FOOD DIARY: Secret to Eating Healthier

FOOD DIARY: Secret to Eating Healthier

Keep a Food Diary:

Secret to Eating Healthier, it takes only minutes a day and will change the way you eat, every few years, another dietary fad sweeps the country. If you do this one big thing—say, eat fewer carbohydrates or fill up on protein—you’ll be healthier and thinner.

But in real life, healthful eating depends on the dozens (if not hundreds) of small decisions that you make every day…assuming  that you even make decisions. Most people eat without thinking, nibbling at leftovers as you store them after dinner…grabbing a snack when rushing out the door…or taking a few quick swigs of a soft drink.

How many healthy (or unhealthy) foods do you actually consume? You probably don’t have a clue. The only way to know for sure is to write down everything you eat.

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN
Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, a nutritionist in private practice and an adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food-studies and public health at New York University in New York City. She is author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time

COMPELLING RESEARCH: People who keep a food journal lose weight at twice the rate as those who don’t keep track, according to a study published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In addition to raising your awareness to what and how much you’re eating, a food diary makes you aware of your habits—good and bad which can ultimately help you change your behavior and make healthier food choices so that you eat less of the wrong foods and more of the right foods.


It might seem like a hassle to keep a food diary. But you don’t have to do it forever…a month is usually long enough. And it’s an extremely powerful tool for changing behavior. In fact, it’s the best way to identify your eating patterns. Nutritionists have discovered a few main patterns that define an individual’s eating style. For example…

“See food” eaters might cook healthy, well-balanced meals but still consume hundreds of unnecessary (or unhealthy) calories by eating whatever appears in front of them—doughnuts at the office…sugar next to the coffee maker…soda in the refrigerator, etc.

Emotional eaters turn to food whenever they feel extra-stressed.

Mindless eaters grab food on the run because they’re often too busy or harried to enjoy leisurely meals. You can easily consume 1,000 extra calories a day without even thinking about it. Some people are aware of their eating patterns, but many never realize where the bulk of their calories come from.

A food diary—including a “cheat” diary {see below) to account for the dozens of quick mindless bites that you probably take every day—will help you identify your eating patterns…where your calories are coming from…and the quality of your diet. Are you getting enough antioxidants and fiber? Are you overloading on sugar? Writing it  down is the only way to really know.


One month is the recommended length of time to keep a food diary because that’s about how long it takes people to change their habits. One of my clients, a busy hedge-fund manager, soon realized that he would munch mindlessly on junk foods. After recording all of these “CHEATS” for six days, he realized that he needed to think before snacking. (He went on to lose 20 pounds over the next two months.)

BONUS: To get started, click here to download easy-to-use food diary


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