Have you been encouraged to track your food intake to improve your health or achieve a goal but are not sure if it is right for you? There are pros and cons to tracking your food intake. Let’s explore whether monitoring what you eat is the right move for you.
Tracking your food intake can be beneficial:
- It brings awareness to your food selections and habits. Let’s say you are working to lower your calorie intake and you were not aware that some of your favorite foods are high in calories. Being more aware can help you to adjust how often you eat those foods in an effort to reach your goals. You may also observe that you tend to eat most of your calories during the late afternoon. Discovering this information would allow you the opportunity to adjust your calorie intake to eat more during the day to evenly balance your intake.
- It helps you to stay accountable. Whether you have a great support system or are lacking a support system, tracking your food intake can help to keep you on track. You can check the food consumed each night to see how it compares to your goals. For example, you may have set a goal to eat 5 servings of vegetables each day and thought you were successful in achieving that goal, but you only ate 2 servings. You could also work with a friend who has set a health improvement goal and share what you ate each week with one another to stay on track and provide encouragement. Another option is to provide your tracked intake to a medical professional, like a Registered Dietitian, who can review your what you ate and offer ideas on how to adjust your meals for maximum health.
On the other hand, tracking your food intake may not be your cup of tea.
- It may take up too much time. With only 24 hours in a day, you may not want to spend that time learning a new system via a phone app or reviewing nutrition facts labels to write down everything that you eat. If this is you, you may find mindful eating to be a beneficial strategy to achieve your goals. To learn more about mindful eating, view this article titled “8 steps to mindful eating”.
- It could become problematic resulting in an unhealthy or obsessive habit. While tracking your food choices can be beneficial because it provides more insight into the nutrients and calories you consume each day, this could also turn into an unhealthy habit where a constant worry over food choices can lead you to sacrificing the nutritional quality of foods to reach a goal. Becoming hyper focused on food choices may begin to affect your relationship with yourself and others instead of incorporating well-balanced meals for optimal health.
- The nutritional content of a food or recipe may not be available or the information within a nutrition app may not be accurate, affecting your end of the day results. This could result in a loss of motivation or feeling discouraged hindering progress towards your goal. You may find that it is beneficial to evaluate each meal as it is selected or consumed to determine any opportunities for improvement or acknowledgement that you made wise choices. Noticing how the foods make you feel and whether your hunger levels are sustained, along with feeling satisfied may also provide very helpful information when specific nutrient content is not available. Understanding your own fulfilment around meal-times will help you bring closure to the day and get you ready for the next day of new choices.
Tracking your food intake offers a tool to increase awareness and stay accountable. For some, it may be too time-consuming, become problematic, or not be worth the hassle if nutritional content is not available for commonly consumed foods. The great news is that you know yourself best, and it never hurts to try something new to see if it works for you.