The most popular reason that people are tracking their food and drink consumption is that they are on a weight-loss journey. Others do it because their doctors or nutritionists requested it. Coaches utilize it as an accountability tool.
Food logging is an incredibly helpful and underutilized tool. I use it with all my clients, because I can only create a personalized plan if I know what they are currently doing.
Food Log 101 is about answering all the questions you have to make logging what you eat and drink stay simple.
What to track in your food log?
It’s really quite simple.
Track everything that goes into your mouth – all food and all drink. Be precise. If you have a scale available why not measure how many ounces that bowl of spaghetti really was? Did you drink a bottle of water? Did you chow down on a big burger with fries? Did you add sugar to your coffee? How many spoonfuls.
Log not only the date but also the time you consume your meals. The date will help tell us what other events may have been happening around you – birthdays, holidays, your period, a stressful work event…
What time did you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, or that breath mint? What times are you enjoying that first cup of coffee in the morning? The time will help us identify commonalities between your food intake and your energy level.
You may also consider tracking your emotions before and after you eat. Maybe you felt hungry at 7 pm but didn’t eat dinner until 8 pm. Maybe you had a snack in the afternoon not because you were hungry but because you needed an energy boost.
What you consume and the time of day you consume it can have an effect on your overall health and wellness. It can also play a major role in how slowly or quickly you lose weight and build muscle.
How to keep a food log?
If you already take your phone with you everywhere, keeping track of what you eat inside of an app or notes document on your phone may be an ideal option. If you already keep track of certain daily habits via a notebook or document, it may be beneficial to include food tracking as a new habit track.
Personally, I prefer the notebook option for these reasons:
>I find it important and helpful to not only look at what you ate at the end of the day but what your individual meals look like. Apps are oftentimes not tracking meals but count calories.
>Some apps don’t allow you to track the time. Others only offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one snack. What if I eat two breakfasts?
>Apps chase numbers. You have to have a caloric goal. Instead, we want to focus on portion sizes and making healthy food choices.
How to read your food log so you can make the necessary changes to your health?
Whether you want to have more energy, looking to build some muscle, trying to lose the last 5 pounds the times of day you are eating, and what types of food you are eating have a major role to play.
So, once you’ve painstakingly written down every little bit that went into your mouth what do you do with that information?
Take a look at your food log. The longer you have logged the more information you have to work with but I suggest a minimum of 1 week. If you can’t seem to find any discrepancies you might need to log another week.
Do you see any patterns?
Do you eat well during the week and then come Friday night you throw it all out the window and inhale whatever you can get your hands on?
Do you eat dessert every day?
Maybe you skip breakfast regularly and end up eating a sugar-filled snack from the vending machine 10 minutes before your lunch break.
Maybe you are making a trip to the break room or cafeteria to grab a snack, because what you really want is a chance to socialize, but feel you need an excuse to be there and food is a socially acceptable excuse.
Are there irregularities?
Did you drink an extra glass of wine on Wednesday and Thursday this week? Perhaps these were super stressful days. Can the stress that is causing you to eat or drink be avoided? If not, are there better ways to deal with stress?
Are there some obvious changes you can make? Two tbsp of sugar in your morning coffee – maybe you could start by trying only one spoonful?
Do you see a lot of whole foods in your log or does everything come out of the box? Do you prepare your own meals or do you order in all the time?
It is best to eat as many whole foods as possible and as little processed food as possible. Maybe you can start by preparing your own dinner – with family for together time and to show off your healthy meal prepping skills to your kids or partner.
Do you eat enough protein?
I tell you a secret, most people could use more protein in their diet. Protein is the foundation of every human body, required by every cell in the body, and is an important building block for muscles, bones, blood, and cartilage.
What about vegetables? Do you eat vegetables with (almost) every meal?
I suggest the following guidelines for women:
Fill half your plate with vegetables – that is broccoli, asparagus, spinach, bok choy, lettuce, cabbage, etc. (at least one cup)
Fill one quarter with protein – fish (4-5oz), poultry (3-4oz), lean beef (3-4oz)
Fill the other quarter with carbohydrates (3-4oz) – potato, yams, rice, quinoa, legumes, fruit
Add 1 serving fat (=1tlbs olive oil)
Another reason I really like a food log is because…
Knowing you have to write down everything you eat, will possibly make you pause and reconsider that donuts or bag of chips.