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?

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

There are many reasons why you may want to keep a food diary.  But for me, t he main ones include:

  • Data collection – Before we can change something, we need to know what we are doing.
  • Memory aid – No matter what people think, it has been shown time and again that people are terrible at remembering what they eat and drink.
  • Seeing the big picture – Most people focus on a small detail they fixate on. Then they miss the elephant in the room, or the obvious big issue. A clear food diary helps us see what is important, and what can be ignored.
  • It changes what we eat/drink – Most people will find that without doing anything else, when they start keeping a food diary, they start to eat better.

How to do a food diary?

As always, there are a few way to keep a food diary. You choose the way that works best for you.

Pen and paper.

Keep your pen and notebook handy and whenever you eat/drink something, jot it down, using the following format:


Or you could copy this template by clicking here:


If you don’t 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.


Almost everyone now has a phone with a camera. Simply take a picture of everything you eat/drink. This is probably the quickest, easiest way, but you do sacrifice a bit of the detail you get with the other methods.