With free, easy-to-navigate food journals all over the web, many people use them all the time now. But doing this is only helpful if you actually review what you put in the journal! I reminded Tiffany of this just the other day. She’s diligent about keeping her online food journal up to date, but she doesn’t always go back and look at it.
My advice to her was to review her journal weekly. Here are some things that Tiffany—and everyone—should look for when reviewing their food journal.
1. Check for any patterns in your diet. Do you tend to snack more at work than at home? Do you snack on certain foods right before bed, like ice cream or potato chips? These can indicate that you’re eating out of habit or boredom rather than hunger.
2. Does your diet change when things get stressful? Review your journal from a stressful week and then compare it with one from a less stressful week and note any changes.
3. Are you eating mostly whole grain foods, such as whole wheat breads, cereals and pastas? Or are you eating more refined grains, such as white bread, white rice or pasta, and sugary cereals or snack bars?
4. How often do you eat out each week? What types of places do you eat at most often? What types of foods do you order? How can you cut back on dining out?
6. Do you tend to eat more prepackaged, processed foods than whole, unprocessed foods? Time to make a switch.
7. Count up the number of fruits/vegetables you had each day. Many people think they eat far more fruits and vegetables than they actually do.
8. Do you see anything missing in your food journal? Small bites eaten throughout the day can add up to weight gain over time so be sure you’re writing down everything—from those two Hershey’s Kisses you had to those lollipops—you eat.
When you’re done reviewing your journal, make a list of goals for improving your diet. Setting goals and regularly looking at your food intake will make recording what you eat each day worth the time and effort.
Through her Des Moines-based nutrition company, SK Health Communications, registered dietitian Stephanie Karpinske writes and develops recipes for magazines, books, supermarkets and food companies. She is the author of Read Before Dieting: Your 4-Step Plan for Diet Success and writes a blog about healthy eating, foodnuti.com. She’s coaching the Lehman family through the six-month Healthy Family Challenge.