As the New Year approaches, resolutions and goal setting may be on your mind. An important first step in goal setting and beginning the process of behavior change is to assess where you are at currently,
There is a large misconception that tracking your food intake only needs to be done if you are trying to lose weight. The reality is, many people can benefit from tracking their food intake regardless of what their health goals are.
Michigan State University Extension recommends. By tracking what you eat for a given amount of time, you will get a big picture of your eating habits. You can learn a lot about your habits, patterns, energy levels, digestive issues, skin issues and more by simply tracking your food intake.
You may not need to track your food intake forever, but even a few days, a week or a month can bring a lot of awareness to your personal food choices and shine some light on what you are actually eating and how it affects your body..
Making a record of everything you eat and drink may sound time consuming and tedious, but studies have found that those who make a record of what they are eating daily tend to lose more weight than those who do not.
What The Evidence Says
A 2008 study of 1,700 participants dieting for weight loss and improvement of lifestyle factors found that those who recorded what they ate lost twice as much weight as those who did not. In this study, the more records participants kept, the greater the weight loss they experienced throughout the duration of the study.
Similarly, in a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that those keeping a record of their food intake were more likely to lose weight. This study also found that, in 123 overweight to obese women, that lower levels of weight loss occurred when participants skipped meals and ate out for lunch at least once per week.
What is food tracking?
Food tracking means that you make a record of the food you eat daily. Traditionally this is done by keeping a food journal or food diary, but it doesn’t need to be that official or difficult. There are food tracking apps you can use.
Diet Rite has a feature called the meal tracker that allows you to create and track your food intake. It is simple, easy to use and intuitive..This feature makes tracking your food intake far less time consuming and more convenient than a traditional food diary.
Why Track Your Food Intake?
The idea of recording your food intake helps you lose weight or just improve your dietary lifestyle in a number of ways:
- Increases mindfulness
Often times we forget what we’ve recently eaten. Tracking helps you remain mindful of what you eat because you kept a record of it.
If you can see a page of healthy, nutritious foods that you have consumed it can motivate you to achieve this type of day again. If you see a day filled with unhealthy choices, you might want to improve upon this the next day.
- Provides you a better understanding of your current eating habits.
In order to make changes to your eatin habits (diet) to reach your goals, you need to know what your current eating habits are.
Whether it’s to lose weight or adopt a healthier eating lifestyle, you will need to make adjustments. Tracking your food intake will allow you to see where these adjustments need to be made.
It’s important to know how many calories you’re currently consuming and the source. Is the foods you’re consuming are healthy or loaded with added salt and sugars, Tracking your food intake will make you aware.
- Informs you how nutrient dense your food is.
Tracking your food intake helps you determine what foods are helping you to meet your goals/nutritional needs or preventing you from meeting your goals (and therefore help you reduce the amount of consumption or even eliminate).
Example, a latte with whole milk and syrups can add an extra 500 calories to your day. If you consume that latte every day, that’s an extra 3500 calories each week…that’s equal to 1lb of fat…every week.
- Holds you accountable.
By tracking you food intake, you will become aware when you near your daily calorie limit.
By recording or monitoring each meal, you can see how balanced your meals are and this can help you make better choices in the future or ensure you continue to make balanced choices for sustained energy.
- Helps you reach your goals.
Once you know the caloric density of your food, you can’t help but use that information for the future to help you reach your goals. Diet Rite says “If you track what you eat, you will watch what you eat”
If you know an dish you love contains 1000 calories, you will balance that dish with other foods so you stay within your set calorie limit. For example, while out to eat at The Cheesecake Factory you are debating what appetizer you want to order. Before making (Side note: this is different than a restrictive, boring diet. Tracking simply allows you to make informed decisions of foods you enjoy)
- Allows you to plan ahead.
Tracking your food intake allow you to plan what you’re going to get at the grocery store before you go, or what foods you can order while dining out will simplify your dining experience.
You will always know what you are eating and how it affects your body and your health, not just your budget. Once you learn by tracking your intake, you will improve your choice in the future.
Tips for accurate tracking
Food tracking is in the control of the dieter, but remember by putting inaccurate information in your journal or tracker, you won’t get the desired results. To see the benefits associated with food tracking:
- Be honest
Record what you are really eating
- Be accurate
Portion sizes are important to record|
- Be consistent
Tracking needs to take place every day, Try not to skip a day as it wasn’t one you want to remember.
- Be detailed
This is especially important if your journal will be shown to a health professional as they may need detailed information of certain nutrients you are consuming.
Also it is important to include drinks, condiments and small snacks, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
A few things to remember when you start tracking:
- The more often you track, the more likely you are to reach your goals.
Tracking keeps you informed about your intake over time. Tracking gets easier the more you do it.
There’s a learning curve to this. Be patient and overtime you won’t even realize that you’re making tracking a habit that takes little to no time out of your day.
- Track something v. nothing at all.
Often times we get caught up in picking the correct item to log but just having discipline, staying mindful, and holding yourself accountable to logging is just as beneficial in helping us reach our goals.
- Lifestyle habits will form by logging each meal, one at a time.
As you get more organized with doing this, logging your day ahead of time will force you to have a plan.
Log ahead of time to see if that food aligns with your goals. If it does not, delete it and choose something else.
Try tracking your food intake for 7 days. It might feel uncomfortable, but like everything, it will get easier the more you do it.