Keeping a food diary takes a little discipline but can be an eye-opening experience. People often eat much more than they realize.
All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Then you write down everything you eat, whether it includes M&M’s nabbed from a candy dish, crackers in front of the TV, a pizza sample at the grocery store or the taste test of the dinner stew.
Along with the type of food and the amount, write down where you were at the time you ate it and what your mood was. Were you really hungry or maybe a little bored when you grabbed a snack on the way to the TV? You also can note if you were alone or with a companion.
Researchers have studied the use of food diaries and their role in weight loss. In a study reported in theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers noted that overweight people who kept food diaries lost twice as much weight compared with those who did not keep food diaries.
Besides keeping food diaries, the 1,700 participants in the six-month research study were asked to cut 500 calories from their daily diets, eat more fruits and vegetables, and get 180 minutes of physical activity per week.
They also had the opportunity to work directly with professionals, including nutrition experts, in group sessions. The group sessions also were successful in promoting weight loss.
After you have written down your food intake for a couple of days, here are some questions to ask yourself. Are you eating at least 4-1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily? Are you consuming the equivalent of three cups of milk daily? Are half your grain choices whole grain? Do you choose a variety of lean meats and fibre-rich beans?
If weight loss or maintenance is among your goals, give food diaries a try. You can make yours as simple or as high tech as you’d like.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L.R.D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.