Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Model Behaviour: How To Maintain An Accurate Food Diary

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If you are serious about weight loss, then you should be devoted to your food diary.  There is a growing body of evidence indicating success with weight loss in individuals who adopt the model behaviour of recording their intake in a food diary.

If you are not entirely convinced read Why Food Diaries Are A Girl's Best Friend.  Food diaries really can be key in ensuring that you achieve your short and long term goals.  We would all love a girl friend to encourage us through our weight loss journey, but when a friend isn't available, rely on these diaries.  The great thing about food diaries are that even when your mood changes and you abandon your diary, once you confidence and the courage to continue with the weight loss journey, you've always got your diary to refer back to.

The diary is a fantastic tool to verify what worked for you in the past and what didn't.  So if you are feeling inspired and want practical tips for completing an online food diary, grab a cuppa and let's go through a day's entry together.

Once you have created an account with myfitnesspal (or a similar online diary), you will notice straight away that you can log your food intake under the headings; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

I am going to start today's entry with Breakfast.

Breakfast is a classic example of how important it is to read the nutrition tables at the back of any food packaging.  If you eat cereal like me, it really does pay to screen your cereals.  If you feel bewildered and are unsure which cereal brand to choose, read this short guide to make the selection process crystal clear: Breakfast Attack: How To Screen Your Cereal.

I find that the suggested serving sizes on breakfast cereals are completely unrealistic.  Who actually only ever eats a tiny 40g portion?  I would be starving and eating my arm by mid morning if that was all I ate.  What I suggest you do is to weigh your morning cereal just once,  so that your diary entries are as accurate as possible.  

I have chosen a cup of milk as I use this in cereal but also for cups of tea through-out the day.  I never add sugar to tea therefore to save time, I simply add this as a single entry.  I will choose 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 x 1/2 cup of cooked oats.  Equally, you may be given the option of selecting 1 cup of cereal.  I have not weighed my cereal recently, therefore I prefer to overestimate.

Let's move onto lunch.  Today I ate mash with mackerel in a tomato sauce, a monstrous bunch of grapes and a pottle of reduced fat yoghurt as a snack later in the day.  I grabbed this from the hospital cafeteria therefore I really am clueless for exact weights.  I will need to estimate portion sizes.  After navigating to 'lunch', type in the food item that you would like to search for in the search box.  I typed in mash potato and selected the first option.

I chose 2 servings of mash as it looked like a large portion (from memory).  I've entered the mackerel to what I felt was the best match in the search field.  I am half way through completing the diary.

Before amnesia conveniently strikes, I better enter the 5 fun sized chocolates that I ate today.  What a dreadful day to reveal my diary I am thinking...  I checked the labels and each fun bar consisted of 40 calories.  I have therefore entered 2.5 servings as each fun bar on this particular selection provided 80 calories.

Had I not checked the labels or the calorie content of the actual product before eating, on entering 5 x 80 calorie fun sized bars, the diary would have falsely given me a higher calorie reading.  

My rule is simply not to fret about each and every single calorie but I also like to be as accurate as possible.  The idea is to record your intake to get a sense of how many calories are remaining in the calorie bank that day.  For example, if your diary tells you that have met you target for the day but you are still hungry, then you know to reach for the darling clementine and not for seconds from your evening meal.

Don't forget to record your exercise or activity for the day too.  I personally ignore all other columns (carbs, fat and protein).  Having said that, watch for trends.  Are you regularly exceeding one macro nutrient and under achieving in the other?  For a detailed review of your food intake, consult a dietitian.

I have completed my diary in full for you to view.  Click here Food/diary/GirlnThePurpleDress.  Don't forget, you will need the key purple.

And so my lovely readers, a quick example of how to complete a food diary.  Next time, we'll go through how to enter a complicated recipe.  Have you got tips on entering your intake?  How do you monitor your intake on a weight loss plan?  

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