- Meet Consumers/Patients
|Nutrition and You: Benefits of Keeping a Nutrition Journal|
You’ve probably heard the adage “you are what you eat.” So, what are you made of? If your life is hectic, you might find yourself going about your day without paying much attention to what you’ve eaten. However, if you depend on what you eat to make a difference in how you feel, taking a closer look may help—and surprise—you.
The easiest way to really know what you eat and how it makes you feel is by keeping a nutrition journal. This simple tool can give you a better understanding of what, when, and/or why you eat.
Find a convenient, easy method to record the information you choose to track, such as a notebook or an online document. Several Web sites offer free software to record and analyze your diet.
What you record can be as simple as a tally of the number of fruit and vegetable servings you eat a day (e.g., if you strive to reach the national nutrition goal of five to nine servings a day). Or you could list specific types and/or amounts of food; when and/or why you eat; or how hungry you feel on a scale of 0 to 10 each time you are about to eat. For most HPEN consumers, a nutrition diary will be most useful when you are trying to decide which foods “work” for you and which foods cause “problems” (i.e., more output, pain, GI symptoms).
What to Record
The information you track will depend on your nutrition goals. Here are a few examples:
The process of keeping a nutrition journal can make you more aware of your overall nutrition and how food and emotions are related. Reviewing your journal entries can help you identify eating habits or trends. You can also compare your intake to a calorie goal or nutrition guidelines (such as a food pyramid, or the calorie guidelines discussed in this column in the September/October LifelineLetter).
Having a written record gives you (and your clinician) an objective summary of what you ate and identifies areas for improvement and progress toward goals. Don’t just look for times when your diet wasn’t perfect—congratulate yourself for your healthy choices!
Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day or two with the diary. Often, keeping a diary for a “typical” weekday and both weekend days is more realistic. You may want to pick a week or a month to keep the journal.
The holiday season is the perfect time to be more aware of food stresses and emotional eating. Keeping a nutrition journal could also be the perfect New Year’s resolution.
This column has been compiled and reviewed by Cheryl Thompson, PhD, RD, CNSD; Carol Ireton-Jones, PhD, RD; Laura Matarese, PhD, RD, LD, FADA, CNSD; and. Marion Winkler, PhD, RD, CNSC.
LifelineLetter, November/December 2010