By Shavawn M. Forester, Ph.D., RDN  |  Moonshine Ink

Would you like to to know eight simple ways to achieve and keep your health goals this year? The unassuming food journal is a powerful tool, and when done well, provides you everything you need to achieve and keep your health goals forever.

Now, you are most likely familiar with the idea of food journaling, keeping track of your nutrition by writing down everything you put in your mouth, but maybe you’re not sure why or how to get started. And like most health habits, you are more likely to keep the it going if you know exactly why it’s helping and how you can make it happen.
So first, why a (great) food journal will change your health life forever:


It allows you to really know what, when, and how much food you’re taking down each day. The act of eating is so simple, yet impossible to gauge accurately by memory alone. And scientists have tested the accuracy of recalling meals, snacks, and drinks. The results …

• When asked to recall previous meals by memory alone, both men and women substantially underestimate calories, by 10 to 25 percent.

• Participants will unconsciously eat less when they are aware they are being monitored and when reminded of what they had to eat at a previous meal, independent of hunger and fullness.

• In one weight loss study a senior health research investigator found that those who kept a food diary six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less.

Time to Take Action!

Keep a great food journal with these eight essential steps:

1) MyFitnessPal: the best food journal app. I recommend it because it is very easy to use and is the world’s largest public nutrient database. Just download the app, enter your name and health goals, and start journaling. If you check out the website you will find hundreds of recipes, how-to’s, and groups to be a part of.  

2) Be Honest with Yourself: MyFitnessPal is the tool, but you, and you alone, are in charge of entering accurate information about what and how much you are eating.  

3) Learn to Measure: If you’re going to be honest with your entry you must be realistic when entering amounts. So, first, when you are at home use a measuring cup to check your servings. You do not need to measure like this forever, just until you get good at estimating. Second, when you are out of the house use your hand as a general guide:  

1 fist = 1 cup of grains, fruits, and veggies  

1 thumb = 1 oz solid food like cheese and peanut butter  

2 cupped handfuls = 1 oz airy food like popcorn and crackers  

Palm of your hand (size and thickness) = 3 oz of meat

1 cupped handful = 1 oz nuts and seeds  

Thumb above the knuckle = 1 tsp butter, mayo, sugar

4) Do it Now: You will be less accurate if you wait till the end of the day. Your best results are directly related to the accuracy of your food journal.

5) Get in Touch: In the notes section of MyFitnessPal you can write down how you are feeling each day — tired? Energized? Foggy? The type, amount, and timing of your meals and snacks feed your brain and body. If you connect what, how much, and when to your feeling of well-being, you are more likely to continue healthy habits.

6) Mindless Eating: If weight loss or maintenance is your goal, then your journal should also include notes on what foods you snacked on without thinking. This is a game changer; eliminating a few extra thoughtless snacks per day can leave you pounds lighter each year.  

7) Set SMART goals: Your health-style is important to you, and success feels amazing. The only way to make your goals a reality is to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely — SMART.  

8) Don’t Use Exercise as an Excuse: This is the number one problem when starting a new health plan. You exercise, which gives you an excuse to have one extra helping or an extra glass of wine. Because, rarely do you hear, “I exercised today, so I will eat a second helping of kale to help my body repair.” A great rule of thumb: We exercise to make our muscles strong and our brain sharp. We eat well to show off those muscles and nourish our nervous system.

Your happy, healthy body and mind await you this coming year. If you plan on keeping your healthy habits forever, then food-journal. Start today by downloading the MyFitnessPal app, use the eight steps above and get the results you deserve!


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