Why keeping a food diary is such a powerful tool

The diary can help you if you want to make changes to your diet

Lisa Dunbar


Lisa Dunbar


Why keeping a food diary is such a powerful tool

Lisa Dunbar with her trusty food diary

This week I want to talk to you about something that is extremely useful when it comes to making any changes to your diet and lifestyle and becoming healthier in general, and that is a food diary.

What Is A Food Diary?

Keeping a food diary basically just means writing down what you have eaten in a day and when you ate it, and you should also include things like how you were feeling at certain times of the day, your mood, your energy levels, any digestive symptoms you experienced, and so on.

I always get my clients to keep a food diary for at least a week before we meet and it is honestly such an incredibly powerful tool that is seriously underestimated!

How Can A Food Diary Help?

I always say that becoming healthier involves first becoming a bit of a detective. Not just in terms of reading food labels and knowing what you are eating, but also listening to your body and figuring out what it is trying to tell you.

All day, every day, our bodies are communicating with us and keeping a food diary can really help you to start listening and taking note of what your body is saying and how it is reacting to what you are feeding it.

I kept a food diary for almost a year when I was sick a few years ago. When I looked back over a week or a month of my food diary, I was able to see so many trends and connections between what I ate, what I was putting into my body, what I was doing and how I felt physically and mentally.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I feel like I owe my life to that food diary because it was so instrumental in me finally figuring out what on earth was going on with my sick body and therefore helping me realise what I needed to do to get better.

I find that, in general, we really have no idea what we eat because we eat so mindlessly in today’s fast-paced world. For many of my clients, their food diary is the first time they have even taken notice of what they are eating and how they are feeling, and when I do actually meet with them it’s incredible to hear them telling me all these things that they themselves have suddenly noticed about their diet and their body, simply as a result of keeping a food diary for just a week.

Tips For Keeping A Food Diary

Remember, a food diary doesn’t have to be a long-term thing or something that becomes a bit of a chore for you! My clients keep them for a week or two, or some continue for a few months. For me personally, I kept one for almost a year until it served its purpose, but I don’t have one anymore.

You don’t need a fancy template or anything, all you need is a pen and paper. I suggest using a little notepad, and recording each day on a new, separate page.

On the left-hand side of the page, take note of your main meals and snacks throughout the day, in chronological order, noting specifically what you ate and the time you ate it. Try to note down your drinks as well.

On the right-hand side of the page, take note of things like your mood, your energy levels, any digestive symptoms, any exercise taken and generally how you were feeling at different points during the day.

At the end of each day, take a few minutes to look over your food diary and look at the foods you ate and how you felt.

Start to identify any major gaps in your diet, for example, are you eating at least 5 fruit and vegetables every day?

Or maybe start to notice any aspects of your diet that are a bit excessive, such as eating a lot of unhealthy snacks.

Start to also make connections between what you ate and how you felt, for example, were you bloated after eating a particular food, did you have a slump in energy shortly after eating something sugary, and so on.

Most importantly, be as accurate and as honest as possible. Remember, the purpose first and foremost is to really help you understand your diet and your habits and your health, so you shouldn’t allow the process of keeping a food diary to actually alter your behaviour…at least not to begin with anyway!