Medically reviewed on June 7, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Like gas to a car, food is the fuel that moves your body. For those with a food sensitivity, filling your body with certain foods is like filling your car with the wrong gas—it’s not going to work like it should. A food sensitivity could cause headaches, migraines, bloating, indigestion, stomach pain, and gastrointestinal distress. While these symptoms can be obvious, pinpointing the source of your symptoms isn’t always so easy. That’s where learning how to keep a food journal comes in.
A simple food journal can serve as a useful organization tool to help you track what foods you consume, how you feel (including any unwanted symptoms), and how the two could be connected. Read on to learn how to keep a food journal to help identify food sensitivities that may be contributing to your discomfort.
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A food journal is a daily log used to track what food and drinks you consume each day. It can help you understand your eating habits, identify unwanted symptoms, and inform the best diet decisions when it comes to you and your body. By logging your diet and any symptoms you experience after eating those foods, you can work toward identifying patterns in how your body reacts to the food you consume on a daily basis.
This can then help you formulate an elimination diet in which you temporarily remove foods you suspect are contributing to unwanted symptoms. After a few weeks—many elimination diets, like FODMAP for irritable bowel syndrome, use four to six weeks— reintroduce them and monitor for changes in how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. The goal of food journaling is to help you figure out if a food is connected to any unwanted symptoms.
If you think you may have a food sensitivity, use the journal sheets below to begin your food journaling journey.
Identifying food sensitivities can be a challenge. Unlike a food allergy, where allergens trigger a severe immune response with a nearly immediate reaction time, symptoms of a food sensitivity can be delayed a few hours up to a few days following the ingestion of a trigger food. Because of this, people with food sensitivities can go a lifetime without ever knowing. Below we’ve listed a few tips for uncovering food sensitivities that could be affecting your health and mood.
If you have a busy lifestyle, it can be difficult to keep track of a food journal. However, writing down observations related to the foods and beverages you consume doesn’t have to be complicated. You can even jot down notes in a spare notebook or log your food journal notes on your phone. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a novel; you can keep it short and sweet. Make sure to note meals, snacks, and beverages consumed—you won’t want to leave anything important out.
Stay the course! To uncover any food sensitivities, consistency is crucial. Set aside time after each meal or drink to quickly jot down what was consumed and how you’re feeling. For the best results, monitor your diet over the course of a month. You can even set a reminder on your phone to record your meals if you find yourself forgetting.
For food journaling to work, it’s important to pay attention to any commonalities or patterns that could link a certain food to a response. For instance, if you notice you feel bloated every time you have yogurt for breakfast, it may be time to temporarily eliminate dairy from your diet to see if that improves your symptoms.
A thorough food journal not only tracks what you eat but also how you’re feeling after meals and throughout the week. Make sure to take note of your mood, energy levels, or any changes in how you physically look or feel.
Make sure to be as honest as possible with your journaling. Remember, if everything in your diet looks “perfect,” it can be hard to identify patterns or potential trigger foods.
If you’re experiencing GI-related symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, heartburn, gas, or migraines, a food sensitivity test may be a good option for you. This test measures your IgG immune response (reactivity) to different foods, and you can perform it from the comfort of your own home.
Our at-home Food Sensitivity Test can reveal your IgG immune response to 96 different foods, and our at-home Comprehensive Food Sensitivity Test assesses your reactivity to 204 foods. Each food is rated on a Class scale of 0-3: Class 0 (normal reactivity) to Class 3 (high reactivity). The results of this test can help you prioritize which foods to include in a temporary elimination diet with an add-back challenge.
To track your progress, download and print out the food sensitivity tracker below to log any triggering foods after discovering your food sensitivities. You can keep this sheet to remind you which foods to stay away from when planning and preparing your meals, or bring it to your primary healthcare provider for a more in-depth look at what may be causing your symptoms.
Food journaling comes with multiple benefits. It can not only help you identify patterns in how certain foods make you feel, but also encourages accountability when making dietary changes to improve your overall health and lifestyle.
By self-monitoring your eating behaviors, you become more mindful of your consumption. With this, you can further develop your relationship with food, jot down your progress to reach dietary goals (like limiting your sweetened beverage consumption), or identify foods that just make you feel better.
Now that you know how to start a food journal, you might be wondering whether food journaling is right for you. While everyone is different, many people choose to start a food journal if they experience any of the following symptoms (and suspect they are related to food):
Once you’ve discovered a food or foods that trigger unwanted symptoms, you may want to eliminate or reduce your consumption of that food to ensure you are fueling your body with ingredients that make you feel your best. When it comes to meal planning with food sensitivities, look for new recipes or substitutions that can help you feel satisfied and enjoy mealtime, but without the uncomfortable symptoms.
We know that meal planning isn’t always easy. To make grocery shopping and weekly meal planning less of a chore, try downloading our weekly meal planner below.
The bottom line is that food sensitivities can be a pain—literally. So, consider giving food journaling a try! It can be a great way to not only figure out what foods are linked to your symptoms, but also help you create an overall healthier diet and lifestyle.
In addition to food journaling, taking an at-home Food Sensitivity Test or Comprehensive Food Sensitivity Test is a quick and easy way to test a broad set of foods and get results that can help guide a temporary elimination diet.
We understand that tracking, eliminating, or restricting foods can lead to or trigger disordered eating behavior in some people. For this reason, it is not recommended to take the Food Sensitivity test if you currently have or are in recovery for an eating disorder (such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder).