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Benefits of Maintaining a Food Diary

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Benefits of Maintaining a Food Diary

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This article explains what a food diary is, how it can help the person achieve health goals or determine health issues, and why to have it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At July 24, 2019
Reviewed AtDecember 29, 2023


Whether someone is trying to lose weight or attempting to eat healthier, maintaining a food diary can help make positive changes. Noting down every snack, carb, or soft drink can make people more accountable for eating. In addition, a food diary can be a valuable tool for understanding eating habits and patterns and help identify food sensitivities. Research reveals that a food diary can be an effective tool for individuals interested in losing weight to help change behavior.

What Is a Food Diary?

A food diary is a daily record of what a person eats and drinks. This diary helps an individual and the doctor understand eating habits and patterns. Once someone knows this, they can change their diet to improve their weight.

In addition to jotting down particular foods and beverages, one can note down the following things:

  • What are you eating? Note the food items and beverages consumed and how they are prepared (baked, fried, broiled, etc.).

  • How much food do you consume? It is best to weigh and measure the food using household measuring tools, such as cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons.

  • When do you eat? Keep a record of the time at which you eat and drink. This can be very helpful in determining potentially problematic times, like late-night snacking.

  • Who do you eat with? Note whether you eat alone or with friends or family.

  • Where do you eat and drink? For instance, at the dining table, on the sofa, or in the kitchen.

  • If done, list any activities while eating or drinking, such as watching TV, working, or playing a game.

  • Also, include how you feel when you consume food, like are you happy, sad, or bored? A person’s mood has an impact on what, when, and how much he eats or drinks.

Doctors and dietitians sometimes recommend food diaries that can be used by them to understand a person's eating habits better. Sometimes, a doctor can also use them to find out which foods or ingredients one may be sensitive to.

A food diary is a method of mindful eating. However, some may argue that this may turn into an unhealthy habit, which is possible. But instead of looking at the negative elements of the food diary, let us read some of its positive aspects.

What Are the Benefits of a Food Diary?

The following are the benefits of maintaining a food diary:

  • It Helps Achieve the Weight Loss Target: Noting down everything consumed in the food diary can reduce the risks of consuming unhealthy foods. In addition to increasing awareness of how much a person is eating, it can give details like which foods, feelings, or other external factors may cause a person to consume fat-loaded, sugar-rich, or calorie-rich foods.

  • It Helps Keep a Check on the Total Calories Consumed in a Day: Maintaining a food diary lets one track the total number of calories consumed daily. People can also note the total amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, micronutrients, and macronutrients consumed throughout the day and analyze if they lack any particular nutrient.

  • It Helps Track Any Missing Food Groups in the Diet: Writing down regularly helps analyze which food group is missing from the diet. For example, after analyzing the food diary, one might notice that one might be skipping a particular food group like curd, leading to bad gut flora.

  • It Helps Note down the Exercise Regime and Water Intake: Not only do people write down their total food intake, but they can also write the number of glasses of water they consume per day and their daily activities.

  • It Helps Keep a Note About Stress or Anxiety Levels: During stress, people often binge on sugary or fatty foods. Using a food diary to register certain triggers can help eliminate unhealthy habits.

  • It Helps Understand the Source of Problems: Most feel certain symptoms of restlessness, including stomach pain, an upset stomach, and headache. Sometimes, the reason for these problems lies in the food we eat. A food diary can help a person understand patterns and exceptions in the diet, thus helping to avoid these health problems in the future, either by not consuming those foods or getting medical assistance to solve the problems.

How to Keep a Food Diary?

Keeping a food journal should be easy and manageable. Here are a few quick tips for keeping a successful food diary:

  • Write down everything, no matter how small it seems.

  • Write down the food or beverages immediately after consuming them. Refrain from relying on the memory at the end of the day because the recollection will likely be less accurate. If someone cannot keep the food diary with them, note down some notes on paper or the smartphone after eating and add them to the log later that same day.

  • Be as specific about the type and size of the food or beverage. Also include the ingredients, spices, or seasonings used in the meals. For the portion sizes, try food measuring tools, such as measuring cups or a food scale, to obtain a more accurate idea of the quantity of food eaten. Alternatively, one can estimate portion sizes with household measuring tools such as measuring cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons.

  • Ensure to include any alcoholic drinks if consumed.

Things to Ponder:

To succeed, the food diary needs to tell the truth. No one gains anything by cheating to look good. Share the food diary with the doctor. They can review it and help plan a healthier lifestyle if required. Keep a record of the complete food diary for a minimum of 3 to 4 days before bringing it to the visit to doctor. Some individuals may find it helpful to continue with the food diary for longer to maintain their weight goals.


A food diary is a mirror that shows what is being consumed and in what portion. As a result, one gets to know eating habits better. In addition, food diaries can help identify food sensitivities and manage a healthy weight. Using some quick tips outlined above, keeping a food diary can be a great way to improve diet and control health.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does Keeping a Food Diary Help?

Yes, keeping a food diary helps track one's eating habits and patterns.
- One can also understand and sense healthy - unhealthy food choices. It is very important to track the time, frequency, and quantity of the food one eats and maintain the data in a diary. This way, it becomes easy to calculate the calories and measure the expected changes in the body.
- In medical emergencies, doctors often find food diaries to be important information to diagnose any condition or disease. For example, in cases of food poisoning, acidity, indigestion, and chronic constipation.


What Are the Benefits of Having a Food Diary?

The benefits of having a food diary are –
- It keeps track of eating habits and patterns.
- Make healthy - unhealthy food choices.
- Helps one achieve weight loss targets.
- Keeps a check on the total calories consumed in a day.
- Helps keep a check on missing food groups in the diet.
- Helps to note the amount of water intake accurately.
- Helps to note any food intolerances.
- Helps to track daily exercise patterns and relate them with dietary patterns.


What Does One Learn From Tracking Food?

Tracking food and maintaining a food diary helps one learn to identify trends and adjust to maintain a good diet. One also learns to support overall well-being and fitness needs. Without a food diary, it is difficult to understand how much of each food group one consumes. Nutritional targets can be achieved more systematically with a food diary. Proper nutrition is an easy way to boost energy levels, stay active and improve daily physical performance.


What Are the Disadvantages of a Food Diary?

Studies show that most people maintaining a food diary may be associated with shame, judgment, or obsession with following a diet and noting the small details of the food and beverages consumed during the day. Some people reported they felt they should avoid social events because of the unknown ingredients they could not track. This obsession can make a person turn anti-social. In contrast, people often find maintaining a food diary very time-consuming and a daily task.


How Long Should One Keep a Food Diary?

Maintaining a food diary is always a good idea, and it has many more benefits than disadvantages. There is no such duration on how long one should maintain a food diary; however, a consistent habit of maintaining a food diary, in the long run, may help track the food habits and follow a strict diet for a healthy life.


How Can One Stay Motivated to Track Food?

Motivation tips to maintain a food journal –
- Make It Convenient - Downloading food journal apps can help one stay motivated and note their eating habits and patterns.
- Set Reminders - one can set alarms or reminder notifications.
- Set Short-Term Goals - Short-term goals are easier to achieve and help stay motivated, as failure to meet long-term goals may reduce motivation.
- Following up with a dietician or a nutritionist and seeking dietary consultations can help one stay motivated.


Why Is It Important to Keep Track of Calories?

Keeping track of calories benefits people in ways that –
- One tends to become accountable to themselves and track their progress better.
- Helps one learn the number of calories consumed in a day and correlate it with the number of calories needed to burn.
- Stay conscious and make better as well as healthy food choices.
- It also helps in controlling junk food and unhealthy eating patterns.
- Helps one consume smaller portions of food.


How Does Counting Calories Help to Lose Weight?

Calorie counting is an excellent method for weight loss as it helps to understand how much food one needs every day to maintain their body mass index (BMI). It will also help to manage eating habits and ensure that one consumes enough calories throughout the day, which is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Counting calories is a must for losing weight, and one mustn't exceed the daily calorie limit, which will result in gaining more weight instead of losing it like what was intended when beginning this process in the first place.
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina



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