yourself accountable, and it’ll let you know if there are certain days or times of the month when you have different cravings.
Knowing how you respond each time will help make a new plan for dealing with cravings if you’re giving in to them. If you’re not giving in to them, your journal will be a reminder to pat yourself on your back.
A Space for Feelings
How did your meal make you feel, physically, and mentally? If you’re looking for food allergies and intolerances, tracking physical feelings is a must. If you’re an emotional eater, paying attention to how you feel before you eat will let you know what moods are motivating your overeating or other issues.
Sleep and Exercise
Tracking your sleep patterns and exercise isn’t a solid requirement for your food journal, but both may give you more insight. If you’re an emotional eater or trying to lose weight, your sleep patterns can be affected by mood and food. If you’re using your food journal to enhance weight loss, tracking your exercise will help you compare calories burned to calories eaten.