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Food Journal 2.0–Knowledge is Power



Food journals are a great tool to identify areas of your diet which could use improvement.  I use food journals to shed light on daily eating habits.  My patients often express surprise when they journal daily consumption habits.

Food is a direct trigger for both “health” and numerous “Dis-Eases” ranging from allergies, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and skin disorders.

Food journals serve as measurement tool.  That which we measure gets managed.

In this post I will give tips on how to food journal and provide key tips for improving dietary habits.

Preparing a Food Journal

I prefer using a small spiral notebook easily carried in a purse or backpack.  For greatest insight and accuracy you want to have the journal available at hand so you can quickly jot every beverage, snack, and meal.  When making notations, be honest, document every intake good or bad.  The point of the exercise is not to generate self-loathing or guilt but to objectively identify areas of possible dietary improvement.

Journal Tips

  1. Small spiral notebook
  2. Document each meal/drink/snack
  3. Be brief but make enough notation to recall specific foods and quantities
  4. Not necessary to try and calculate calories
  5. Don’t judge yourself, simply objectively document
  6. Journal 5-7 days to accurately depict your dietary normals
  7. Make note of special stresses, sleep patterns, and cravings
  8. Take a cell phone photo of each meal–this will jog your memory for the journal, and has been shown to promote weight loss following this simple habit.  

Setting Goals Based on Journal Findings

After a 5-7 days recording your eating habits, set aside some time to review and identify areas of improvement.  Most people not living under rocks or extreme states of denial understand that there are some very key types of food that simply aren’t good for you.  I’ve written on these topics extensively and I offer you these posts to highlight key foods you may want to identify and strike from your diet.  (See Food Sensitivities, Focused Nutrition, and Athletic Performance killers).

Once you have reviewed your habits, set a few goals based on the following dietary goals.

Suggested Dietary Goals

  • Never drink soda, fruit juice, or sweetened beverages (Not even artificial sweetners)
  • Habitually avoid or severely limit alcohol consumption (Beer/wine/liquer)
  • Avoiding pies, cakes, pastries, pasta, rice, and bread (Carbohydrate foods cause weight gain)
  • Developing the habit of consuming 30 gms of protein within 30 minutes of waking (Like two eggs)
  • Increase intake of fresh water from your baseline
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Increase vegetables and quality fats found in foods like meat, avocado, and nuts.
  • Sweet tooth?  Replace with fruit snacks.

Beware of dietary “Balanced Diet!”

The world is now full of information and experts plugging the latest diet.  People become easily confused by the minute details and subtle differences between dietary advice.

Eat this, don’t eat that.

(Count your calories….low fat…low carb…grapefruits….Zones….powders….shakes….pills…blood type diets…etc)


Current research suggests we are hunter/gatherer creatures.  We optimally function with a balance of foods gathered from our environment (Vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, nuts…etc.)

The traditional, culturally driven, modern diet has huge quantities of sugar, chemicals, additives and processed grain (Wheat, soy, corn).

The human body was not designed for this type of diet and  this causes the vast majority of medical problems today.

Focus on the items that make the biggest difference.

Make goals and track your progress!

I’m looking forward to hearing feedback on food journals, please share with our community of readers your discoveries with this process.  Share the experiences you have with the basic dietary modifications I suggested.  “Change your story”  Take a look under the hood and figure out what you’re doing day to day!

Looking for Healthy Snack / Meal Ideas?

Travel Meal Ideas

Tips on Fruits/Vegetables

Benefits of Home Grown Foods

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Pam February 16, 2016, 7:30 am

    It’s pretty intriguing actually. I’m testing my pH for 30 days. And watching it go up and down and then questioning myself as to which foods caused the change. After eating like a rockstar, why did the next day’s pH turned more acidic. Hmmm.

    My journal is in an app on my phone but I seriously see the benefit in having a manual version. Easier for back-tracking and referencing, etc.

    • William Curtis MD February 16, 2016, 10:18 am

      I’d like to review that app with you.

      Which test strips are you using?

      I’m having a lot of trouble with people using strips that don’t read in the appropriate pH range.

  • George February 18, 2016, 12:41 pm

    I too use an app (My Fitness Pal) for tracking my meals and have been for a while. I find it very helpful to keep you aware of what you are eating. food journaling makes you think about what you should eat rather than just binging on the doughnuts at the office.

    • William Curtis February 19, 2016, 8:39 am

      So the app tracks meals, breaks down meal components?

      How has it change behavior?

      I often find “That which gets measured, gets managed”

      • George March 4, 2016, 11:22 am

        Thats exactly the idea, once you start to keep track of what you are ingesting you realize how bad it looks on paper and you want to change it. I started to use it heavily around mid November of 15 and since then have dropped ~30lbs and I am currently still at it working on recomposition. I stick to a ketogenic meal plan. Food intake is everything! Diets are fads….

  • Edward Cantu March 6, 2016, 8:24 am

    After reading Dr. Curtis book, I found the bottom line is to avoid foods with high sugar contents. I have an app called “low GI” on my IPhone. It give you the Glycemic load of each food item. Its easy, if the food item is a green color, its has a low sugar level and good for you, if it is orange or red, it has a high sugar content, you don’t eat it. I lost 15 lbs in three months.

    • William Curtis MD April 11, 2016, 6:42 am

      Somehow I missed this comment Ed.

      I’m impressed with your dietary change and applaud using technology to further your progress.

      15 pounds is a huge change and evidence you are making changes your body prefers!

      Keep up the good work!

  • kat April 21, 2016, 1:35 am

    I recently viewed you on the diabetes summit and loved your information, and positive spin on creating a better health path. I do have a question, how do I balance life in a high paced work environment with healthy eating? I work in a mall so my eating choices are few and far between and I find myself stress eating. I am also type two.

    • William Curtis MD April 27, 2016, 7:32 pm

      Time pressure can cause bad decisions with nutrition. Usually the issue boils down to planning ahead.

      I’m going to have a awesome chef, busy mom, and fitness guru tackle this question for you! Stay tuned!

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