Knowledge is power, which is why a food diary is a great way to better understand your daily caloric intake and use it to your nutritional advantage. Many people surpass the recommended number of daily calories they should eat because they don’t realize what they’re eating, how much of it they’re eating and how many calories it contains. The first steps in creating a good diary should be to simply record everything you eat. Then, use the information and knowledge in your food diary to restructure your eating habits if you’ve observed some troubling patterns.
Write Down Everything
Don’t count things out just because you’re ashamed that you ate them; that’s defeating the purpose of keeping the food diary altogether. The point of starting a food diary is for knowledge and insight, not judgment. If you see things in it that you don’t like, you can change your patterns later on, but your focus upfront should be on documenting everything you put in your mouth. Go through every meal, snack and bite in between, and write down as complete a list of dishes or ingredients as possible.
Don’t worry about filling out the exact calorie count of what you’re eating right away; you can take care of that at the end of the day. Be sure to write in the amount of food you’ve consumed, as the typical calorie counters in nutrition facts tally by a specific serving size.
Fill in the Details
When you have the time, be sure to write down the calories that are in each of the items you list in your diary. Tally this based on the calories per serving and the number of servings you consumed. This should also include writing down how you felt after the things you ate, or what kinds of things you did after eating. Write down whether or not you felt full after eating something and if you were able to work out or exercise effectively. This will help you decide which foods are worth their calorie content and will help you scratch out foods that had your stomach rumbling again soon after you were done eating or foods that left you feeling sluggish or tired.
Once you’ve filled in the information for each item, add up the calories you consumed in the day and the percentage fat, protein and carbohydrates make up of that. Add in information on vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like Iron, Vitamin C and the many different forms of Vitamin B. Be sure to differentiate saturated fat content from the healthier unsaturated fat components.
Use Your Numbers to Make Future Eating Decisions
If you’ve gone way over the recommended daily caloric intake, decide how you can fix it. Compare your notes and details with the calories and percentages of daily values of certain nutrients and food types. This will actually give you a bit of wiggle room. For example, if a certain snack or meal item has a high calorie content, but made you feel very full after, it might not be worth eliminating. Also look to cutting down portion sizes where you can, rather than cutting out certain meals or snacks completely.