How To Do a Food Journal

As a Holistic Nutritionist I see many food journals. And when I say many, I mean hundreds. Not everyone food journalenjoys to do them, and that’s okay, I always work around it, but sometimes it’s the piece missing in the puzzle especially with regards to digestive complaints.

Food journalling has changed so much even since I started seeing clients 4 years ago. I had all these Microsoft Word templates created and I would neatly print them for clients to fill out and bring in, then slowly over the years I realized this was the most inefficient way to get client’s to write anything down.

Who carries a piece of paper with them everywhere? I decided that it doesn’t matter so much WHERE it’s getting done, just that it gets done. I provide a lot of options to try and make it as convenient as possible since I know it’s not the most fun thing to do.

Where to do a food journal

  • Writing a food journal the old fashioned way – on a templated piece of paper or inside a booklet/journal
  • Writing an email to yourself and then sending it yourself or to me (usually horribly formatted but the information is there)
  • Using DietSnaps which is an iPhone app where you snap pictures of your food and it logs the day and sequence for you. This is great because you don’t record portions, just small notes where necessary (like things you cannot see in sauces, or how you felt)
  • Using other phone or online apps that are written – allows for better formatting – such as EverNote. Some people enjoy using My Fitness Pal but it does record your calories and grams of food intake which is not best for everyone.

I find anything to do with a cell phone or an app is a winner. What’s around you always? Your phone. What’s not around you always? A piece of paper or a journal. So really, it creates more efficiency, less annoyance and it helps me help you.

So now that we’ve found a way for you to record your food intake, let’s take a look at HOW to actually do it so all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

How to write a food journal – key things to remember

  • If your goal is to lose weight – you MUST record some sort of food portioning, whether through a picture or using hand cues like your finger tip, your palm, anything to provide a rough estimate so I know whether you ate a palm of potato or whole plate of it
  • If your goal is to determine digestive or skin irritants (ie. allergies & sensitivities) – you MUST record every morsel of food that goes through your mouth. For example, don’t write “sandwich” – what was on that sandwich? Cheese? Hummus? Otherwise you will never get to the bottom of what the trigger is
  • If your goal is to improve your health and eat well – you MUST record all brands wherever applicable because these little guys can make or break your health. It matters which type of granola bar you’re eating.
  • Bonus if you record your exercise, emotions, and fluid intake

Incorrect Way to do a Food Journal

Breakfast – eggs

Lunch – sandwich, yogurt

Snack – fruit, nuts, crackers, junk

Dinner – protein, vegetables, rice

This journal doesn’t show me anything about your lifestyle, your health, or how to help you

Correct Way to do a Food Journal

Breakfast – 2 eggs, scrambled, drizzle of olive oil, spinach, red peppers

Lunch – sandwich – 2 slices (brand) bread, 2 spoonfuls (brand) hummus, lettuce, tomato, grilled chicken with homemade spices (list)

Snack – apple, small handful of almonds and cashews, a few (brand) crackers

Dinner – salmon filet, steamed, with homemade pesto (list ingredients), green beans sautéed in olive oil with garlic on half the plate, palmful of brown rice cooked in vegetable broth (brand)

NOTES – stomach bloated immediately after lunch, energy was great today

This journal shows me the type of food that you consumed, what brands you’re buying, and approximate quantity. Now it’s much easier for me to recommend new brands that may be better for your health, or help you balance out your day better, or help you find the A-HA moment of what’s irritating you or preventing you from reaching your nutrition goal. It’s a win-win situation! Beverage intake is extremely important as well but as long as all the food is there that’s the most important.

Happy food journalling!

About Sarah Maughan

Sarah Maughan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, ON and has been consulting since 2009. Her website aims to educate you, make you laugh, help you live and inspire you to eat whole food! To stay up to date sign up for free blog and recipe updates! In the meantime, empower your body with food!


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