How to Properly Keep a Food Log

Food logs, which are also known as food diaries or food journals, can serve several purposes. Such food logs can be utilized to help you lose or gain weight, to track progress, to help ensure you're eating a balanced diet and getting proper nutrition, or to keep track of which solid foods you have introduced to an infant.

You can also use a food log to help pinpoint which foods may be causing symptoms of allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities. Here's how to keep a useful food diary.

Woman writing in journal in cafe
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How to Start a Food Log

  1. Choose a format for your food log that will work for your lifestyle. If you regularly use a PDA or a planner, also use it to keep your log; otherwise, a pocket-sized notebook is ideal for your food log.
  2. If you eat at regular meal times, you may choose to preset your pages with places to write down the foods you eat and the regular times that you eat them. Be sure to leave the facing pages blank in a paper log.
  3. Each time you eat, mark down the time and write down every food you eat, including brand names (for future investigation), beverages, and frying oils. Note any garnishes, toppings, or additives. The goal is to be as complete as possible. Do update immediately after eating; this is one of those tasks that is easiest to do directly after each meal.
  4. If you experience symptoms, on the page facing your most recent meal (or immediately after the most recent meal in your PDA), write down a summary of your symptoms. While your physician is in the best position to determine whether the most recent meal (or, indeed, any food) actually caused the symptoms, this is a good way to keep the log organized.


  1. A food log is not a substitute for the guidance of your physician. Rather, it is a supplement. If your doctor recommends that you keep a food log, this is one way to do it.
  2. If you find the journaling process overwhelming, it is better to go a little light on detail than to forgo writing down what foods you ate all together. A system you can live with is better than no system at all.
  3. If you are keeping track of solid foods that an infant from an atopic family (a family with allergic tendencies) is eating for the first time, try marking the first introduction of new foods in some way, perhaps with an asterisk.
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