Using a Food Diary or Journal for Food Sensitivity and Allergy
What Is a Food Diary?
A food diary (printable or digital) is a simple tool that tracks what you eat on a day to day basis. Some food diaries also have you record your mood and how you feel physically. This way, you can look back on your entries to be able to see what foods trigger your allergies, change your mood, or even trigger weight changes. If you're tying to eliminate certain foods from your diet, it is also a way to keep yourself accountable because you cannot lie about what foods you ate.
So How Do I Create One?
There are lots of ways to start one. Do what works best for you. I've listed some free options for you to try out:
Electronic Food Diary Options
- If you use your iPhone a lot, there is a pretty good app called Allergy Journal Free that tracks what you eat and any symptoms that you might feel (sometimes you don't feel symptoms up to a few days after you eat the offending food!). It might be an option to look into if you're not a big fan of using pen and paper and need something portable (which provides less of an excuse to use your diary!)
- FitDay - This is usually used by people who want to lose weight, but it can be a useful tool for people wanting to track their nutrition in general. It tracks the nutritional value of your foods, and it has use friendly features. It also has different charts that tracks your mood after eating certain foods over an amount of time, and even a running total of nutritional information.
- My Net Diary - There is a free section where you can track the foods you eat. A great feature they have is their online community where it is supported by a registered dietician.
- Google Calendar - This is seriously how I started tracking my foods! If you don't use your calendar for anything else, just simply add an even and write down what you ate, simple as that.
For those who prefer pen to paper, any type of notebook will do, Simply write down the date and time, then what you ate. You can even leave some space for changes in mood, or any other changes to your body. Below are some sites, though, where you can have a nice handy dandy template to print out and use:
This series by Mark Hamilton is pretty neat, as it tracks his diet for 21 days, and what he's learned along the way. If you have a video camera, this might be a creative and worthwhile alternative to investigate.
Tips for Using Your Food Diary
1. Keep yourself accountable - A food diary is not going to work if you do not write anything down. Set aside some time in the morning, night, or a few times during the day depending on what you're comfortable with. Sometimes telling somebody might help you be more accountable. When I started one, I told my husband and he has been kind enough to remind me every day or so in case I forget to make an entry
2. Write everything down - Writing names of just the dishes you eat might not be enough, particularly if you're trying to pinpoint a food sensitivity or allergy. For example, 'spaghetti' is not going to cut it if you don't remember what kind of sauce you used. A better example is to list all the ingredients you used, such as 'whole wheat spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and meatballs'. You can get even more specific by naming the brands of foods you used, in case an ingredient from that is triggering an allergy. If you made the food from scratch, list ALL the ingredients you used to make the food.
3. Revisit your food diary and note any changes that happens to your body - It is helpful to set aside time for this too, apart from when you actually write down the foods that you eat. Some things to note down can be if you felt tired after a meal, rashes that develop, itch skin, or even anything out of the ordinary.
4. If your food diary doesn't do this automatically, look through it for patterns that emerge - Looking back, I should have known I had an allergy to eggs because I felt tired every time I ate them, or my skin felt really itchy after I ate a lot of dairy products. Look for those patterns and start changing your diet slowly to help your body.
Hopefully these tips will help you start your food diary and on your way to a healthier body.