Dear diary: Your new tool for better health
A food diary is a great way to track what you’re eating and identify good and bad eating habits.
If you're looking to manage your weight, why not keep a food diary? By writing down every meal and snack you eat every day, you're able to see what – and how much – you’re eating, and can identify any eating habits that might be getting in the way of your health goals.
Accredited Bupa dietitian Rosalyn D’Angelo gives us some tips on how to use a food diary.
How to fill in your food diary
- Whether you use an app, your computer or a paper notebook, try to find a food diary that works for you. Try to remember to fill it in every day.
- Include as much detail as you can. For example, instead of writing ‘salad sandwich’, write ‘two slices of white bread, one carrot, one slice tomato, two lettuce leaves and one teaspoon margarine’.
- Don’t forget about your portion sizes, as measuring these will help you recognise if you’re overeating. You might need to measure portions at first, but you’ll soon learn to estimate them pretty accurately.
- Try to write down what you’re eating as you go. It can be tricky to remember everything you’ve eaten through the day, so you're more like to leave things out if you only update your diary at the end of each day.
- Record what you’re eating for at least three days, and make sure you track what you eat on both weekdays and weekends too, as most of us eat differently at these times. If you’re only filling out a three-day food diary, choose two weekdays and one weekend day.
How to interpret your food diary
Understanding and changing your eating behaviour is the most important part of keeping a food diary. So after you have filled out your food diary, take a fresh look at your diet and try and identify any unhealthy eating habits or behaviours you might like to change
Ask yourself questions like:
- Am I eating too many kilojoules?
- Am I eating too much salt/ sugar or fat?
- Is my portion size to big?
- Do I make healthier choices when I eat at home?
- Am I more tempted to indulge in unhealthy foods when I am alone?
- Do I eat according to the clock or when I’m hungry?
- Do I eat more after I’ve been active?
- Do I regularly skip meals?
- Do I make poor food decisions when I’m busy or stressed?
These observations can then form the basis of a healthy eating plan that will help you meet your health goals.
The dietitian’s role
If you have a dietitian, they can use the food diary to help get a sense of what you're eating on a normal day. They may compare your food intake to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and will look at the quality of macronutrients in your diet to make sure you are getting enough of the good stuff, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, iron and calcium. Your dietitian will also identify if you’re eating too much of some food groups, and if some are missing from your diet altogether.
They can then use this information to create an eating plan that’s tailored to your needs.