Keep a Food Journal for Real Results

If you're overweight and have high cholesterol, (which puts you at risk for heart disease) keeping track of what you eat for a period of time can help boost your health. You will soon see that you could be consuming too many processed, fatty foods and not eating a steady diet of lean meats, whole grains, and vegetables.

The more food records you keep, the more unwanted pounds you're able to shed, according to a 2008 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reported in Diabetes Forecast.

"Many people are not aware of what they're eating until they actually start writing it down," Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, told Diabetes Forecast.

Restaurant meals are one area where individuals overeat without realizing it.

"The thing people are always shocked at is how much they ate at a restaurant," registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, told Diabetes Forecast. "It's going to be a large portion and [most likely] have a ton of salt. [Journaling] just really increases awareness." If you have diabetes and use a journal to help you maintain normal blood sugar levels, keeping an accurate record can help you determine how many carbohydrates you're consuming. Ultimately, being mindful of carbs can help you get that blood sugar back into the normal range.

Make it easy for yourself to keep a food journal with these four tips:

  • Be complete, says Alison Massey, RD, CDE, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "How the food was prepared, whether it was fried, baked, or grilled, makes a big difference when it comes to total calories consumed," she says. "We often forget to count the three tablespoons of oil that we put in the pan to roast the vegetables that we ate for lunch and dinner." The calories in foods such as topping and condiments add up quickly, too, she notes.
  • Accurately document portions, Massey says. People tend to underestimate how much food they are putting on their plates, she says. "Food journaling might be a good time to get out the measuring cups to double-check your accuracy after you pour the cereal you want to eat in the bowl." And don't just write down "chicken" or "broccoli." Indicate in your journal how much of these you consumed.
  • Take advantage of technology, Massey says. "I often suggest food journal programs that automatically calculate the nutrition facts for my patients," she says. "This provides them with immediate feedback regarding the nutrients and calories they have consumed that day."
  • Pinpoint and review trends. If you don't review your journal, it's really not worth keeping it. Look over the past day, week or month, and you will start to see patterns in your hunger, satiety, and changes to your blood sugar levels. If you see that you are snacking too often on high fat, high-carb foods, take the time to prepare yourself some healthy snacks (like cut-up raw vegetables) that you can eat instead.

Allison Massey, RD, CDE, reviewed this article.




Neithercott, Tracey. "Keeping a food journal." December 2011. Diabetes Forecast.