Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just attempting to eat healthier, tracking what you eat can help you make positive changes to your health. Writing down every little cupboard snack, mouthful, or sip you consume will make you more accountable for what you are eating as well as helping you see big obvious gaps in your food and drink choices and eating habits.
Nina Oljaca, CBHS Wellness Consultant and accredited practicing dietitian, shares the value in tracking your food.
Increases your awareness of how much and what you actually eat in a day. A food diary shows those extra little bits and pieces like sauces and snacks that all add up and may otherwise have been forgotten.
Encourages mindful food choices
Research shows you’re more likely to pay attention to the choices you are making throughout the day if you have to record them. This can help cut back your mindless eating practices.
Improves portion awareness
It’s not just the choices we make, it’s also about the quantities. Using measuring cups or scales to describe your portions makes it easier to compare to recommended serve sizes improving awareness of any portion distortion you may have.
Identifying triggers to unhealthy eating
Understanding why you choose the foods and drinks you do can help you avoid situations that contribute to your unhealthy eating. Record what, when (day, time and location), mood, and situation for the full picture.
Evidence shows that simply writing down what you eat each day can cause you to lose weight due to increased awareness of your food choices. Sometimes the issue is such a simple fix, you just weren’t aware of.
Detecting food allergies or intolerances
Linking foods with symptoms or reactions that you have can help to pinpoint trigger foods to your problems. Reactions can occur straight after or sometimes even hours after a meal or food is consumed, making it difficult to identify without a food and symptom diary.
Knowing what foods you eat can identify what nutrients you might not be getting enough of and those maybe too much of. A nutrition professional can look at your food diary and analyse what you are eating and recommend changes to help improve your overall health!
Tips for tracking what you eat
- Choose what method you will use to track your food
- Scribe it down: Put pen to paper or use a digital system.
- Take a photo: This is a great method if you are forgetful or short of time. You can write it down later or bring the photos to a nutrition professional to help you.
- Use an app: A little more time consuming but they also give you a rough breakdown of how much energy and nutrients you are eating. A good app to try is ‘Easy Diet Diary’.
- Decide how many days you will track for
- Ideally at least three days, including a weekend day to get a good analysis. Aim for a full week and assess your progress.
- Tracking should be a temporary tool to develop an understanding of foods, your habits, or to meet a goal. It is not advised to track your intake all the time. Not only does it become less effective, but it can also take a toll on your mental health.
- Get support and advice if you want / need
- A nutrition health professional can identify any gaps in your choices and help devise a plan to help you meet your nutritional needs specific to you. Dietitian consultations are covered under selected CBHS Extras cover, up to your usual limits.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.