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Nutrition and You: Benefits of Keeping a Nutrition Journal
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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. 

 

Getting Started

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:

  • Keeping a list of what you eat along with gastrointestinal symptoms or signs can help to reveal food intolerances or allergies. 
  • Writing down serving sizes and amounts can show that you are increasing your oral intake and can help guide the decision to decrease dependence on parenteral or enteral nutrition.
  • Keeping a daily log of your intake and output can help you and your clinician determine if changes in your regimen are needed.
  • A nutrition journal can be a confidential way to express your emotions about food—even if you are unable to eat the foods you love. You may also discover emotional “triggers” if you find yourself eating when you aren’t really hungry.
  • Taking a moment to write down what you ate (or are about to eat) can increase awareness of “mindless eating.” You can also uncover how much junk food sneaks into your diet.
  • Activity—this journal is a perfect place to record what activities you participate in, from a jog in the park to an intense game of checkers. Activity is a very important part of your overall health, too! 

Gaining Insights

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.

 

Holiday Stressors

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

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5/6/2017
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This website is an educational resource. It is not intended to provide medical advice or recommend a course of treatment. You should discuss all issues, ideas, suggestions, etc. with your clinician prior to use. Clinicians in a relevant field have reviewed the medical information; however, the Oley Foundation does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented, and is not liable if information is incorrect or incomplete. If you have questions please contact Oley staff.

 

Updated in 2015 with a generous grant from Shire, Inc. 

 

This website was updated in 2015 with a generous grant from Shire, Inc. This website is an educational resource. It is not intended to provide medical advice or recommend a course of treatment. You should discuss all issues, ideas, suggestions, etc. with your clinician prior to use. Clinicians in a relevant field have reviewed the medical information; however, the Oley Foundation does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented, and is not liable if information is incorrect or incomplete. If you have questions please contact Oley staff.
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