12 Tips on How to Keep a Food Journal ...

I've read recently that keeping a food journal (or a weight-loss/food blog)is a great way to lose weight. When I write down everything I eat and drink all day, I'm a lot less likely to cheat! So, I've tried to start journaling what I eat, but it can be a complicated task to begin. Here are my top twelve tips for keeping a food journal.

1. Get a Portable Journal ...

My first mistake in food journaling was the journal I bought. I got what was actually an accounting ledger because I loved the layout of the interior sheets... I thought they'd keep me really organized, and it probably would have, but it was too big to carry with me. So, my first tip would be to buy a portable, small journal that can fit in your purse.

2. Go Digital ...

A great tip I found was to use technology for your food journaling. If you're not into carrying around an actual paper journal, try using your PDA, cell phone, or laptop to help you keep track of what you eat. There are many websites, such as Fit Day or My Calorie Counter , that will help you keep tabs of what you eat online, and I've heard of people making neat little graphs and charts with that information.

3. Write as You Go ...

One thing that makes it easier for me to keep a food journal is to write each item down as I eat it. Previously, I used to wait until the evening and try to remember what I ate, but that's just too hard. I wasn't being accurate on portion sizes, and I'd forget little snacks or treats. So, a big tip that helped me be more realistic was to record things in my journal throughout the day.

4. Focus on Portions ...

At first, I just wrote down what I ate. For instance, I'd write "bowl of cereal" or "M&M's". Well, a bowl of cereal could be anything from 0.5 cup to 2 cups, depending on the bowl! And, of course, who knows how many M&M's were in that vague description... could be 100 calories, or it could be 1000! So, a great tip is to measure and record the exact portion you're eating so you'll be most accurate.

5. Don't Cheat ...

I'm really tempted to fudge in my journal when I've been bad on my diet. I feel so ashamed recording things like half a pint of ice cream eaten at 10:00 pm! But, that's the great part about a food journal... if I'm honest, I can really follow trends and patterns in my eating and prepare for them next time. So, I'm totally honest in my food records.
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6. Note Circumstances ...

Whenever I do have a cheat moment and go off my diet, I often will make a quick note in my journal of the circumstances. For instance, did I eat that ice cream when I was PMSing? Or, did a stressful day lead me to oversnack in the afternoon? Having those little notes in my journal when I'm looking back over my week can give me tips about how emotional states change my eating habits.

7. Eat at Home ...

It is so hard for me to accurately judge restaurant food. I have a hard time determining portion size (and I'm not going to whip out my measuring cups at the restaurant table), and I almost always underguess on my calories. Plus, many restaurants don't release their nutritional information. So, it helps me be more accurate in my food diary records if I eat at home more often. Here's a great article from USA Today about the benefits of eating in.

8. Don't Forget Drinks ...

I always record what I drink in my food diary. I do this for two reasons. Number one, I don't drink nearly enough water, and increasing water intake is a goal of mine. So, I record my glasses of water to help me keep track. Also, things like cocktails and coffee drinks can actually contain a lot of hidden calories. So, don't forget to record your liquid calories, too.

9. Review Your Entries ...

A food journal doesn't help much if I never use the information I write down. So, a great tip I have is to designate a time each week to sit down and review your food journal information. I look over mine each Sunday night before bedtime. It helps me notice trends, make new goals for the week, and keep track of how I'm doing.

10. Set Goals ...

It is very important to make your food journal work for you. A great way that I do that is by setting goals and using my food journal to help mark my progress. For instance, I've got my goal to drink at least 6 glasses of water a day, so I put a little check in the top right corner of each day's page when I drink a glass. Using a food journal in goal setting can really help you get there faster! Here's a great guide to setting weight loss goals from About.com.

11. Get Saucy ...

No, I don't mean be rude in your food journal... I mean, don't forget the little things like sauces and condiments that often derail our diets. I wasn't recording things like ketchup, sour cream on the side, salad dressing, etc when I first started journaling. Then, when I reviewed my journal, I realized that hidden calories like that can add up to hundreds per day! So, be careful of that common mistake.

12. Add in Calories ...

A great way to increase the value of your food journal is to write down the calories in each item you eat or drink. I can tell you that this isn't easy, though. I had a hard time because I didn't know how many calories were in each thing I ate, and it was time consuming to look it up. So, I bought a tiny book that lists common foods and calories like this one , and it really helps me! Now, I can quickly add up my calories for the day and see if I've got enough for that ice cream sundae. :)

I hope these tips can help us all increase our use of food journals, because they can be such a valuable health and wellness tool. I know it can be daunting to being journaling about food, but I think that these 12 tips can really help us all get started.

Do you have other great journaling ideas? Let me know by posting them in the Comments section!
Other Great Healthy Weight Loss Tips:
Tips on Losing Weight:

23 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight …
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10 Easy Weight Loss Rules You Must Know …
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The “Real” Weight Loss Secret of the Stars …

Tips on Dieting:

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11 Tips on How to Keep to Your Diet…
10 Delicious Desserts with Least Calories …
12 Delicious Low Calorie Foods …
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5 Best Low Calorie Snacks …
15 Healthy Breakfast Ideas …
50 Healthiest Foods: An Ultimate Grocery Shopping List for Losing Weight …

Tips on Exercise:

10 Top Exercises to Lose Weight …
10 Ways to Burn More Calories during the Day …
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