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How To Keep a Food Diary

Keeping Track Of What You Eat Is Difficult, But It Is Worth The Effort


Updated June 03, 2014

There are many reasons that you might want to keep a food diary, from dieting to lose weight to determining if foods are causing gastrointestinal symptoms. A food diary can be done with a pen and paper, or with any number of online applications and web sites. You'll want to bring your food diary with you to your next doctor visit to discuss any problem foods that have come to light. Here's how!

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5 minutes/meal

Here's How:

  1. Obtain a small notebook that you can carry with you and keep handy.
  2. Organize each page into columns. This can be done by using one page for each meal/snack, one page per day, or whatever works best for you (and the size of your notebook!).
  3. The first column is "How Much". Estimate the size (inches), weight (ounces), volume (cups) or number (5) of the food you ate.
  4. The second column is "What Kind". What kind of food did you eat? Be very specific, and be sure to remember seasonings, toppings, and condiments such as butter, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
  5. The third column is "Time". What time of day did you eat the food?
  6. The fourth column is "Where". Write down where you ate. In a restaurant, at the dining room table, at your desk, over the sink, in your car?
  7. The fifth column is for "Who". Fill in who you were eating with, or if you were alone.
  8. The sixth column is for "Activity". Write down what you were doing while you ate. Were you working, driving, watching TV, or doing homework?
  9. The seventh column is for your "Mood". Take notes on how you were feeling while you were eating. Were you happy, sad, angry, or stressed?
  10. The eighth, and probably the most important, column is for "Symptoms". Write down any symptoms you may have experienced after you ate. Some examples might be diarrhea, stomach upset, bloating, gas, or heartburn.
  11. Bring your food diary to your next doctor's appointment so you can review it together.


  1. Be honest! It's important to report everything (even those cookies you ate at 2AM!).
  2. Update your records as you eat during the day. It can be difficult to remember everything you ate if you only make entries once each day.
  3. Be specific. The way a food was prepared or what it was served with can be important. For example, glazed carrots is a better description than just 'carrots'.
  4. Stick with it! You may be amazed at how a simple journal can help you and your doctor with your treatment.

What You Need:

  • Notebook or organizer
  • Pen or pencil
Related Video
USDA Food Pyramid Explained

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