In my practice, food journals are required in order to be a part of my nutrition program. They are the key element in getting someone on track with their health. Chaya from Pantry Paratus is sharing with us today why a food journal is important and how it can be used a reset button.
Using a Food Journal as a Reset Button
Nuts. And Cheese.
We all have our weaknesses.
The gravitational pull towards these foods for me also pulled me into a few delusional beliefs about how I really eat. It was not until I began a food journal again that I saw it for what it really was. I want to challenge you to take a fresh look at—not at what you think you are eating—but take a fresh look at what you are really eating by using a food journal.
Because of my love for protein snacks, I couldn’t figure out my weight gain; I had no idea that I was eating more fat than protein and carbohydrates put together.
There were some things I have discovered about my eating habits:
~ I am consistently at twice the fat (even healthy fats) then I should be; yes, butter has a limit!
~I am not getting nearly enough potassium, calcium, iron, or fiber.
The Food Journal Brings Awareness
No one wants to (nor should they) focus on food 24/7. It’s inevitable that we slip away from some of our original diet-based health goals. Just like hair gets windblown, you do need to occasionally stand in front of a mirror. Keeping a food journal does just that.
The human nature side of me didn’t want to record every temptation, and so I began forgoing a few in an effort to “observe” my own eating habits. I lost two pounds in the first two weeks of journaling!
Using a food journal can be a reset button for what you are eating.
The Food Journal Reveals Your Portion Sizes
All food has a limit…even things we consider benign like salad or homemade broth. There are a lot of scientific reasons we can’t address in this blog, but one big concern is that your body doesn’t have an infinite storage space for minerals. When you take too many of one particular mineral, you can suffer side effects and jeopardize your absorption of others.
You can re-train your stomach to eat less if you have gotten to the supersized plate like I have. It is uncomfortable for about two weeks, and you will be preoccupied with food. But in about two weeks, you’ll naturally serve less without so much effort. I’m just over three weeks of this process myself, and although I would really love another scoop of potatoes, I am finding it far easier to say “no thanks—I’m satisfied.”
Using a food journal can be your reset button for how much you are eating.
A Food Journal Shows Micro & Macronutrients
I personally do not have a nutritional database in my brain. I wouldn’t know that celery is high in calcium if you asked me, or that spinach is a good source of Manganese. Along with writing down what I eat, I have to discover how that food is nutritionally beneficial for me.
“The first step toward wellness is to be sure you are getting the correct amounts of the proper nutrients*,” but also keep in mind that everyone’s needs can be slightly different. If you haven’t read up on macro or micronutrients since, oh…since eighth grade health class, you might find the subject fascinating now. Having a basic understanding of how food propels you towards healthfulness is crucial to your motivation and willpower to choose the best for yourself.
It is okay if you don’t know the nutrition facts of everything in your pantry—there is a plethora of resources at your fingertips to do that heavy lifting for you. I use an app on my phone called “MyFitnessPal
” (a free one from Under Armor), but there are many others like Nutritionix. Check out some books in your local library if you’re not a smartphone-app-person, or just look for one of the many online databases by doing a search.
Food Journal Options
You can use good old-fashioned paper, or an phone app that does the heavy lifting for you. Whatever you use, you’ll find that food journals work best if:
1) You set a clear time frame (two weeks, minimum)
2) You pick only 1 method. If it’s a notebook, don’t write on scraps to transfer later.
3) You get a good kitchen scale to measure portion sizes
4) You plan meals in advance
5) Take your lunch and snacks with you to avoid temptations or quick meals on the road.
6) Stop and track what you’ve eaten immediately—don’t think you will remember.
Good luck! And here’s homework: come back and let us know what you have discovered from your own food journal. We look forward to continuing the conversation below.
*Balch, P. A. (2010). Prescription for nutritional healing. New York: Avery.
Chaya and Wilson are the team behind Pantry Paratus, the place to go for kitchen equipment that supports traditional, natural foods. You can see both their store and blog at PantryParatus.com