You’re eating salads every day, you’ve traded soda for water and you haven’t visited your favorite donut shop in months. From the surface, it seems like you’re doing everything right – yet you still can’t drop the pounds. A daily eating chart lets you dive a bit deeper and identify problematic munching habits. After a few weeks of using a food diary, you might find that salad dressings are sabotaging your efforts and those weekly donut shop visits have just been replaced with equally bad breakfast burrito binges.
Decide which food journal format will work best for your daily life. While some people might prefer an electronic document, others might benefit more from a pen-and-paper version. And if you’re cell phone is permanently attached to your palm, you might find that it’s easiest to maintain a daily eating chart with a mobile application.
Create a chart with seven columns and about 20 rows. You might need to adjust the number of rows after a few days of tracking your food intake.
Label the first two columns. The “Time of Day” column lets you track the various times you eat meals and snacks. A “Food” column should include the type of food you ate and its portion size.
Label the next three columns to help you determine if your environment affects your eating habits. Include a “Location” column to track where you’re eating, such as at a restaurant, your desk or the kitchen at home, and an “Activity” column to track what you’re doing while you eat, such as working, watching television or visiting with friends. A “Who I’m With” column can help you determine whether your bad eating habits are encouraged by friends, or whether you reach for comfort foods when you’re alone.
Finish labeling your columns with “Mood” and “Hunger Level” labels. The “Mood” column should include the emotions you are feeling while you’re eating. Use the final “Hunger Level” column to gauge your current hunger level on a scale of 0 to 5 -- with 0 being not hungry at all and 5 being ravenous.
Write down every bite of food or beverage you put inside your mouth throughout the day. If your daily eating chart isn’t handy, write it down somewhere else -- whether you jot it on a napkin or type a quick message on your phone -- and add it to your food diary later.
Include the extras. While an extra dollop of sour cream might not seem like a big deal at the time, you may be surprised to find that a few extra dollops during the week add up to a significant calorie contribution. Don’t forget the cheese on your sandwich, the crumbled bacon in your salad or the generous spoonful of sugar added to your morning coffee.
- Review your eating chart regularly to find possible patterns. You might want to discuss your chart and your findings the next time you consult your doctor or nutritionist.
Krista Sheehan is a registered nurse and professional writer. She works in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and her previous nursing experience includes geriatrics, pulmonary disorders and home health care. Her professional writing works focus mainly on the subjects of physical health, fitness, nutrition and positive lifestyle changes.