Keeping a Food Diary
For weight loss, weight maintenance or just an attempt to eat healthier, a food diary is one of the most effective tools at your disposal.
In this blog, we will be discussing the best practice for keeping a useful food diary as well as some key rules to help you maximise the efficiency of your food diary.
Q. What is a food diary?
A. It’s an important tool that can help you create your very own personalised diet to suit your total dietary energy expenditure (TDEE).
Q. What is TDEE?
A. This is the number of Calories each individual needs to maintain normal body function and knowing this is important for weight loss, weight maintenance and even athletic performance.
How to keep a food diary
- Set out a time frame for your diary (1 or 2 weeks)
- Get weighed before starting and avoid scales during the period you are keeping the diary
- Try to eat normally (or as normal as you usually do)
- Write down everything you eat and drink. If exercising, keep a separate diary for it
- Portion sizes are extremely important and should be noted
- Entries should be made before eating (if possible)
- Get weighed after the allocated time period and compare (use same scales)
Set out a time frame that the diary will last, this should preferably be more than a week, but not more than 3 weeks as you may lose interest. Two-week period is ideal as it will keep things interesting.
Know your weight!
This goes without saying, but you need to get your weight prior to starting as this will be key in calculating your Calorie deficit or surplus and will make optimising the food diary much easier.
Eat normally not ‘healthier’, save that for the next stage
A healthy diet should be how you normally eat and not how you eat when trying to lose weight! Your food diary needs to be realistic. This is a mindset you aim to keep in the long run.
Write everything down
A food diary is only effective if you are being honest with the entries. It is important that you are honest about the quantity and make up of whatever you eat or drink. Having an unhealthy snack is not the end of the world. By writing it down you are not only being honest about it, you are now less likely to reoffend. Also, you may save up on the extra Calories at a later stage! Also, try to avoid drinking Calories when possible. If thirsty, try zero Calorie drinks or even better, water! Avoid sweet drinks, even juices.
Portions, Portions, Portions!
This is one of the more difficult parts of keeping a food diary as people either become obsessed with measuring everything or don’t know where to start. Remember, this is a tool for you and not a recipe for a cookbook. It is okay to note portions like; half a cup of rice, a handful of corn, half a chicken breast etc. The key here is that you know what each portion size means, and you can keep the measurements consistent. If you can weigh your food, great! If you can’t use simple measurements you can replicate.
Before not After
It is less effective to write entries after you have eaten them as you may not recall everything accurately. Also, by writing entries before, you avoid the trap of subconscious eating and are less likely to eat junk.
Once you’ve completed your allotted time frame, get weighed using the same scales as you did at the start.
Weight gain (Calorie surplus): you are consuming more Calories than needed and should consider;
- Altering meals by replacing ingredients with healthier versions – see food facts book
- Reducing portion size
- Cut out a meal if possible and safe to do so. You should only be eating 3 meals a day
- Increase / include exercise if safe and possible to do so
- A weight gain of 1Ib is an approximate surplus of 3500 Calories.
If weight gain occurs, review your food diary, make the suggested changes and follow your new personalised meal plan you have created. Get weighed again and repeat until weight loss or weight remains the same.
If struggling, consider going into your local NewWeigh pharmacy for some expert help and advice <link to pharmacy locator>, why not try swapping a meal for a Meal Replacement Product (MRP).
Weight stays the same (Caloric equilibrium): you are consuming the right number of Calories.
- Calories in = Calories out
Weight loss (Calorie deficit): you are consuming less Calories than needed.
- If this is the aim, continue until healthy / goal weight is achieved
- A weight loss of 1Ib is an approximate deficit of 3500 Calories.