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Things to look for in your food diary- it’s not all about calories

Posted: Jul 13, 2017


Things to look for in your food diary- it’s not all about calories

So, maybe you have been asked to start recording your food intake to help promote your weight loss efforts and/or manage your weight, or maybe you’re just curious about your eating habits and you want to learn where you can make some positive changes.

You’re a few days, weeks or months into recording your food in your preferred app or notebook, but now what? It’s not just about counting calories or determining if you have the right macronutrient balance. This wealth of information can help you understand your eating patterns and where you might struggle.

Here are some key things to look for:

  • Meal and snack timing. How frequent do you eat in a day?
  • When are you most hungry in the day? Take note of what you are eating (if anything) leading up to this time and after.
  • Do you snack more at a certain time of day? Are there certain environments or situations that promote more snacking?
  • When is your biggest meal?
  • Do you eat most of your foods later in the day or throughout the day?
  • Are your meals and/or snacks balanced? For example, did you include protein, a fruit or vegetable and a grain or starch? 
  • Where, if any, are my liquid calories coming from (sugar sweetened beverages, double double coffee, alcohol, juice)?
  • How often do I purchase foods (fast food, work cafeteria, restaurants, premade grocery store items)? *Remember foods eaten out are generally much larger portions and higher in calories, fat, sodium and sugar
  • What meals and snacks stick with you best and make you feel full and satisfied? For example, when I have a smoothie for breakfast I’m hungrier mid morning compared to when I have oatmeal with Greek yogurt and fruit.
  • Am I enjoying these foods?

It’s just as important to reflect on your food records as it is to record them in the first place. Being mindful of these things can help you be more aware of certain situations and areas that may be contributing to your weight- positively or negatively, but also, they might be impacting your energy level and health. Remember to think of your food diary like a data set, it isn’t there to judge you or bring on feelings of guilt, it’s there to help detect patterns, learn where you might need to improve and determine your barriers or most challenging times.