CALS Wellness Committee tip: The benefits of keeping a food diary

You have probably heard of the idea of keeping a food diary – the writing (or typing) of everything that you eat. Why is this beneficial to track your food intake? It can help you identify problem foods that trigger unwanted symptoms (think gas, diarrhea, bloating, reflux). It can be used as a weight loss tool. It can highlight holes or lacking components and nutrients in your diet, such as calcium, iron or fiber. Studies suggest that the pure act of recording what you eat can help you focus and be more aware of what you are putting in your mouth. This in turn aids in accountability, and makes you not want to have to record that candy bar or second handful of cheese curds.

Quick tips for keeping a food diary:

  • Be detailed. Include portion size, time of day, and location that the food was consumed. This allows you to look for trends. Are you eating with friends or maybe in front of the TV? Are you eating out of a bag or a bowl (bowls can limit over-eating)?
  • Add a column for mood. Are you bored, stressed or sad? Add another column for symptoms after eating.
  • Don’t forget your drinks and condiments. These can sneak up on you.
  • Record right after eating. Waiting until the end of the day, can lead to a forgotten snack…or two.
  • Be honest. You don’t have to share with anyone you don’t want to.
  • There are MANY food diary friendly smart phone apps, if you’re not the paper and pencil type. Check out MyFitnessPal, Chronometer, MyPlate, MyNetDiary, or See How You Eat.

March is National Nutrition Month.  To wrap up the end of the month, I encourage you to consider a keeping a food diary. While the old-fashioned food diary may seem boring, it is a good, easy (and cheap) place to start to help you meet your nutrition goals.

Taiya Bach is faculty associate and registered dietitian nutritionist with the UW-Department of Nutritional Sciences, and a member of the CALS Wellness Committee.