Healthy Through the Holidays: Keep a Food Log.

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Today I want to talk about the importance of keeping a food log for the next 5 weeks. I like to recommend food logs because I think they can successfully help keep us accountable.  Believe it or not, our daily calorie allotment can be utilized quickly; a few extra bites here, a couple drinks there, and you’ve just consumed an extra 500-1000 calories! Baffling!

So the first thing I want you to do is find a journal. It could be an old notebook or something a little more fancy, but please find something with enough room for a 5 week food log. Get a journal that can easily be carried around in your purse or work bag so you can write down what, when, and how much you are consuming right after you eat. It’ll be a lot easier to remember what you ate if you keep the log with you at all times. Plus, you might find yourself more mindful before eating a whole bag of M&Ms when you know you have to answer to your food log!!!! I also want you to include how you felt before and after you ate; hungry, rushed, sad, angry, etc.

Below is an example of the format I think is best. This is what I ate yesterday:

  • 8:00 am: Oatmeal: 3/4 c. organic whole milk, 3/4 c. frozen mixed berries, 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 tablespoon dried goji berries, cinnamon, and vanilla. Water to drink.

Thoughts: Woke up really hungry. Couldn’t wait to dig in to a healthy breakfast. Felt extremely satisfied after I ate.

  • 11:45 am: 1 slice multigrain bread with 1/2 tsp organic butter. Water to drink.

Thoughts: Hungry. Waiting on the hubby for breakfast and decided to eat a piece of toast before he arrived.

  • 12:30 pm: 2 pastured eggs, 1 slice multigrain bread with 1/2 tsp organic butter, 2 kiwis, 4 oz orange juice, water.

Thoughts: Hungry. Ate a little more than I would have liked, so I was really full after this meal. Next time I might exclude the OJ or nixed the second piece of toast!

  • 3:30 pm: Snickers peanut butter square, water.

Thoughts: Not really hungry, just wanted something sweet. Maybe I was bored? Next time I might try to go for a walk instead.

  • 4:45 pm: 1 tsp TJ’s almond butter with flaxseeds and banana, water.

Thoughts: hungry. Pre-workout snack. Felt really satisfied afterwards.

  • 6:30 pm: 1 1/2 cups vegetarian chili, 1 cup mixed greens with 1 cup mixed veggies and 1 tablespoon homemade balsamic vinaigrette, glass of ice water.

Thoughts: Post-workout high! The tummy was grumbling for dinner! This chili was so delicious and super satisfying!

  • 8:00 pm: ~1 1/2 cups homemade popcorn with 1 tsp melted organic butter, water.

Thoughts: Needed a nighttime snack. I was truly hungry. This was just what I needed to feel satisfied.

*Don’t forget to include beverages. Those calories will sneak up on you too! Make sure to include the time and amount of each food you consume! Keep the log as neat as possible, making it much easier to reflect back on! I’m not much of an emotional eater anymore, so if you are, be sure to include what emotions you were feeling when you decided to eat!

If you are looking for more detailed information about calories, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, etc, I suggest signing up for a free online food journal called The Daily Plate. Once a member, follow instructions for how to add all the foods from your food log to the website, getting a detailed break down of how your intake met your daily requirements. The Daily Plate is super simple to use! Be sure to check it out!

If you start keeping a food log, be sure to ask yourself the following:

  1. Where are my calories coming from? Do I have a lot of “empty” calories in the form of chips, cookies, and other snacks?
  2. How can I add more fruits and vegetables throughout the day? Can I replace any snacks for something more healthful?
  3. What am I drinking? Do I consume a lot of soda, diet soda, sweetened teas, etc? How can I drink more water?
  4. Am I getting enough variety? Or do I eat the same foods every day? How can I change it up?
  5. Do I eat breakfast? If not, how can I include breakfast every day?
  6. Do I eat regularly or do I go longer than 4 hours without eating? Could this be setting me up for a binge?

Your food log is going to be your new best friend these next 5 weeks. Just remember to be honest with it. If not, you’re only hurting yourself!

*With all of this being said, there are some people who would not benefit from a food log and that would be those who feel it makes them compulsive, particularly those who have suffered eating disorders. If you have suffered from an eating disorder or another obsessive compulsive behavior when it comes to health, this post is not for you.

QUESTION: Have you ever kept a food log before? Did you find it helped?


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17 comments to Healthy Through the Holidays: Keep a Food Log.

  • I’m a Weight Watchers girl from way back and find journaling to be helpful when the pounds start creeping back on. It helps me become more aware of increasing portion sizes and poor food choices. All that being said, I find journaling is most useful for folks needing to lose weight as they often don’t have realistic expectations of portions sizes and the calories they are consuming. Often times, once in maintenance mode, they can do as I do and journal when needed. As you say, for some it can contribute to food disorders. Great blog post. :)

  • [...] Erin recommends tracking food intake over the holidays. [...]

  • Jessa

    I kept a food log in college and was surprised by all the extra calories I would consume, turns out I wasn’t eating as healthy as I thought I was. And I recently came across this site that offers a wealth of scientific info on healthy weight loss foods, I’ve learned a lot from it and think I’ll use it to help w/ my new log..http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/weight-loss/ (btw, it’s non commercial).

  • Keeping a food journal can really help you identify what you are doing well and what might need a little work. I think using one every now and then can really help you stay on track! We just revamped ours and are excited to offer the Ultimate Food Tracker in our new boutique: http://aroundtheplate.org/boutique.

  • Yep, nicole. Food logs are not for every body and I stated that clearly at the bottom of the post.

  • i do not agree with the food log recommendation just because i, formerly, for 11 years, took it to the extreme. just knowing, and feeling, and being comfortable with my food is enough. food logs, to me, are toxic. x

  • I love this series! I will definitely tune in all Holiday Season for your tips!

    I kept a food journal like a mad-woman for, oh, hmm… 10 YEARS!! So, now I tend not to. I became a little too obsessed. HOWEVER. Now that I’ve overshared, allow me to say that I totally agree with you that this is an amazing tool for most people. Especially those just now embarking on really shifting from a diet mentality to a life-style mentality.

  • Gen

    I’ve done food logs before…..but I really have to be careful not to get too obsessed! :D

  • I have been keeping a daily log for about a year now to help keep myself accountable! Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and tips!

  • I’ve kept a food log before and like it. But it seems to be only something I can do in the short term. If I go for very long, I start to obsess and that’s when things go down hill quickly…

  • This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I do think journaling your food intake can be very helpful. My coworkers and I are starting a healthy holiday challenge this week and I am definitely going to try and be extra mindful of what I am eating.

  • I’ve been keeping a food journal as part of my holiday health challenge. I find it really helpful and it keeps me accountable for what I’ve been eating.

  • What a fabulous idea for the next five weeks! I have noticed that with all the Christmas parties I’ve attended, I have consumed way too many snacks and boozey bevys. Throughout the past few months I have been mindful of what I’ve been eating, thanks to your “best self one month makeover,” but I think I need extra accountability over the holidays. I find a food journal works best when I pre-plan and record everything I am going to eat for the day. Thanks for the idea, pretty lady!

  • Ahh love this too!! I used to HATE food logging years ago, it became a fixation for me vs. a real tool. But now, I’ve learned to use a food log to my advantage and am IN LOVE with it. I’ve learned how to read my hunger cues (or boredom cues!) way better and am much more satisfied with the foods that I DO choose to eat. Plus, my body is more fit and balanced because I’m eating the same amount of calories every single day, including weekends (which were a danger zone for me before). GREAT post!!

  • I have kept a food journal before, when I started on my weight loss journey, but have not done it in a long time. I find it exhausting and sometimes found myself too consumed with it. I think it is a great idea for people who are just starting off on this journey, because it’s really important to know and learn what you are putting into your body. Just like everything else with eating and training, it’s about what works best for you or the client. It’s all about experimenting. :)

  • Doing it. Starting today. I need to watch portion control too and drink more water. I felt like I was already flying off the bandwagon over Thanksgiving!!

  • I hate logging my food, but I’m gonna do it. I can do anything for 5 weeks. I’m already loving this series. Thanks!

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