Keeping Food Logs
Recording everything that you eat and drink can be a real eye-opener. You will begin to see patterns in your eating habits that sabotage your weight loss efforts such as skipping breakfast, eating second helpings at supper, or making poor food choices when you are with certain people.
It's All in the Details
Self-monitoring of food and calorie intake is perhaps the most important skill for people who have decided to lose weight, but the key to keeping food logs is honesty and accuracy. People who keep the most accurate food logs lose more weight.
Write down absolutely everything you eat and drink as soon as you eat it. Each day consists of 24 hours, so be sure to include any eating that takes place after dinner, even in the middle of the night. For processed foods, note the brand name and the way the food is described on the label because calories can vary significantly in foods that seem the same.
Don't forget to include condiments like salad dressing or sour cream, butter, sugar, and salt. For mixed dishes, you can describe the ingredients and how the food is prepared, or use the Calorie Count Plus Recipe Analyzer (under Foods/New Recipe) to analyze the mixed dish and treat it like a single food.
Weights and Measures
In order to accurately count your calories, you need to record portion sizes of everything you eat. Don't try to estimate your portion sizes, since this is challenging even for registered dietitians.
Instead, you will need to use a food scale, measuring cups for liquids and dry foods, and measuring spoons. If you don't eat the entire portion, subtract what you left. As an alternative to measuring, you can either describe the size (e.g. small, medium or large banana), count the pieces (e.g. chicken wings, no skin), or read the food weight on the package and adjust for the portion you eat.
What you can learn from keeping food records:
- You're eating more calories than you thought
- You "pick" a lot without realizing it
- You seldom eat fruit and vegetables
- You eat out almost every day
One Final Note
Just knowing that you need to write down what you're eating and drinking may help you to make healthier snack and meal decisions. Keeping food logs can teach you to eat more mindfully and provide much insight as you strive for a healthier lifestyle.
- Behavior Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy of Obesity: Is There a Difference? Fabricatore AN J Am Diet Assoc. 2007. 107: 92 99.
- Baker RC, Kirschenbaum DS. Self-monitoring may be necessary for successful weight control. Behav Ther. 1993. 24:377 394