The right way to keep a food log

Why even the fittest can benefit from accurately tracking their diet

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According to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior,people who use a journal or food-tracking app tend self-report less food consumption and have a lower-quality diet on weekends as compared to weekdays.

“Weekend and weekday routines are often different, possibly making it more challenging to remember to track everything you eat,” says study author Christine Pellegrini, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. “You may be going out to eat, running errands, or participating in more social events, which can be distracting." Some athletes also treat weekends as cheat days, which could backfire.

While the study looked at people who were trying to lose weight, Pellegrini notes that accurately tracking food intake can also help fit bodies hone in on a certain aspect of their diet such as protein or carbohydrate levels. "Keeping a log is beneficial in the short-term (up to six months) for anyone looking to eat healthier," she says.

If you want to track your food intake reliably with a journal or app, try setting up smartphone prompts to remind you to input data on the weekends or busier times when you're likely to forget, says Pellegrini.