Why keep a food diary?

1. Accountability

Writing everything down and seeing your daily intake increases your perception of how much you actually eat.

2. Learn how to control your calories

The extra helping of salad dressing in your salad, the chocolate you picked up when you stopped at the petrol station, even the second drink you had at dinner. They could all add up to another 150-650 extra calories throughout the day, yet we tend to forget about these little food extras and instead focus on our main meals. When it comes to food, even a little adds up.

3. Understand your sources of calories

Calories aren’t just about total calories, but about the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, which are 3 nutrients that provide energy for your body. You’ll also keep track of alcohol you drink, which is the other element that provides calories to your body, but is not a nutrient.

You may realise 70% of you calories are coming from carbohydrates, which is far higher than even what the USDA recommends (which is already high), or you might realise you only have 10% of your calories from protein despite being an active individual.

4. Portion control

When individuals are asked to keep a food diary, they often must measure all their food for the most accurate assessment. I find that many people measure food based on the bowl or plate the food is eaten on. For example, someone may say they have a “medium bowl of cereal” in the morning when in fact, after measurement, it is determined they actually have a very large serving. Once individuals use more accurate methods of measurement, they have a better understanding of their overall portion distortion.

5. Identify situations where you binge

There are usually a set of factors that set off eating binges, such as having too much alcohol at dinner, or having a very small lunch, or light breakfast. Sometimes eating is more emotional. By keeping a food diary and having to enter in all these foods and snacks makes you less inclined to overeat on these binges.

6. Provides a hard, objective record

Many times in our minds we will trick ourselves into believing we didn’t eat something, or we didn’t eat that much unhealthy food. When you have a written log, or journal, it takes the guess work and the guessing games out of the equation. You will know exactly how you are eating and that objective feedback can help inspire change.

7. Identify if you have a calorie surplus, or deficit

Not only does a food journal tell you the total calories you are eating, but you can also figure out how many more, or less calories you are eating relative to your calorie burn. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight, and if you eat less, you lose weight.

Our habits are subconscious, so by making yourself conscious of how you eat by keeping a food journal, it makes changing your eating habits a whole lot easier.

MyFitnessPal is one of the most well known food diary programs and apps.