Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on March 15, 2021. 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.
Keeping a food journal is a great way to take control of your health and wellness. Maybe you suspect certain foods may be causing your unwanted symptoms, or you’re wanting to hold yourself more accountable to reach a new health goal? A food journal can serve as a useful tool to help you track what foods you are consuming, how you feel (including any unwanted symptoms), and how the two could be connected.
Wondering what you should write in your food journal and where to start? Continue reading for our tips on how to keep a food journal.
Whether you’re just curious about your eating habits, wanting to track your calories, or looking to make some lifestyle changes, there are several reasons to consider keeping a food journal. One of the most common reasons for food journaling is to identify potential food culprits in your diet that may be causing symptoms such as:
While these symptoms could be linked to a number of different health-related issues, they could be a sign of an issue—such as food intolerance or food sensitivity—that’s specific to certain kinds of food you eat.
In the case of food sensitivity, symptoms can show up hours or even days after you consume a problematic food, which can make it hard to identify the culprit or culprits. This is where a temporary elimination diet, which is when you temporarily remove suspected problematic foods from your diet and then reintroduce them after a period of time, may help you track down the food or foods causing your uncomfortable symptoms.
Do you frequently experience symptoms after eating and suspect they could be related to potential food sensitivities? The Everlywell at-home Food Sensitivity Test can help you learn how your body responds to 96 different foods from the comfort of your home. After sending your sample to the lab for testing, you receive your digital results, which could help inform your temporary elimination diet and add-back challenge.
Ready to kickstart your next health journey with the help of a food journal? Let’s dive into some helpful tips.
A food journal, or food diary, is a daily log used to track what food and drinks you consume each day. It is used for different reasons, including gaining a better understanding of your eating habits and identifying if potential food culprits in your diet may be causing unwanted symptoms. Identifying patterns in your body’s response to the foods you consume could help connect the dots between a specific food and symptoms—and this, in turn, can help inform a temporary elimination diet.
Food journaling isn’t the same for everyone, but most basic food journals include what you eat, how much you eat, and how you feel after enjoying each meal. We break down exactly how to set up your food journal below.
Just like many other health and wellness practices, your food journal should be unique to your needs. Before starting, ask yourself what your goals are and what information you need to meet them. For example, if you’re looking to lose weight, tracking your water intake, calories, and exercise could be a good place to start. On the other hand, if your goal is to find out what foods are causing you discomfort, writing down every ingredient of every meal you eat, as well as tracking symptoms, could bring you closer to learning about your body’s response to certain foods.
So, what exactly should you record? Here are some questions to help you set up your food diary:
What are you eating? List every food and beverage you consume and how it is prepared (baked, broiled, fried, etc.). Remember to include any spices, sauces, condiments, dressings, or toppings.
When are you eating? Writing down the specific times you eat can be very helpful in identifying potentially problematic foods. Because unwanted symptoms sometimes take hours to surface, knowing when you ate and what you ate last could identify culprits.
How much are you eating? Make note of your portion sizes and if possible, list the amounts of every food you consume in cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, or ounces.
How do you feel after you’ve eaten? Make note of any symptoms you may have after eating meals and throughout the day. Remember that food sensitivities can show up hours and even days after you consume a “problematic” food.
Note that successful food journaling requires accuracy and consistency. The more you track what you eat and how you feel, the closer you get to understanding your body’s unique relationship with your diet.
Ready to kickstart your next health journey with a food journal? Consider using an at-home Food Sensitivity Test to learn more about how your body responds to certain foods, and print out our food sensitivity tracker to help you track your progress.
1. Demand better for your body. Everlywell. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.
2. Why keep a food diary?. Harvard Medical School. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.
3. Yes, drinking more water may help you lose weight. Johns Hopkins Medicine. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.