I created this blog with one goal in mind. To help others live a healthier life through diet and lifestyle choices. It’s a topic I know a lot about because I’ve spent far too many years feeling…not great. Through trial and error, I’ve found quite a few strategies that have worked for me and I’m excited to share them with you! One of the most helpful being food journaling.
In this article we will discuss the benefits of food journaling, how to keep a food journal and how to interpret the results. I’m also sharing my free food journal template (see submission at bottom of article to download!) so you can get started on your own today!
So, why Keep a Food Journal?
Well…we are what we eat. Ok, maybe not literally. But everything we eat is either healing us or hurting us. In fact, if you are plagued by fatigue, anxiety, skin conditions, digestive issues, brain fog, migraines or even aches and pains, I firmly believe your diet is likely a main contributor to your issues.
Here’s where things get tricky. Even if you are eating a healthy diet, your body may be reactive to these “healthy” foods, leaving you struggling through the symptoms noted above.
This Is where food journaling comes in. The purpose of maintaining a food journal is help you draw connections between the foods that you’re eating and how they make you feel. And it goes beyond just realizing that that bowl of ice cream leaves you feeling bloated and tired. You may also be able to identify patterns such as bananas leave you feeling full and energized, but not when consumed with dairy or on an empty stomach.
So now that you’re convinced keeping a food journal is a good idea, let’s discuss how to do it.
How to Start a Food Journal
The good news…it’s really easy! You simply write down everything you eat, pay attention to how you feel in the hours after consumption, and write down the results.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say you had a smoothie for breakfast. You would write down strawberries, banana, spinach, ground flaxseed and almond milk. If you notice any immediate reactions such as indigestion or bloating, write it down. If, 2 hours later, you notice you have a bit of a headache, write it down. On the contrary, if you don’t notice any adverse symptoms, write that down as well! After all, the ultimate goal is having a list of foods that make you feel your best.
Continue this same process throughout the day. Did you have a handful of almonds to hold you over between meetings? Write it down. Free cookies in the break room? Write it down. Polished off your kids PB&J sandwich they didn’t finish at lunch. Get your pen. And remember, don’t forget to write down the bread!
One unexpected benefit of keeping a food journal is that it makes your think twice about grabbing a quick handful of something. Or potentially I’m just especially lazy, but I do think it makes you pause and really think about how often, how much, and what you are consuming.
So now that you have a few days worth of data, what should you do with it?
How to Interpret your Results
It can be confusing to try to identify what foods are giving you grief. Maybe you had oatmeal with soy milk for breakfast two days in a row, but you only got a headache one day. The truth is, you can have a reaction to food up to 48 hours after you consume it, making it challenging to identify the problem food. That is why you must look at your results wholistically.
If you noted fatigue and brain fog at 3pm on Wednesday, don’t just look at what you had for lunch that day. Consider what you had for breakfast or for dinner the night before. As I suggested earlier, sometimes foods on their own may be ok but eaten in conjunction with, or after another food, might cause issues.
-Focus on eating foods free of preservatives or additives. The reason being, because the more random, unintentional ingredients you are consuming, the harder it will be to pinpoint the culprit! Focus on whole, fresh foods. It will also save you a lot of time writing down what you ate.
-You don’t need to write down EVERY ingredient. But at least write down the brand or a detailed enough description to be able to go back and look at the ingredient list if you find the food is causing you problems.
I hope you feel inspired and excited about starting your food journal! It’s an easy, inexpensive exercise that could have a life changing impact on your health. And remember, don’t forget to download my free food journal template! See submission below.
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