Food Journaling

On Monday, we talked about energy balance and the importance of knowing whether you lean towards the positive or negative side of  the energy balance scale. I mentioned that a food journal is a good way to get an idea of where you’re at. Today I’m going to talk about what I feel are the important things to keep track of.


First things first. You need to decide if you are going to use an online food journal or if you want to use a notebook.   You can search online food journal on your favorite search engine and it will bring up tons of options. Most of the online versions are free, but some of them require a fee be paid to access their site. Or you can just use a  notebook. I have tried several different sizes and have found that my favorite are the regular school size notebooks. If you watch the back-to-school sales, you can get them for as little as 10 cents a piece. Okay, if you’ve chosen the notebook option, next thing you’ll wanna do (especially if you have kids in the house) is make sure that everyone  understands that this particular notebook, the one that says “Don’t Even THINK About It!” on the front cover – It is yours. (Trust me on this one! I had  countless food journals  that  just  “disappeared” until I had this conversation with my children. ;))

After choosing which option (online or notebook) fits you best,  you’re ready. This is what I have my clients track for me so I can get an idea of where they are at. It’s what I track in my own food journals too! 1. Food eaten  2. Quantity of food eaten 3. Calories in quantity of food eaten 4. Fat grams in quantity of food eaten 5. Protein grams in quantity of food eaten 6. Carb grams in quantity of food eaten 7. Fiber grams in quantity of food eaten and 8. Amount of water (# of oz. per meal or in between meals each day)

Confused? Let me break it down for you. I promised an example from my own food journal, so here’s what I had for breakfast: a bowl of oatmeal with sliced  banana and a scoop of vanilla protein. It  looks like this in my food journal:

Food eaten                             Cal.          Fat gr.          Pro. gr.          Carb gr.          Fiber

1 c. oatmeal                           150           2.5                5                     27                    4

1 banana                                110            –                 1                     29                    4

1 sc.  protein                          128            2                 26                    2                     –

16 oz. water                            –               –                  –                     –                    –

Totals                                    388           4.5               32                    58                   8

Remember from the nutrition lessons, that fat has 9 calories per gram, where protein and carbs both have 4 calories per gram. Remember too, that fiber grams are subtracted from your total carb grams because fiber is indigestible by the human G.I. tract. Which means after you do the math I ate 40.5 calories in fat, 128 calories in protein and 200 calories in carbs. But that only adds up to 368.5 so where did the other 19.5 calories go? Because fiber is not digestible, it only contains on average 1.5-2.5 calories per gram. So, if you take my 19.5 calories that are unaccounted for and divide them by 8 (the # of grams of fiber in my breakfast)  you’ll get 2.4375 calories per gram. To make it easier, I just round up to 2.5. Now, you just repeat this same process each time you eat something, making sure that each time you total it out, you include all of the food you have eaten. By the end of the day, you will have your total calories, fat, protein, carb and fiber grams all right there together.

Keeping a food journal can be an  eye-opening experience! It can show you all kinds of things about yourself that you may not have noticed. For instance, you may notice that your trouble spot is between getting home from work and when you actually get dinner on the table. Or you may notice that your sweet tooth hits you right after lunch, or that you get a craving for salty stuff around 3 o’clock. Try it out and see what you learn about yourself. I’d love to hear about your discoveries!

Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself right now, “Well that’s great Laura, but now that I know how to track what goes in, how do  I go about tracking  my calories burned?” Come back on Friday when I’ll be talking about metabolism and energy requirements to find out! 🙂

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