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Keep a Food Diary Challenge

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Keep a Food Diary Challenge

Record what you eat for a month

How to Record Your Diet Daily

✔Use a paper notebook, web-based program, or smartphone app to keep track of your daily diet. Or develop your own system. It’s important that you choose a method to record your daily diet that works for you.

 ✔Write down everything you eat and drink for meals and snacks.

✔Include the location and time of day with each entry to help you identify specific eating patterns.


 ✔Be honest. You may not want to include an indulgent dessert in your food diary. But listing everything you eat is the only way to see what you’re doing right and what you can improve on.

 ✔Keep your food diary with you and record what you eat after each meal or snack.

Count Your Calories

The average 40-year-old needs 1,800 to 2,600 calories a day. But everyone’s calorie needs are different. An active teen burns more calories than an inactive teen. Men usually need more calories than women do. And everyone needs fewer calories as they age. Use a calorie calculator, such as this one (http://tinyurl.com/drcua), to help you find your calorie goal. (Look up calorie and nutritional informationhttp://caloriecount.about.com )

How many calories are you eating? Read food labels to find out. Most packaged food labels include the number of calories in each serving. (And make a note of how much they list as a serving. It’s often a lot less than you think it is!) You can also use your food diary to track how much sugar, sodium, and fat you’re eating.

Review Your Results

In the food diary study, the more successful participants took time to review their eating habits. Some discovered that simply writing down everything they ate helped them regulate their diet. Others found that reviewing their eating habits with someone else helped them make better food choices.

 ✔Add up the total number of calories you eat in a day. Then see if it matches up with what you should consume to maintain your weight or drop a few pounds.

✔Compare your diet with the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate (http://tinyurl.com/ctu5zzw) or ChooseMyPlate.gov to find out what you’re doing right and how you can improve your diet. Maybe you need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Or maybe you could benefit from eating more healthy proteins like fish, beans, and nuts.

✔Look for eating patterns. You might discover that you skip breakfast frequently, or eat too many snacks at night. Or you might learn that you’re a healthy eater during the week, but you overindulge on weekends. Use this information to improve your diet.

✔Share your food diary findings. Talk to a friend or co-worker about your diet. Or meet with your doctor or nutritionist to review your food journal. This practice can help you be more accountable for what you eat.

Set a goal After you’ve made the effort to take an honest look at your diet for a month, set a goal to improve, lose weight, or eat healthier. And keep track of your progress. Your food diary will become a tool that can help you change your life.

Look for calorie information at restaurants. In the United States, all restaurants with 20 or more locations must provide nutritional information for their menu items. In most cases, you can find this information online. And what you learn might surprise you. A typical fast-food hamburger contains about 600 calories. A 16-ounce soft drink contains about 185 calories. And a serving of French fries can add another 350 calories to your meal if you eat out.

Sources:American Journal of Preventive Medicine.; Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.; National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute.;Harvard School of Public Health.; Georgia Public Broadcasting.