Why Keep a Food Diary?

One of the best ways to become aware of your eating habits is to keep a food diary (food record). The food record is a useful tool for finding problem areas. It can also help you plan changes and set goals. The food diary is a record of everything you eat or drink over the entire day. It is usually kept for 3 days. The food diary may also explain why blood sugar levels drop or rise at certain times of the day.

Why keep a food diary? It is hard for most people to remember what they eat during the day. A food diary can point out what kind of food you eat, how much, how they are prepared and at what times of day you eat them. It is a total picture of your eating habits. It can show you if you are eating balanced meals. It can show you if you are eating too much or too little at a meal. This can help you understand why blood sugar levels are higher or lower at certain times of the day. Together, your food record and blood sugar logbook can show you what time of day you may need to change what you are eating.

In order to get a good picture of how your are eating, keep a food diary for at least three days. If you have a different schedule on the weekends, make one of the days Saturday or Sunday. Keeping a food diary only helps you if you take the time to study it. You will be able to find the things that you are doing right, as well as what you may need to change. Your dietitian or diabetes educator can help you identify if any changes are needed in your eating pattern.

How do you start a food diary? Keeping a food diary does not have to be difficult. You can use many different forms. You can choose a standard form or make one up yourself. Be sure your form includes:

  1. What foods you ate and drank
  2. How much you ate and drank
  3. When you ate

You may also want to write down how you felt when you ate. Were you so stressed at work that you ate some extra potato chips? Were you so busy that you ate less than (or didn't eat) what your meal plan called for? In addition, it might be helpful to record where you ate. By keeping a record of what, when and where you eat, you will become aware of any "danger zones." You will be able to create a healthy meal plan that fits your lifestyle.

Important things to remember

  • Write down what, how much and when you eat or drink.
  • Be as detailed as possible.
  • At first, do not change what you normally eat just because you are writing it down. You will want to see how you typically eat. The changes will come later, if needed.
  • Make this diary as easy as possible. Try writing it in a small notebook that will fit in your purse or pocket. Do not forget the little things we tend to add to foods (gravy, mayonnaise, salad dressing, butter, margarine).
  • Look for patterns of eating that need changing.
  • At the end of each week, compare your food diary to your meal plan. Record how they differ.

How can your doctor help you? Review your food diary with your doctor. He/she can help you make any needed changes. Also, sharing your food diary with your doctor may help him/her to prescribe medicines that better fit your normal way of eating. If you need more help with your meal plan, your doctor can refer you to a dietitian or a diabetes educator.