Food Journal: How to Start, Step-by-Step Guide & Benefits

A food journal is a very effective strategy for identifying eating habits to check what can be improved or maintained for an optimal diet.

You should keep the food journal, also referred to as a food diary, for 5 to 7 days. It should outline the time of the meal, what was consumed, the place where the meal was eaten and the reason for the meal, that is, if you ate because you were hungry or just as a way to relieve stress or anxiety.

Keeping a food journal can help you have more control over your daily diet and can be used for several health goals, like gaining weight, losing weight or for dietary re-education. It can be a great tool for guiding strategies to achieve diet goals without encountering nutritional deficiencies.

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How to start

A food journal can be kept for 5 to 7 days, and you should write every meal, snack and bite that was consumed, including the day and time of the meal. At the end of this time, you will have an idea of what was consumed during the week and what you can improve on or maintain.

A food journal can be kept in a written diary, a spreadsheet or on a cell phone application. Ideally, you should record immediately after each meal and not at the end of the day, so that nothing is forgotten.

Step-by-step guide

To keep a food journal it is important to:

  • Write down the date, time and type of meal, ie. whether it is breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner
  • Describe the food consumed and the quantity
  • Place where the meal was eaten
  • If you were doing something at the time of the meal
  • Reason for the meal, that is, whether you ate due to hunger, impulse or as a form of emotional compensation, as well as the level of hunger at the time
  • With whom the meal was eaten
  • Indicate the amount of water ingested per day

A food journal can make it easier to identify eating habits and the lifestyle that may be influencing this eating pattern. It may be beneficial to record whether you exercised, how intense the activity was, how many hours you slept and whether the sleep was restful.

You can also highlight any intake of fried foods, sugar, fruits, vegetables and legumes with different colors. This way, at the end of the registration period it is possible to check which color has the highest and lowest intake and make it even easier to identify certain habits that need to be improved or maintained.

Benefits of food journals

The food diary is widely used for nutritional re-education, as writing down what is consumed for a week can help to identify eating habits and areas for improvement. A food journal can also be an important tool for a registered dietitian to assess your daily diet and introduce strategies that are appropriate for you health goals.

In addition to being used as a way to improve eating habits, a food journal can also be used with the aim of gaining or losing weight. Food journals can also be recommended for identifying food allergies or symptoms causes by certain food.