Health Matters: What to Include in a Food Journal

    Frankie Wallace November 12, 2021

    Journaling has many purposes and many benefits. If you’re trying to be more mindful of your eating habits, starting a food journal is one of the best ways to keep track of things. It can hold you accountable for everything you eat. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or just maintain your overall physical health and wellness, a food journal is a great tool to dive into.

    The old saying “you are what you eat” rings true in many ways. The things you eat every day can impact more than your waistline. Your diet can affect your sleep health, your energy levels, and even your mood.

    Food diaries are often suggestions from doctors or nutritionists. But, you don’t have to wait for a medical professional to give you the green light on starting one.


    Now that you have a better idea of why you should keep a food journal, what should you include in it every day? The better question is, what can’t you include in it? Food journals can be more complex and detailed than you might think. Let’s take a closer look at some of the information you could (and should) be jotting down.

    Finding Food Issues

    Many people start food diaries to help them get to the bottom of underlying health issues. For example, if you have a digestive condition like GERD, you might regularly experience symptoms such as:

    ● Heartburn

    ● Difficulty swallowing

    ● Gas

    ● Bloating

    ● Regurgitation

    ● Chest pain

    Conditions like GERD and other stomach problems are often the results of diet. By regularly monitoring what you eat, you can start to notice certain patterns. For example, caffeine, chocolate, and garlic can make digestive issues worse for some people. By tracking your meals in conjunctions with episodes of your condition, you’ll have a better idea of which foods are “triggers” and which ones don’t cause problems.

    If you have more serious health conditions, like diabetes or heart problems, tracking what you eat can keep your symptoms at bay and make it easier to avoid harmful complications.

    Tracking things this way will also allow you to monitor your overall health and well-being. That includes everything from your mood, how you feel physically, and even your bowel movements. Having all of that “data” in one place will give you a clear picture of just how much your diet is impacting your life.

    Tracking Your Goals

    A food diary should be about more than tracking what you eat each day.

    Most people start these journals to reach a certain goal. For some, that means losing weight. For others, it means reaching a health goal that really has nothing to do with stomach problems or weight loss.

    First, consider what your health goals are. They should be the first thing you include in your food diary, so you have a baseline to look back on. Then, you can decide how your journal can help you reach those goals.

    It’s okay to start small. Maybe you feel fatigued or lose energy throughout the day, so your goal is to drink more water. A food journal makes that easy to track.

    Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping at night and you want to practice better sleep hygiene. That’s something that can (and should) be included in your journal. Using a sleep calculator can help you to determine which time you should go to bed and wake up to get an adequate amount of sleep. Sleep and diet are closely related since they can both impact your overall health. Sometimes, tracking both can help to reduce your risk of certain illnesses, including heart disease.

    You can also include your exercise routines in your food journal. If you do want to lose weight, or just maintain a healthier body, tracking your exercise endeavors along with what you eat is a great way to see how closely the two are related.

    If you have fitness goals, certain foods can help or hinder them. It’s not only important what you eat, but when you’re eating it. By writing things down, you’ll get a clearer picture of when you should eat before working out, and what you should eat to recover quickly.

    Tips for a Successful Journal

    For some, keeping a food diary will quickly become a habit. You won’t give it a second thought before writing down everything you consume. For others, it can start out feeling more like a chore until it becomes a part of your daily routine.

    So, it’s important to have a few helpful tips that can make your journal a success. Keep the following ideas in mind to make the process easier for you:

    ● Choose a small notebook you can take everywhere with you

    ● Write down what you consume when you consume it – don’t wait until later

    ● Include all beverages, even alcoholic drinks

    ● Be specific with portion sizes

    At the end of each day, review your journal. If you’re using it for things like tracking sleep, water intake, and exercise, take all of that information into account. It’s a “one-stop-shop” for reflecting on your choices for the day and being mindful of what you did. You can ask yourself what you did that you’re proud of, what you could do better, and if you’re on track with your goals. By reflecting on your journal every day, you’ll also be able to make more informed “tweaks” that will let you make better choices each day.

    Your ultimate goal with a food journal should be to improve your well-being and maintain a healthy relationship with food. By keeping a detailed diary, you will get to know your eating habits and choices in ways you probably never paid attention to before. It might end up being something you enjoy so much that it becomes a habit for life. Or, it could inspire you to make healthy decisions each day so you eventually don’t need to use it as a guide.

    For now, though, no matter what your wellness goals are, including as much information as possible in a food journal can help you reach them.


    Frankie Wallace

    Author bio:

    Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She writes about a variety of topics and spends her free time gardening.