What did you eat yesterday? Can you remember every food, even the candy bar you grabbed after soccer practice? Good for you! That wasn't too hard. Now try making a list of everything you ate the day before yesterday. Hmmm. Maybe you had raviolis for supper. Or was it soup? And what about last Saturday? You may think you're eating a variety of foods and making healthy food choices
, but wouldn't it be nice to know for sure? That's where keeping a food diary can help. back to top
What is a food diary?
A food diary is a record of the foods you eat every day. You keep track of the amount of food you eat and the time of day when you eat it. Your diary might say you didn't have time for breakfast and had a pizza bagel and an ice cream sandwich for lunch. Maybe you ate an apple and a handful of pretzels after school. Then it was spaghetti night and you picked the zucchini out of the sauce. Once you write down all your meals and snacks for one week, you may notice some trends and eating habits that you want to change. Whether your goal is to stop skipping breakfast on school days, to eat more vegetables, to get stronger, or to lose weight, your food diary can help you make decisions about how to get where you want to go. back to top
How do I keep a food diary?
Keeping a food diary is pretty easy. You can use the back of your school notebook, an online calendar, or a pocket notebook. Here's a sample food diary you can print out
. If you want to make your own food diary, you'll need these columns:
Foods I Ate and How Much
Write down everything you eat and drink. Try to be specific. For example, your diary entry might say blueberry muffin and one cup orange juice at 7 a.m. Don't forget to include beverages like water, coffee, and soft drinks and little things like gum, ketchup, and butter on that muffin.
Why? You may be eating more or less than you think you do. Or, you might think you eat well. But if you see that you haven't eaten a vegetable in four days, you can start to make some changes.
Time I Ate
Write down the time of day you ate the food. Was it 8 a.m.? 2:45 p.m.? Midnight? Be specific.
Why? Knowing when you eat can help you figure out things like why you were so hungry on Tuesday night. Maybe it was because you didn't eat for eight hours!
Where I Was and What I Was Doing
Write down where you ate the food and what you were doing while you ate. Were you with your friends in the school cafeteria? Were you at the mall? Or were you watching TV with your family?
Why? Keeping track of where you are and what you are doing when you eat can help you spot habits or situations that affect the way you eat. Maybe you eat more when you have supper in front of the TV. When you eat without savoring the taste of food, you are not aware how much you are eating.
How I Felt
Write down how you felt while you were eating. Were you happy? Nervous? Were you hungry, or did you start eating because you had nothing to do?
Why? Your appetite for food isn't just a response to your body's hunger signals
. Sometimes girls eat because of how they are feeling or because of their habits. You might find you snack after school, even though you aren't really hungry. Maybe you overeat
at lunch whenever you skip breakfast.
How hungry were you when you ate? Score your feelings of hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning not hungry at all and 10 meaning starving.
Why? Keeping track of your inner "hunger meter" shows you if you eat out of habit or for emotional reasons. Maybe you eat more sweets after having a fight with a friend. Listen to your body and eat in response to hunger, not anger or sadness. back to top
Tips for keeping your food diary
What will I learn from my food diary?
- Read food labels to help you keep track of servings and ingredients.
- Be honest with your food diary. You don't have to show it to anyone! The goal is to record how you really eat, not how you think you should eat.
- Enter your food choices as soon as you can so you don't forget anything. Carrying your food diary with you can be a big help. back to top
After you have kept your food diary for one week, you should be able to answer these questions:
- Am I eating a variety of foods, like the foods that make up the healthy diet for girls from MyPyramid? If not, where can I make changes?
- Am I eating more or less than I thought I was? Do I need to learn more about serving sizes and portions?
- Am I eating at about the same time every day? Am I eating regularly so I can look and feel my best? Or do I tend to skip meals and end up feeling tired and cranky?
- Does who I eat with or where I eat make a difference in what I eat or how much I eat?
- Do I listen to my body signals and eat when I'm hungry? Or do I eat when I'm lonely or in a bad mood? Do I skip meals when I'm busy?
- How can I use what I've learned to help me reach my goals? Do I need to make any changes? back to top