How keeping a food diary helps you lose weight

Hope everyone had a happy July Fourth weekend! A friend asked me over the weekend what my number 1 nutrition tip was for someone trying to lose weight and I said, hands down, without a doubt, keeping a food diary, closely followed by meal planning. Any registered dietitian or nutrition professional will emphasis the importance of tracking your food intake on a daily basis. Most nutrition experts will ask you to track your intake for several days prior to consultations, and then ask you to maintain the diary while under their care. There are several ways that keeping a food diary helps you manage your weight. Heres a list why you should do it:

  1. Simply writing down the things you consume, including drinks and snacks, helps hold you accountable. There are several apps for smart phones that make this process so easy and convenient; Myfitnesspal or fooducate ; both are free to sign up. If you don’t have access to a smart phone, using a small notebook to jot down everything and look up the nutritional information on the internet later.
  2. Sometimes just seeing the amount of food you have consumed is enough of a surprise to inspire change. Then looking up the nutritional content, or lack thereof, can have a sobering effect.
  3. If you suspect a food allergy, or suffer food borne illness, keeping a food diary can act as guide to decipher which foods may be the culprits.
  4. For those of us who are emotional eaters (I tend to eat when I am bored), keeping track of when we eat, what we ate and how we felt when we ate it helps us self-monitor our feelings and instigate behavioral changes.
  5. Keeping track of your daily nutritional intake can help you make sure you are consuming enough vitamin, minerals and fiber to keep your body healthy and free from deficiencies. And if you do have deficiencies, it’s almost always better to get added vitamins/minerals from your diet as opposed to supplements (food products are easier for your body to utilize)
  6. When you log your daily nutrition often enough, you start to learn which food choices are better, or worse, for your diet.

Some tips to help you keep a better diary:

  1. for the first 5 days, do not alter your eating habits. During the initial phase you are tracking your diet so that you can go back and look for trends and patterns. This helps you develop behavior modifications that are appropriate for your habits.
  2. track EVERYTHING! Every drink, a piece of gum, a half a chicken nugget, 4 french fries, everything gets counted.

I keep a diary all the time because I track my macros (especially when I am training for a race or doing a lot of strength training) and I want to make sure I am getting enough fiber (25 grams a day for women, 30 grams for men). Having IBS, getting enough fiber, as well as avoiding certain food triggers, helps keep it under control without using medication.

Here’s some fourth of July goodies I served up this weekend:

Quick Pickled Vegetables

Grillable Veggie Burgers – Minimalist Baker

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