Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: July 22, 2022
A food diary is a great tool to track your food and generally reflect on your nutrition. Most people claim that it can ultimately help you gain a deeper understanding of what and how much you are eating.
But should you really keep a food diary?
Well, this is a very controversial subject based on the specific relationship you got with food, the scale, and body image.
In this post, we’ve put together the major pros and cons of having an online food diary. The article also covers who could benefit from this, and when/ who shouldn’t consider this.
There’s no one size fits all approach! In the end, you can weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.
First, let’s start with the basics.
WHAT IS A FOOD DIARY?
Also known as a food journal or food log, a food diary is a daily record of everything you eat and drink daily. The diary generally helps you and your doctor comprehend your eating habits.
Once you realize what you consume, you can make necessary changes to your diet to ultimately improve your weight.
That said, the key to food journaling is accuracy.
Most peeps underreport how much they’re eating, which gives them a false sense of the actual amount they’re intaking. Studies have shown some advantages and disadvantages to this method, meaning it’s not the end-all, be-all when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle.
However, to know whether it could be an appropriate fit for you, we’ll need to take a closer look into what research says about keeping a food diary.
PROS & CONS OF KEEPING A FOOD DIARY
Are you constantly looking for ways to create better habits and improve your health? Well, you’re in the right place!
When it comes to the realm of creating new healthy habits, having a food diary can be an excellent start! After digging deep into evidence-based research, we’ve sorted it out for you to help you determine whether this task is good for you.
Undoubtedly, a food diary is a highly effective habit to start to help hit your fitness goals. Here are some of the benefits of keeping an accurate food diary:
- Helps with Weight Loss
Using a food diary to keep track of your food may assist to settle any unhealthy habits/ patterns that you’ve been looking to break. For instance, unnecessary snacking because of boredom.
When logging your intakes, you can have enough time to check in with yourself to determine whether you’re actually hungry. When you have a caloric or nutrition goal that you’re trying to accomplish for the day, you’ll be less likely to overeat.
Your objective could be to reduce your caloric intake or just not want to jot down that you ate five servings of chips again (not trying to judge, but we’re working to break such habits!)
- Learn Better Nutritional Habits
To get improved nutritional habits, it would help to get a deeper look into physical triggers that cause common food habits. It’s also worth noting that environmental stressors play a significant role in food choices.
Logging what you ate in your food diary in an emotional state, or during a stressful time, will make you start to recognize a pattern on how that might result in poor eating behaviors.
Ultimately, keeping track of the time and place that you’re eating a meal will aid in regulating eating habits. You can also identify what environments cause you to make healthier choices.
- Detect Intolerances
Have you ever felt like some days your skin is acting up, your tummy tends to hurt, or you are extra bloated, but you cannot figure out the cause? Fortunately, food journaling can help you determine what’s causing these symptoms!
And once noted, you could try removing this food from your diet (temporarily) with the assistance of a dietitian and note any noticeable differences.
Like most things in life, there’s a bad side to keeping a food journal. Research has shown shame, obsession, or judgment linked to food journaling. Some peeps reported they felt they need to avoid social events due to the unknown ingredients they’d not be able to track.
While the beauty of this procedure is that it doesn’t need to be long-term, it may feel challenging and daunting to fit into an already busy schedule.
And although research has shown that participants get substantial changes in weight loss over an extended period after tracking for only 9 months, it may still not be the right choice for you.
WHO SHOULD CONSIDER KEEPING A FOOD DIARY?
Now that you know the good and bad about keeping a food diary, you might be wondering who should consider keeping a food diary? More importantly, who shouldn’t consider keeping a food diary? Let’s find out.
Do you have a healthy relationship with your body and food (i.e., don’t obsess over intrusive thoughts associated with food, the scale, or body image)? If so, an online food diary can be a perfect asset for you!
Specifically, using a diary is ideal for someone who doesn’t have an eating disorder, or a person without disordered eating thoughts or tendencies but wants to improve their nutrition and overall health.
WHO SHOULD NOT KEEP A FOOD DIARY?
Keeping a food diary isn’t a great idea for people who have obsessive thoughts about food, the scale, and/or body image. Folks with eating disorder tendencies or a diagnosed eating disorder should also not consider creating an online food diary.
HOW TO START A FOOD DIARY
Does food journaling already seem like the right choice for you? Although traditionally you can use a pen and paper, research has shown that an electronic journal is more efficient.
To get started, you must be specific!
You have to incorporate every detail including the brand type, preparation method (salt, oils, etc.), serving size, and any sauces added. Note the time you’re eating meals, which will help if you’re trying to eliminate late-night snacking habits.
And the MOST important thing to remember is that this is YOUR journal! So, you can also add any emotions you feel during or after the meal, or simply use it for calorie counting.
- Ensure that you also include liquids
- Use an app or online source
- Set SMART goals (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based)
For more on this topic, check out our daily food log example article.
Food journaling might not be the “thing” for you if you start to have negative emotions about it. Nevertheless, knowing the pros and cons of the entire procedure helps decipher whether it sounds like a match for your lifestyle.
With a food diary, you don’t have to track calories. Quite frankly, it can be for your awareness. For instance, trying to end the habit of late-night snacking or get in more veggies a day.
A food diary is an excellent place to jot down this information, monitor emotions about the food, and begin working to attain those goals.
If you prefer an app or some form of technology, apps like MyFitnessPal can help with your food tracking.
Although adding calorie tracking might or might not work for you, it’s by no means necessary when it comes to losing weight. Location, time of day, and mood should all be incorporated into your diary to identify triggers for your unhealthy habits.
It would help if you’d get time to sit down and start an online food diary to find out whether this can be your new healthy habit!