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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Should you keep a food diary?

For a number of my nutrition consulting years I was not the biggest fan of clients keeping a food diary. I felt that it tended to make people more obsessed with eating, and more likely to be exceptionally strict with their diet before falling off the rails and feeling “bad” about it

10 years later, as my clinical dietetic experience has grown, I am now much more of a fan of the food diary. Keeping a diary during periods in which you are actively trying to lose weight can be one of the best tools you can utilize to get an idea of what you really are eating and what you are doing wrong when it comes to weight loss. All of a sudden those extra calories coming from added sauces and treats are real, as is the number of calories you are eating especially when eating out. In fact, an active diet diary that you can fill out online, which gives you all of this information is often all you need to keep your diet on track, long term.

Keeping a regular record of what you eat is likely to support weight control for several reasons. First of all it forces you to be more mindful of what you are putting into your mouth each and every day. Encouraging people to become more mindful of their food habits is a key area dietitians will often work on with clients as it is human nature to eat extra food if and when it crosses our path. As food is so readily available, it is easy to then see how easy it can be to eat small extras regularly, hence knowing that you have to write it down is also likely to make you think twice before you grab that extra biscuit with your tea or handful of lollies after dinner.

A food diary with feedback on calorie and sugar loads also helps to visually see where your calories are really coming from. All of a sudden the extra sugar in your coffee or glass of juice really starts to add up calorie wise and may not really seem worth it when these extra calories are adding up to equate to the difference between weight control or not. This is particularly useful when it comes to sauces, added sugar, dressings and oil used in cooking.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of keeping a food diary is that is also should see you starting to weigh your foods, especially meats, oils and dressings. In more cases than not we tend to serve ourselves much larger servings of foods than we think we do. For example, why we may think we are only eating 100g of meat, when we actually weigh it, it may be 120 or 130g. While this may not seen significant, an extar 20g of meat each adds up to give an entire extra serve of meat by the end of the week, which again could mean weight loss or not. Simply weighing and measuring our portions for a week can give huge amounts of information in terms of where we are eating much more than we think we are and as a result are taking in far more calories.

So, if you feel that you already eat well, but never get on top of your diet, even after seeing a dietitian, perhaps it is worth spending time recording your food intake for a week or two?

Check out, for one of the most comprehensive sites you will find to support you online if you are keen to learn more about your own diet, for minimal cost, or for a less comprehensive site that is free of charge. You will be surprised how easy it is to stay on track with your diet when you are actively monitoring it.