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9 stress-free steps to keep a food diary

  Daily Food Diary

Keeping a nutrition diary (properly) can be the key to achieving your health and fitness goals.

Fitness / Getty images breathe

Food Journal – blech . The sentence alone is enough to evoke images of yourself who are struggling over a food scale and frantically writing in a notebook. Although tracking food seems to be a tough task, it doesn't have to be that way and can even push you toward your health goals if done right.

Keeping track of food is a great way to make yourself more aware of what you eat every day, and it can make weight loss – or weight gain, or even weight retention – efforts much easier. Food journaling can also help people who have medical conditions that require attention to food, such as diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. And it can help guide discussions between you and your doctor about potential medical conditions.

Here are nine tips to keep in mind when logging your food, plus five great apps for the food diary so you can dump the notebook and save some time.

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1. Write everything down – even if it's & # 39; just a taste & # 39; is

You can record all meals and snacks in the world, but if you do not register the small, unsuspecting facts of food and drink, your food diary will not be accurate.

Examples: you bake a new dessert and occasionally put your finger in the batter to check if it tastes good. You wipe a donut hole every time you walk past the break room at work. You usually drink black coffee, but today you decide to add a creamer.

Record these things as they occur to ensure that your efforts support your goals, such as weight loss or muscle growth. A good tactic is to write it in the notes app of your phone and transfer it to your diary later. You can easily estimate these types of small flavors. For example, if you decide to add half and half to your coffee, you can base your input on the half and half portion: one tablespoon is 20 calories. If you think you have donated more, note that.

In the long run, 20 calories of coffee cream will not make or break your food diary, but constant snacking and not logging will lead to inaccuracies that make you wonder why you have not achieved your goals.

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2. Be honest and specific

Write down exactly what you ate, not a version of what you ate to avoid uncomfortable feelings. For example, if you're eating fried chicken strips, don't just write & # 39; chicken & # 39 ;. That is not specific and does not help you in the long term.

It will certainly not help if you try to keep track of your macronutrients, because "chicken" and "fried chicken strips" have very different macronutrient profiles.

You must also write down the amounts of food that you eat. For example, don't just write & # 39; oatmeal with bananas & # 39 ;. Write "a quarter cup of oatmeal with half a banana."

3. Get to know portion sizes

If you are not yet familiar with portion sizes, you must measure foods precisely for the first few weeks of storing food. It is probably a good idea to invest in a food scale if you have never kept and recorded food, because underestimating portion sizes is easier than you think. You don't need anything expensive – a simple Wal-mart or Target food bowl is enough.

After a while, you can start looking at your portions instead of measuring everything. For example, 3 grams of protein is about the size of a deck of cards. A scoop of nut butter of 2 tablespoons is about the size of a ping-pong ball. A teaspoon is about the size of a die.

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4. Take photos

Human memories are not as great as they were made to be. Our mental file cabinets are actually super sensitive to inaccuracies and forgetfulness, and it doesn't take long to fool yourself by believing a lie.

That's why you should take photos of your food in addition to writing things down in your food diary. Visual proof is the most accurate proof, and it is nice to look back and see how your eating patterns have changed over time.

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The app See How You Eat food journal focuses on taking pictures instead of capturing words. This is a great approach to food tracking if you find yourself forgetting to write down the details.

See how you eat / App Store

5. Log the three W & # 39; s: when, where and who with

What time did you eat, where did you eat and with whom were you during dinner? These things all have a major impact on how much we eat and what type of food we eat.

For example, I am very aware that I tend to eat a lot more when sitting on the couch versus sitting at the table. Perhaps this is because the sofa has a less formal setting and I feel more relaxed there. I also know that I tend to eat less when I'm in the presence of others, probably because I'm distracted and talk and enjoy the company.

6. Write down what you were doing while eating

Just as the three W & # 39; s affect how much and what we eat, meal activities also affect our choices. People like to sit in front of the TV with food or snacks, and food without distraction seems so boring. But scientists think that distracted eating allows you to inadvertently eat more than you need (or even want). By writing down what you do while eating, you can better understand your eating patterns.

7. Follow your mood

I eat when I'm bored or stressed. My best friend eats when she is sad or lonely. Everyone has different coping mechanisms for different emotions, but I am willing to bet that you also eat in response to a certain emotion.

In fact, emotional eating is a legitimate health problem. By paying attention to your state of mind and how they affect the type of food you eat, you can discover other ways to deal with emotions.

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When and where you eat, as well as with whom you eat, can influence how much you eat and what you eat. If you register this data, you can later identify eating patterns.

Tom Stewart / Getty Images

8. Record how you feel before, during and after eating

This tip is not so much about emotions, but about how you feel physically. Write down how you feel before you eat. What is your energy level? Does your digestion feel normal? How focused do you feel?

Notice during the meal if something changes. When you have finished your meal, log how you feel immediately after finishing, 30 minutes thereafter and a few hours later. This trick can help you identify food sensitivities that can disrupt your digestion.

9. Do it now

I don't want to sound intrusive, but don't trust your memory after a long day. If you save things in your food diary immediately after you eat, the data will be more accurate. Moreover, it seems to take less time – logging one meal can take 5 minutes, while logging all meals of the day at once can take 30 minutes or more.

Food diary apps to help

If you have the time and energy to manually log your food, you are jealous. Most people struggle to get through their work and home-to-do lists, let alone add food journals to the mix. Try one of these five food tracking apps to make it a little easier and faster. ]] The MyFitnessPal dashboard divides your macronutrient intake with a handy pie chart.



With millions of foods in the database and a handy barcode scanner, MyFitnessPal is perhaps the easiest way to keep a food diary. After you have registered your food, the app breaks it down into various food components, including calories, fat, proteins, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, cholesterol, and vitamins.


Ideal for people who value simplicity. Lifesum offers macro and calorie count, as well as meal plans, recipes and a three-week weight loss program. Your life score gives an overview of everything you register in the app for one comprehensive score that indicates whether you are achieving your goals.


MyPlate from Livestrong.com makes tracking food fairly easy. The app is user-friendly and super accessible, with great Dynamic Type and voiceover functions. Your daily macronutrient snapshot and progress make it easy and fun to keep track of your healthy eating goals.


Cronometer is for data lovers. It offers more readings and measurements than the average person probably needs, such as more than 60 different micronutrients and cholesterol levels, but it is worth trying if you are really serious about your diet or want to track multiple health statistics in one place.

See how you eat

If you want to take the photography route, this app takes the cake. Watch how you eat so that calories are no longer counted and moved to visual portion sizes and colors, which can help you cut calories without realizing it, and encourage you to eat more colorful fruits and vegetables.

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