Keeping a food diary is an effective way to ensure that you are eating the right food at proper amounts. In fact, according to a 2008 study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, people who keep a food journal lose twice as much weight as those who do not.
There are various ways you could keep a log of your food intake, but not all of these methods will suit you or will be effective for you. Nevertheless, there are basic rules that you need to follow in order to gain sufficient data about your eating habits, which you can then use to improve your food intake.
Digital vs. analog
Are you the pen and paper type, or do you rely mostly on your smartphone when it comes to your day-to-day activities? Go for what's more convenient for you so that you won't forget making a log every time you eat a meal. A lot of dieters think that keeping a food journal means having a notebook by their side all the time, but actually neglecting to use or bring one.
Remember that you shouldn't limit or force yourself into something when there is another method that suits you better. A quick search on the Play Store or the App Store will show you various food diary apps that you can choose from. Installing one on your phone will surely motivate you to be consistent with your journal since you're using it most of the time anyway. You can even do a hybrid of the digital and analog methods if you think that works best for you.
Be mindful of portion sizes
It is not only important to take note of the "what"; you should be able to determine the "how much" as well. Many dieters can be quite diligent in listing the food they've eaten throughout the day but neglect to include the portion sizes. You'll likely see the effects of this wrong practice when you still haven't lost a pound despite documenting every food that goes into your mouth.
By noting the quantities of food you consume, you will be able to see if eating a small breakfast makes you want to eat more during dinner. You'll notice patterns or identify problems and be able to make appropriate adjustments.
Of course, estimating portion sizes can be difficult and often inaccurate, so it's highly recommended to use measuring spoons and cups when you're dining at home. In restaurants, you won't be able to do this, so you can simply eyeball and compare the amounts with what you usually have at home. This sounds tough, but you'll eventually get the hang of it.
Record all ingredients
And when we say all, we mean ALL of the ingredients. For instance, was your sandwich made with regular or low-fat mayonnaise? Did you add cheese or croutons to your salad? Was your chicken slathered with marinade or olive oil before being grilled? These little things make huge differences nutritionally, so you should note them on your food journal too.
Write down your feelings
It doesn't have to be too personal and detailed. Simply write a few words to describe why, for instance, you felt like eating a whole pint of ice cream — did you have a fight with your partner? Were you anxious or sad about something? Documenting how you felt when you eat certain food will help you recognize emotional eating triggers.
Also, make sure to record how you felt after you ate. Keeping track of how your body reacted to certain foods would remind you that you need to stir clear of it, or at least eat less of it.