Food journals, dietary logs and survey questionnaires are common practice for assessing what type of nutrition you take in. They can help to identify deficiencies in your diet and help you determine how you feel with certain foods to having more energy when you are eating properly.
Chronicling what foods you eat is important for improving your health and monitoring your lifestyle choices. As 1 lb = 3,500 calories weight fluctuations are often caused by diet. Food logs also allow you to ensure that you receive proper amounts of key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are necessary for maintaining and improving your health.
Several journal articles provide insights about why monitoring food intake is useful. While they each address different issues with determining what we eat, as a group they document that food intake is important to understand.
Bezerra did a review article looking at the association between eating out and your body weight. If you eat out you aren’t always aware of what goes into your food during the cooking/preparation process. Often restaurants don’t give diners the correct portion size for an individual and so it can be easy to overeat or exceed your caloric goals.
Sandstrom analyzed the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) for the European Union. The goal was to create recommendations that were achievable, representative and suitable for different cultures. Sandstrom identified which nutrients were eaten from possible food sources, what the most popular foods for the population were, what forms of food intake were reflective of adequate nutrition, and finally deciphered what the FBDG portion sizes, frequency, types of food and the ideal makeup of a meal should be.
Sharma looked specifically at the diets of inner-city low-income African Americans older than 18 and worked to develop a Quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire (QFFQ) for this population to determine what type of intervention program could be established to help improve nutrients ingested and therefore diminish risk of chronic diseases.
These three studies explain in detail why being aware of what we eat is important. Dietary assessment doesn’t need to be a daunting task. With technology it is now possible to not only keep a written food journal but enter your data online, through your phone or even by documenting with pictures (www.meallogger.com).
MyFitnessPal.com is my recommendation for beginning to monitor your food and physical activity levels. I even have mine as an application for my smartphone and it is set with alarms to remind me if I forget to enter my meals. It has been a useful log so that I have been able to determine when I tend to have certain types of food cravings. I can quickly see when I make serious progress and lose weight and I can also use it as a tool to get healthier with my family since I can see their progress and send encouragements. I have mine set to specifically look at my carbs, fat, protein, fiber and caloric intake. This way I can at a glance look at whether I am meeting my nutritional objectives with proper nutrients and vitamins. Your first step is to create your free account with MyFitnessPal or whichever service you prefer and start keeping track of your meals. After a few days you will get into a rhythm and it will not feel like a chore but part of your regular daily schedule
Bezerra IN, Curioni C, Sichieri R. Nutr Rev. 2012 Feb;70(2):65-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00459.x. PubMed PMID: 22300594.
Sandstrom, B. (2001). A framework for food-based dietary guidelines in the European Union. Public health nutrition, 4(2A), 293-305.
Sharma, S., Cao, X., Arcan, C., Mattingly, M., Jennings, S., Song, H. J., & Gittelsohn, J. (2009). Assessment of dietary intake in an inner-city African American population and development of a quantitative food frequency questionnaire to highlight foods and nutrients for a nutritional invention. [Article]. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 60, 155-U190. doi: 10.1080/09637480902755061.