I’m going to venture a guess that if you landed here you have likely tracked your food in some way, at some point in your life.
Maybe you’ve kept a list of what you eat throughout the day in a notebook or on your phone. Maybe you’ve used a food logging app or followed a nutrition program with a tracking system.
Maybe I’m wrong and you’ve never attempted to keep a food log before.
Regardless of if you are a food logging pro, or new to this game, there are some serious benefits to logging your food.
Here at OnPoint Nutrition, we have helped thousands of people achieve their nutrition, health, and wellness goals. Many of these people have found success by logging their food as part of their work with their nutrition coach.
In this article, we’ll break down the top eight benefits of logging your food including:
- Boosting awareness of what you are eating
- Matching your eating habits to your daily needs
- Gaining insight into your eating patterns
- Learning more about what you’re putting into your body
- Setting and achieving specific goals
- Finding flexibility, while working toward your goals
- Planning and sticking to your plan
- Discovering what works for you
The Top 8 Benefits Of Logging Your Food
Boost Awareness Of What You Are Eating
If I asked you to write down everything you ate yesterday, including how much you ate and at what time, could you do it? Many people struggle to remember what they ate at their last meal, let alone over the past day or week.
This lack of awareness is often responsible for poor eating choices, an imbalanced diet, and potentially undesirable side effects like unintentional weight gain.
In my opinion, as a registered dietitian, the boost in awareness of what you are eating is the #1 benefit of keeping a food log.
Logging what you eat gives you a clear picture of:
- What you eat
- When you eat
- How much you eat
Depending on how you choose to log your food, you can also gain insight into why you eat the things you do. You may start to see patterns that arise day after day.
For example, you may notice that if you skip breakfast, you overeat at lunch because you are simply too hungry to control your portion. You may also notice that when you have a stressful day you gravitate to less healthy midafternoon snacks to give you a pick-me-up to get you through the rest of the day.
While what, when, and how much are all important factors to consider, often understanding the why behind your choices gives us important direction to help facilitate change.
Match Your Eating Habits To Your Daily Needs
The second biggest benefit of food logging is the ability to match what you put into your body with what your body needs.
This comes in a few different forms including matching your energy needs, nutrient needs, intake of certain food groups, portion sizes, and more. Essentially, the goal is to eat to give your body what it requires daily.
When you first start logging you may notice big discrepancies in some of these areas. You may be taking in too much of some things and not enough of others.
This misalignment prevents you from reaching your goals.
However, if you are aware of where these discrepancies lie, you can start to alter your choices to align with your goals both short-term and long-term.
Gain Insight Into Your Eating Patterns
We briefly touched on this above, but learning your patterns is valuable insight.
Your food log may show you that you eat the majority of your food in the evening. It may reveal that you eat more snacks than you thought. It might show that you aren’t hitting the recommended number of servings of fruit and veggies daily.
The insight we gain into our patterns allows us to shift them to align with our goals.
Let’s use an example here. Maybe after logging your food for a week you see that you are eating very little in the morning and early afternoon, and instead eating most of your food through the late afternoon and evening.
Maybe this is intentional and you are “saving” your food to prevent “running out” of calories or macros at night.
This is a behavior rooted in diet culture that’s worth diving into with a dietitian or nutritionist.
However, it may be unintentional. It may just be the way you’ve done things for a while and you fall into that routine naturally without thinking too much about it.
If you bring more awareness to this routine you may realize that it’s not working for you. The light breakfast and lunch are leading to a big dinner and a lot of afternoon and evening snacks. They may also be leading to choosing unhealthy options in the later parts of the day because you are too tired and hungry to care as much about your choices.
If you can shift your eating pattern to fuel your body more evenly throughout the day, you will likely notice better energy, better choices, and maybe even better sleep quality at night.
However, if you never saw this pattern, you would never be able to shift it.
Learn More About What You’re Putting Into Your Body
Food logging not only provides more awareness of the food we eat and our eating patterns, but it also allows us to dig deeper into what is truly going into our bodies.
We can get real data on things like:
- How much energy we are taking in
- Where this energy is coming from
- How our intake is spread out over various food groups
- Which vitamins and minerals we may not be getting enough of
Maybe you’ve had bloodwork done in the past and had some results that weren’t in the “normal” ranges. Getting clear on what is going into your body can help you adjust your diet to move these lab values to an optimal level.
Set And Achieve Specific Goals
If you use your food log to give you a baseline of where your intake is currently at, you can use this information to set and achieve more specific, targeted goals.
For example, in the OnPoint Nutrition daily targets system, you can see how many servings of each food group you are eating daily. If you realize you are averaging too many servings of starch and too few servings of vegetables each day, you can set a specific goal to eat more veggies and fewer carbs.
This will help to give your body what it needs each day while helping you work toward your big-picture, long-term goals.
If you aren’t measuring your behaviors and aren’t tracking your progress toward your goals, you are far less likely to reach them. Food logging allows you to do both.
Find Flexibility, While Working Toward Your Goals
Flexibility is important for sustainability. Putting yourself on a rigid regimen is usually a recipe for disaster.
However, if you are logging your food, you can include some flexibility, while still knowing you are on track to make progress.
If you know you’re going out for a big meal or having cake to celebrate a birthday, you can include these things into your day, while still working them into your daily needs.
This will likely mean making adjustments earlier or later in the day, but it gives you peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy without knocking yourself off track.
Plan And Stick To Your Plan
Going off of the idea of adjusting your day, logging allows you to plan and be prepared.
There are a few different approaches to food logging, but one that can be helpful is logging your food ahead of time. You may want to spend some time in the evening planning for the following day or in the morning entering what you plan to eat for the rest of the day.
This allows you to have a plan, see how everything lines up, and adjust if you notice anything missing. It also helps you stick with your plan because it’s already written down for you.
Now, this doesn’t have to be set in stone. If you find yourself wanting something else, you can adjust and alter the plan throughout the day. Remember, flexibility is key for sustainability.
However, simply having a plan sets us up for success and makes the rest of the day easier.
Discover What Works For You
As I said, there are a few different approaches to food logging, but diving in and starting will allow you to find what works for you.
Some people choose to track calories or macros. At OnPoint Nutrition we use a daily targets system. You may like logging your food electronically or prefer a good-old-fashion notepad.
You may also adjust your logging for your goals. If you are hoping to gain or lose weight, tracking your overall intake and seeing how it stacks up against your needs is key. If you are struggling with IBS or wondering if you have food intolerances, you will likely log both your food and your symptoms to start to identify patterns.
One important note is that food logging isn’t for everyone. If you are currently, or have previously, struggled with an eating disorder or disordered eating, food logging is likely not the approach for you. Additionally, if you are working on eating intuitively, you may or may not want to log your food.
Working with a knowledgeable nutrition coach who understands your goals can help you determine the best path forward for you.
Need Some Support With Food Logging?
Now you know some of the benefits of logging your food. You understand how it can help you and how to use it to your advantage.
I hope you’re feeling excited and empowered to jump into logging.
However, if you’re still a little unsure of how to use this tool to reach your goals, or if you just feel that you need more support and guidance to maximize your time and effort, we are here for you.
The OnPoint Nutrition team will guide you through your food logging journey and be with you every step of the way from setting to achieving your goals.
If you are ready to dive in, schedule a free consultation now, and our team will get you set up for success.
Liz has been reading nutrition labels since she learned how to read. Growing up with severe peanut and tree nut allergies she learned that it’s important to know what you are putting into your body. She made her first big lifestyle change as a freshman in high school, when she decided to become a vegetarian. However, it wasn’t until she took a food class in Italy as part of a study abroad program in college that it clicked in her mind that she wanted to make food and nutrition her career. Liz graduated from Penn State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition, as well as a bachelor's degree in Marketing. She completed her dietetic internship with Aramark in Philadelphia, and her master's degree at Northeastern University shortly after.