Ten Details Often Overlooked in a Food Journal
A food journal (or food diary) is a simple tool that helps us monitor ourselves and track our habits: how much, when, and why we eat! We call this self-monitoring. It’s not about counting calories or creating restrictions. Rather, it’s about being aware and mindful of what we do and the situations that influence our behaviours.
To help you make the most of your food journal experience, I have listed some key information that we often forget to include:
- Quantity: How much rice did you have? What quantity of oil did you add to your dressing? How large was your meat/chicken/fish serving? Did you eat half the container of hummus with your veggies, or did you split it over several servings?
- Appetizers: These include the bread we eat before the main course, or other choices like calamari rings, onion rings, cheese & crackers, nuts, chips, veggies, etc.
- Sauces and dressings: The choices we make can greatly affect the quantity of fat we consume. Was it creamy? Made with mayo, sour cream, 35% cream, or yogurt? Tomato-based? An Italian dressing? Homemade or commercial? Also, remember to include #1 on the list: quantity!
- Beverages: Alcoholic or not; juice, iced tea, wine, beer, hot chocolate, latte? Once again, keep an eye out for #1! Regarding alcoholic drinks, you can read 7 REASONS TO DECREASE YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE. To make smarter hot beverage choices: Smarter Hot Beverage Choices this Winter…. Why not?
- Dessert: Cake, biscuits, ice cream (regular or yogurt-based), fruits, yogurt, pudding… You guessed it: #1 also applies!
- Snacks: All food consumed between meals & especially after supper (in front of the TV or computer perhaps?).
- Food we eat at night: Are you a light sleeper? Do you wake up at night and find yourself standing in front of the fridge? Watch out for this!
- Food we eat while cooking: We can eat a lot of food when we cook, and most of the time we don’t even realize it.
- Emotions: We don’t eat only because we are hungry, but for plenty of other reasons as well: boredom, sadness, happiness, stress, and the list goes on.
- Location: At home? At work? In front of the TV or computer? Over the counter? At the restaurant? As simple as this may seem, we can have different eating habits in different places and situations.
Always remember that there is no right or wrong way to keep a food journal. We shouldn’t aim for perfection. We want to use this tool as a guide to make better decisions, learn how to estimate servings, and analyze the food we eat regularly.
TIP: Choose the method you are most comfortable with. It could be a simple handwritten journal, or you could also download various mobile applications or use the website versions: Total Coaching, MyFitness Pal, Lose It, etc.
And now… let’s go ahead and get some food logging going!
Joelle Khairallah Dt.P, M.Sc