Keeping a food journal can help you recognize bad eating habits, identify nutritional needs, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle that includes losing weight and lowering blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
"For breakfast, I made my family ham and cheese omelets. By 10 am, however, I found myself still hungry, even starving a bit. What I realized, is that even after eating a big breakfast, that – in my haste to get ready for work and drive the kids to school – I ate TOO FAST. I need to slow down when I eat, no matter how busy I get!"
This was an entry from a food journal started by one of our patients. As he was writing, he stopped to search online for the risks of eating too fast. The risks include metabolic syndrome, obesity and other negatives affecting digestive health, which confirmed my concerns.[i]
The patient then recalled that eating more slowly can improve digestion, hydration and make weight loss easier.[ii] Perhaps most importantly to me, eating more deliberately gives us greater satisfaction with each bite.
|Recording daily food and beverage consumption has been a life-affirming experience for many people that I know. Some of them have been grateful to be blessed with good health, and have maintained a nutritious, balanced diet. Yet, they have learned about specific issues with their diet that can have negative impacts on their long-term health, if they are not careful.|
For those who are battling diabetes, obesity, heart disease or other serious problems, keeping a food journal could save your life.
- Manage portion control.
Documenting your meals and snacks forces you to watch your portions, and feel better about chronicling your discipline.[iii]
- Improve nutritional intake.
When our patient started recording the food eaten, he realized in just a few days that while he has been successfully cutting out bad carbohydrates and added sugars from his daily routine, he is still not getting enough fruits and vegetables to get the vitamins he needs.
- Pinpoint unhealthy eating habits!
The aforementioned rush to eat that gourmet omelet is a key example, but it is also important to write down your mood, location, time of day and other factors when you eat.[iv] Like good detective work, logging these details will reveal the culprits that are affecting your nutritional choices and hence, your overall health.
- If you are undergoing stress, you are likely to make unhealthy choices or eat too fast, or not even sit down to eat.
- If you are going to the same restaurants during your lunch break where the healthiest menu choices are burgers, you are not shedding pounds or reducing LDL cholesterol anytime soon. Starting a food journal will help you stop the bad habits!
- Remember ... the people you eat with can also have an impact, especially if they are unhealthy eaters (i.e. enablers of bad eating habits) or they stress you out.
The #1 rule to keeping a journal is to be brutally honest with yourself when you write each day’s activities. Do not just write about the healthy foods you are eating. Include everything!
In our mind's eye, we are overlooking or rationalizing the snack before bedtime or the chips and soda in the afternoon because we have been so good with our cottage cheese at breakfast and the lunchtime salad. It is when we can write and read about our indiscretions that we recognize the bad habits, and can then make the proper changes in our daily eating routines.
For people with diabetes, food diaries or journals have proven to be an effective method of diabetes self-management. For these patients and others, keeping a food journal has helped them experience the joys of healthy eating.