Weight Loss
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5 minute read

Why you should keep a food diary to help lose weight

Written by
Reviewed by
DR JOSEPH SANTOS

If you’re one of millions of Australians who are currently on a diet, you’ve probably spent hours researching what to eat, finding new exercise routines and understanding new supplement and meal replacement trends only to end up confused why you’re not losing weight. 

This is where tracking your eating in a food diary can help. When you record your meals, snacks and food related notes throughout the day, you can track how well it matches your diet meal plan. An added benefit is you can also reflect on why you were successful some days, but not others, to help you ‌ have more successful weight loss days. 

Studies have found when participants use food diaries, they often lose more weight. In addition, the more frequently you track your food intake, the more likely you are to lose more weight. If you’re planning to lose weight, consider how using a food diary could help you achieve your weight loss goals. 

In this guide, we explain what a food diary is, everything that you should record in it, and how you can use a food diary to understand your eating habits.

What is a food diary?

A food diary is a daily log of everything you eat and drink. It could be as simple as downloading a free food diary template and writing it all down on paper. Or you could use an app such as one of these recommended by Vic Health to complete it on your phone or computer. 

A diary can give you a complete understanding of what you’re eating each day, and not miss meaningful, but easy to forget details, such as an occasional piece of cake with coffee.

It’s important to be truthful and include as much detail as you can when writing your food diary, particularly if you’re using it to discuss your weight loss with your doctor or nutritionist. They will need to have an accurate record of your diet in order to give you advice on your weight loss treatment options and make recommendations tailored to your needs. 

What are the benefits of a food tracker diary?

If someone asked you what you had for lunch last Tuesday, would you be able to remember? Unless it was a special occasion, probably not. The benefit of a food diary is that you note what you’re eating as you eat it.

A good food tracker diary doesn’t just include what you ate. It can also include details such as:

  • what size your meal was,
  • who you ate it with,
  • when and where you ate,
  • how you felt before, during and after your meal. 

When you’re being conscious about what you’re eating and writing it in a diary, you can have a greater awareness of the food you consume. For example, you might realise you eat a lot more sugar than you first thought or you might realise you don’t have enough vegetables in your diet. 

A food tracker diary might also help you make better choices throughout the day. When you’re paying more attention to what you’re eating, you’re more likely to choose a more nutritious snack or meal if the option is there. 

Do food diaries help lose weight?

Several studies have found a link between tracking food intake and weight loss. They show that by having a greater awareness of the number of calories you’re consuming with each meal and snack, you’re more likely to make better choices in the short and long term. 

There's also evidence to suggest that the more often you track your food intake, the more likely you are to lose weight. If you wait until the end of the day to write what you ate, you’re more likely to forget some details. 

When you track food as you eat it, your food diary will be more accurate and you’re more likely to lose weight

How to use a diet diary to aid weight loss

Using a food diary to aid weight loss is as easy as downloading a daily food diary pdf and filling in the details for each meal and snack you eat. 

You could include details such as:

  • What you ate. You could also include how it was cooked and any sauces or condiments you ate with it. 
  • How much you ate. If you’re at home, you could measure it with household measures (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons) or weigh your food using scales. When you’re out and about, do your best to estimate the portion or check the packet if it’s something you’ve bought. 
  • When you ate. It’s helpful to write the time you ate as it can identify patterns such as mid-afternoon snacking. 
  • Calories. If you use a calorie tracker app or website, it's helpful to tally up your daily calories to keep track. 
  • Who you ate with and how you felt when you ate. You may also want to write any other useful information, such as who you ate with and how you felt. For example, if you were in the car alone while snacking, you may have eaten more than you realised because you weren’t paying attention to your portion size. 

7-day food diary example

If you’re not ‌sure what your food diary is supposed to look, our 7-day food diary example shows how much detail you could add. 

In this fictional example, Jenny Jones writes about how she eats more unhealthy snack foods when she’s working in the office compared to at home. She also might notice that she doesn’t eat enough fruit and vegetables over the weekend and might need to remember to drink more water. 

How to get started

If you’re ready to start a food diary, download our free food diary template

Once you’ve completed a week or two of your diet diary, have a look at it and see if there are any patterns. Are you eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains? How much sugar are you consuming? Are your moods affected by what you’re eating? 

You can take what you’ve learnt to a health professional at Rosemary who can help identify areas for improvement and discuss your goals with you. Our doctor-guided weight loss program is online and easy to access. Our doctors can prescribe and design a treatment plan to suit your lifestyle and goals.

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