Meal Diary How-To Guide

Why Keeping a Food Diary Helps You Lose Weight

how to keep a meal diary
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If you want to lose weight faster and keep the pounds off for good, you should keep a meal diary. Keeping a food diary helps you understand not only what you eat, but also why you eat the way you do. A food diary is your road map to weight loss success.

Meal Diary Methods

There are different ways to keep a meal diary. You should use the method that is easiest for you. The key is consistency, so whatever method helps you to write in it often is the method that will bring you the greatest benefits.

Digital Meal Diary

If you always have your smartphone handy or if you spend a lot of time online, a digital meal diary works well. Use a website like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal and download the site's app on your smartphone. You can also use the food diary that comes with your activity tracker. For example, the Fitbit dashboard allows you to input foods by scanning a barcode.

As you input foods into the digital food database you'll assign them to a meal so that you can see how your meals compare to each other and also how snacks impact your total calorie intake. Try to make a habit out of inputting foods before you begin eating so that you don't miss any important foods or calorie contributors.

Notebook-Style Meal Diary
This "back to basics" approach still works very well for many dieters. Simply carry a small journal with you in your briefcase or handbag and jot down everything you eat. No tech skills required!

You can even use online resources (like the ones listed above) to fill in the most accurate nutritional information. Notebook-style food journals require a little more work, but they also offer more flexibility so that you can include different types of information.

Meal Diary How-To Guide

A basic meal diary should include a list of every food and drink you consume at meal time or between meals. Even tiny nibbles count! You will also need to enter the amount of food that you ate.

Don't assume that you ate a single serving. Measure your food using measuring cups or a digital scale to get the most accurate data.

Along with the food name and portion size, you should also include basic nutritional facts. Jot down the total number of calories consumed for each food that you list. You may want to include the grams of protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber and sugar. Some dieters also track sodium intake or other nutrients.

You can add some other helpful information to learn more about your eating behavior:

  • Your reason for eating. Was it meal time? Were you bored? Were others around you eating? Were you feeling stressed?
  • Your level of hunger. Take a minute before you eat to decide how hungry you really are.
  • Your emotional state before and after eating. Quick notes about your anxiety or stress level may help you determine if you are an emotional eater.
  • Your eating environment. Where were you when you ate? Who was with you? Was it a social occasion?

These extra notes are easier to keep in an old-fashioned pen and paper notebook, but some digital food diaries allow you to keep notes in blog form or as part of a weight loss forum.

How to Use Meal Diary Data

Make sure you keep a food diary for at least one full week before you evaluate the information you've collected. Then, analyze the total number of calories you typically consume each day. Make adjustments to your daily calorie intake to lose weight faster or to maintain your current weight. You can also evaluate your eating behavior to learn how to eat less and make better food choices.

By looking at your emotions and the reasons why you were eating, who you were with, and what you were doing, you may be able to determine if you are giving in to binge eating, emotional eating, or if you have a habit of eating among certain people. Then, learn essential skills for eating less under stress or learn how to eat less around others to slim down with success.

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