Feb 22nd, 2010
By Connie Moreno
In January I offered CrossFit Oakland members free diet evaluations. Each participant was asked to keep a 3-day food journal where they recorded not just what they ate and drank but also the duration of the meal, who it was with and what their mood was like pre- and post-meal. My evaluation and many of my recommendations were based on the information taken from the food journal. While jotting down notes about your meals might seem like a daunting task, most folks said the exercise was very useful and provided a lot of new insight into their eating habits. Whether you are after a diet make-over or you simply want to stay on track with a current food plan, a food journal is a good place start. Try it out for a few days; you might learn a thing or two.
A Few Tips Before You Get Started:
1. Be honest. If you usually start the day with a bagel and cream cheese don’t suddenly start whipping up egg-white omelets just because you’re writing it down. Continue to eat as you normally would for the duration of the food journal exercise.
2. Don’t overlook the little stuff. Remember to note food items such as half & half, sweeteners, ketchup and other condiments.
3. Estimate amounts. For foods such rice, pasta, or vegetables, record how much you ate (1/4 cup). If you don’t want to hassle with weighing and measuring, and I don’t blame you if you don’t, just eyeball it. One cup is about the size of a tennis ball. A 3-ounce cooked portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
4. Don’t forget about the non-food items. Document any supplements that you take (e.g., fish oil, vitamins). Liquid calories count, too, so write down what you drink, including amounts.
5. Keep your journal on you. It can be hard to write everything down by memory so it’s best to fill out your journal as you go. This is especially important when you are reflecting on your mood & energy before and after a meal.
Now you’re ready to get started. Here’s what you’ll record each day:
Food, Beverages & Supplements:
Be as specific as you can. Remember to include all the extras, such as salad dressing, and condiments. Estimate the size/amount of each food item and drink.
Time & Length of Meal:
Write the time of day you ate each meal. This will make you aware of how long you go between meals and may explain energy slumps throughout your day. Keep track of how long it took you to eat. Eating too fast can lead to overeating and impede healthy digestion.
Where and with Whom:
Note your location when you ate. If you ate in your car as you sped to work, at a restaurant, or work desk, write it down. List all friends and family members who broke bread with you. Pay attention to what you were doing while you were eating. Do you munch while you fold laundry or clean the bathroom (eww)?
How were you feeling before and after each meal? Often our emotions are what dictate when and what we eat. List whether you are happy, sad, or depressed, not just if you’re hungry. For me, this is THE most important information you’ll get. It will reveal emotional eating, blood sugar imbalances, as well healthy eating habits.
Download your own copy of this food journal here.
Share your personal experiences with food journals in comments.