A food log, also called a food journal or food diary, is a method of meal tracking frequently used by people who are trying to lose weight or make other dietary changes. Food logs are often recommended by nutritionists and dietitians when they are working with clients who may be having difficulty changing their eating habits. One might choose to keep a log on one's own as well, just to bring more awareness into one's eating habits. A simple lined notebook can work as a log, or a computer spreadsheet is another great approach to keep the information organized.
In a food log, one will first determine a certain period of time for which he or she will be logging the food intake. This might be as little as a day, or as long as a week, two weeks, or a month. In general, it is a good idea to keep a log for at least a week, in order to get the most complete picture possible of eating habits. This complete picture will begin to clearly illustrate where changes need to be made.
The most basic type of food log typically involves writing down every single thing that one eats or drinks throughout the day. Many people are shocked to see how much they actually eat when they are forced to write it down, finding that they often eat mindlessly throughout the day, which can be a huge contributor to weight gain. One may not even need to write down the caloric content of the food; often the list is enough.
Some choose to research the caloric contents of food, however, and make this a part of the food log as well. This can be very beneficial for someone who is trying to lose a significant amount of weight, or who is trying to eat a specific number of calories in order to correspond to an exercise goal. Calorie counting is one of the most effective ways to alter the diet and lose weight.
Keeping a food log for a dietitian also allows him or her to make specific recommendations for dietary changes. For instance, if a dietitian sees that one drinks a soda with lunch every day, he or she might recommend that the client replace that soda with water or unsweetened iced tea. The client will probably be asked to continue to maintain the log until lasting changes have been made or until weight loss or health goals have been reached, such as lower blood sugar or lower cholesterol.