Food diary – What, why and how?

Healthy eating and nutrition

What is a food diary?

Easy things first.  A food diary is simply a log of what we eat and drink throughout the day.  If we eat or drink it, we make a note of it for future reference.

Why do a food diary?

There are many reasons why you may want to keep a food diary.  For me, the first reason is simply data collection.  If we want to alter something for the better, we need to know our starting point.  If we are eating/drinking too much or not enough of something, we need to find out before we can do something about it.

But I bet a few of you are thinking:

“I know what I’m eating and drinking!  I’m there when I’m doing it!”

Yeah, well, your memories are akmost certainly wrong.  I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is I’m afraid.  Humans are notoriously rubbish at remembering things like this.  We almost always remember the odd carrot we ate at some point last week, but we forget about the dozens of snacks and treats etc we mindlessly consume every day.  It helps us be more objective about what we eat and drink when it’s facing us in black and white.  And when we have a true record of what we are eating, it is easier to find patterns and decide how to fix things.

The other reason I find a food diary useful is so we can record our moods/emotions/feelings when we are eating.  What and how we eat are closely connected to how we are feeling at the time.  Remember when you were a teenager and were dumped by your other half?  And so you binged on ice cream and chocolate?  That’s an example of how our feelings and emotions can influence our food.  And if we can find patterns in feelings/emotions throughout the week, we can try and do something about it and help our healthy eating habits as a concequence.

How to do a food diary?

So finally the practical stuff.  How do we do a food diary?  There are a few ways.  Try them all and find out which ones work best for you.

Pen and paper.

I love doing things old skool!  Keep your pen and notebook handy.  Whenever you eat/drink something, jot it down!  I like using the following format:






If you dont like having bits of paper around that can get lost, you can do it on a spreadsheet on your computer if you like.  But again, I would do it in a similar format as the pen and paper way, above:





Phone App.

There are plenty of phone apps out there that you can use as a food diary.  I’ve not got any personal experience with them myself, but I’ve heard a lot of people praise the one called My Fitness Pal.  Let me know if you have any other recommendations!

And finally…

I’ve made a food diary template you can use if you like.  Fill in the form below, and you will get an email with a food diary attachment.  All the instructions are included and things to help you with the info once you have collected it.

If the form does not show up well, try clicking here.