Ever wonder where your calories come from, why you may be feeling fatigued, or how you are gaining or losing weight? You may not realize all that you eat in a day, and one way to figure it out is to start a food journal. Food journaling can hold you accountable for what you eat, as you may be less likely to eat something if you know you have to track it!

Food journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as using a piece of scrap paper, a pre-printed meal journal, or an app on your phone.

Here are some benefits and drawbacks to each tracking method.
Scrap Paper• Easy, quick, you can write whatever you want in whatever format you like• No guidelines as to what/when to write, so you may not remember to write down something you ate or drank
Pre-Printed Meal Journal• Can include space for each meal, snack, and beverages, plus room to jot down how you were feeling before or after eating• There are lots of journals available, so it may be an overwhelming decision on which to choose
App• Many apps have libraries of foods with nutritional values and calorie counts to let you know what you’re getting from the foods you eat
• You enter what you’ve eaten or drank, and the app saves it so you can easily click on it later if you eat it again
• The initial set up in the app may be more time consuming than you like, or you may not think it’s worth the time if you’re not looking to track in so much detail

Food journaling is a great way to get started on a path to healthier eating, but it’s not going to do much for you if you don’t analyze it. Once you have about a week of journaling done, it’s time to look at your habits to determine where you can improve.

Here are some areas to look at:
  • Mealtimes – are they consistent? Consistency will help your body get used to recognizing when you’re hungry and prevent mindless eating between meals.
  • Snacks – how often are you snacking? Meals that are sufficiently balanced with the right amount of proteins, carbs and fat, should satisfy you for four to six hours. Identify why you’re snacking and if you’re truly hungry. You may be snacking out of boredom or stress.
  • Liquids – are you consuming at least half your body weight in ounces of liquid each day? That’s what you need to ensure your body is adequately hydrated. If you lack energy, dehydration may be the culprit.
  • Moods – are you tracking how you felt before and after meals and snacks? This will help you not only be more mindful about why you’re eating, but identify food sensitivities or allergies. For example, if you’re consistently tired one hour after eating a meal, you may be experiencing drastic fluctuations in your blood sugar level due to your diet.

If you can’t get to the bottom of what’s wrong with your diet, meet with a nutritionist or dietitian who can better analyze your journal and recommend the best foods for you.

By Jennifer Slaboda

This article can be found in our Summer 2020 issue.