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One of the most important tools to living a healthy lifestyle is being accountable for the food choices we make. A great way to do this is to start a food journal. A food journal will help paint a clear picture of what you are putting into your body on a regular basis. Many of us think we are eating clean and wonder why we aren’t seeing results, but once we start a food journal we uncover bad food choices that we may have not realized we were making. The further along you get into your fitness journey, the more useful your food journal will become in helping you to overcome plateaus and keeping you in check. Below are a few tips on how to start a food journal!
1. Choose your method
There are so many great tools that you can use to start a food journal. Here are a few good options to get you started:
- Websites and Smartphone Apps
There are a variety of great websites and Smartphone apps that you can use to journal your food. One that I highly recommend is myfitnesspal.com, a calorie counting website that will also log your macros. It has a pretty extensive database of most foods on the market and will automatically log all nutritional information for you. MyFitnessPal also has an app that you can download for easy access from your Smartphone. This app allows you to scan barcodes of your favorite food items, so that you can easily log all of its information. Just be careful….some of the information is not accurate and you do have to make sure you are logging the correct serving size. Also be cautious of the calories and macros they recommend, they are a general guideline but may not be right depending on what your fitness goals are. I ignore them completely.
If you love taking photos with your phone, use your passion to your advantage and start a photo journal of your food. Just don’t forget to take the photo at the beginning of your meal….once you’ve chowed down you’ve missed your chance!
Another great tool to start a food journal is a good old-fashion notebook. The advantages of this are that you can get more detailed and log the time of day that you eat all of your meals, and you don’t have to worry about inaccuracies that are bound to happen with modern technology. Unfortunately with this method as with the photo method, you’ll have to do a little more digging if you want to track calories and macros.
So, which is the best method?
There is no right or wrong method to starting a food journal. Not sure which one is for you? Just pick one. There are pros and cons to each of these, but the important thing is that you build the habit of making this a part of your life. If one method doesn’t work, move on to the next one until you find the best fit for you. I started out using MyFitnessPal which helped me to grasp my macro-nutrient intake, and later switched to the notebook method because it worked better with the type of eating schedule I was using. Once I really learned how to eat clean and made it a habit, I was able to stop using the journal, and now just journal periodically when I’m trying to make gains that require tweaking to my diet. The more you journal, the clearer it will become which method is best for you.
2. Log everything that goes into your mouth
Once you’ve chosen your tool for your food journal, it’s time to start logging everything you eat…..and by everything I mean EVERYTHING! Log every snack, every glass of water, every piece of gum, etc. Did you eat a salad today? Log how many tablespoons of dressing you had. Did you eat candy? If so how many pieces? The more accurate you can be with your food journal, the easier it will be in the long run to tweak your diet and avoid plateaus. You will also uncover alot of hidden sugars, carbs, and calories that you were unaware of.
3. Be as Accurate as possible
When you start a food journal, it’s important to make sure you are being as accurate as possible with your food intake. Logging 4 ounces of steak when you really ate 8 ounces is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for failure. Measure your portion sizes if you are making your food at home, this will help you to be able to eyeball your measurements more accurately when you’re eating out. If your method allows, log what time you eat your meals. If your method doesn’t allow, try to make mental note of what time of day you usually eat. This will help you to understand how the timing of your meals may effect your metabolism.
4. Be Honest
Everyone is tempted to leave certain items off the record when they start a food journal, especially if you are sharing your results with a friend or trainer. Lying about your food journal won’t hurt that friend or that trainer, IT WILL ONLY HURT YOU! Put your pride aside and just be honest about what you’re putting into your body. This will really hold you accountable for your nutrition plan and get you one step closer to the results that you truly want and deserve!