How To Maintain A Food Journal Like A Pro

What if the secret to weight loss was a pen and paper? According to experts, that might very well be the case. We’re not just talking about writing down just anything. Keeping a food journal is one of the simplest, easiest ways to learn more about your eating habits.

Also known as a food diary or log, a food journal is a record of your daily food intake. It’s one of the most common tools used by nutritionists, dietitians, and health coaches. In fact, if you meet one of these professionals, a food log will probably be on your to-do list. Yet, like all weight management methods, there’s a right way to do it. By learning how to properly create a food journal, you’ll have a better chance of reaching your goals.

Why Food Journaling Matters

Maintaining a food journal keeps you accountable

A food log turns eating habits into words. This way, you can pinpoint good versus bad habits along with potential pockets of change. Learning about your progress is a great technique you need to master.


2008 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine even found that food journaling is a powerful predictor of weight loss. Of the 1,685 overweight or obese participants, those who kept 6-day food records saw the most success. They lost twice as much weight than people who kept 1-day food logs or none at all! It also doubles as a form of accountability. For some, keeping a record is enough motivation to make healthy decisions.1

The Benefits Beyond Weight Loss

Maintaining a food journal has benefits beyond losing weight

Even if you’re not trying to lose or manage weight, a food journal has many perks. You can find what meals make you tired or bloated. If certain factors trigger appetite, the log will show it. Think you have a new allergy or intolerance? Food journaling will help you find the culprit.

Of The Perfect Food Journal

Don’t just jot down meals and call it a day. In order to let a food diary work its magic, you need to record specific points. Here’s a breakdown of the basics.

1. Time

How long you take to eat a meal and when you eat the meal is important

Start with the time of day. This lets you compare food and its relationship with other factors, be it the timing of feelings or cravings. Duration can show a lot! It will also allow you to stick to a particular time to have your meals rather than eat at odd and inconsistent times. It will keep you accountable for that.

2. Feelings

How are you feeling emotionally before, during, and after your meals


wouldn’t be a diary without feelings. Record how you felt before and after the meal, whether it’s boredom or stress. Your emotions influence appetite more than you think. Stress-eating can also be controlled this way. If you were emotional and grabbed something unhealthy, your journal will let you know.

3. Servings

The number of servings has to be recorded

Track how much food or drink you consume. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you need to weigh every meal. Estimate each serving, such as 13 pretzel sticks or ¼ cup fruit. Remember that 3 ounces of cooked meat are about the size of a deck of cards. This is the easiest way to track your daily caloric intake – a key element for losing weight.

4. Condiments

Every food item matter, including condiments

Whether it’s butter or ketchup, extras also include nutrients and calories, so they’re just as important. Include dressings or sauces that come with the actual meal. For example, was your egg salad made with mayonnaise or avocado? Be specific. This way you can track your calories for the day and cut down on certain condiments that are holding you back in terms of weight loss.


Where are you eating is important

Write down where you eat the meal or snack. Were you in the car, office, or restaurant? If you were at home, was it on the sofa or dining room table? Recording location will show how surroundings influence food choices and portions.

6. People

Are you eating alone or with different people

Keep track of who you eat food with. Even if it’s alone, record that as well. You’ll be able to see how the company of others affects your habits, if at all.


What activity are you doing while eating?

Aside from snacking, what else were you doing? Maybe you were watching television or working on the computer. Studies show that distracted eating is linked to unhealthy choices, so it’s certainly worth noting.2

8. Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms like bloating or constipation are bad

Jot down how your body feels, even if it’s in between meals. Are you bloated or energetic? Sluggish or constipated? This is probably more important than the others if you’re trying to find out about a new allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity.

Example Food Journal Entry

  1. Time: 8 am
  2. Feeling: Sleepy and stressed!
  3. Servings: 1 cup black coffee, 1 granola bar, and ½ banana
  4. Advertisements
  5. Condiments: None
  6. Location: In the car
  7. People: Alone
  8. Activity: Rushing to work
  9. Physical Symptoms: Grumbling stomach at 9 AM, constipated

All you need is a pen and paper. If you’re tech-savvy, download a food tracking app or create a document. You’d be surprised at how much words and lists can transform your health.