How to Evaluate the Data from your Online Food Journal

Published:  07/28/2015

A study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research  followed more than 2,000 dieters for six months and encouraged healthy eating and regular exercise. The results: they found that the single best indicator for dropping weight came down to keeping a food journal.

Two-thirds of all participants who adopted a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and participated in regular exercise, dropped nine pounds or more. But those who kept a daily food diary lost 11 more pounds than those who didn't.

In order to improve your habits and reach the weight you want, it's important to take a good, hard look at your eating patterns.

Writing everything down will help you make smarter food choices and provides a more accurate picture of your daily caloric consumption. Researchers have found that Americans typically underestimate their food intake by about 25 percent while overestimating their daily physical activity levels.

You need to track exercise as well because exercise is as important to weight loss as a healthy diet. Research has shown that people who exercise most days of the week can reduce the risk of developing many chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers.

How to evaluate the data to improve your diet
As I dietitian, when I am evaluating a client's food journal, these are some of the factor's I look at:

Calories. Did you have an intake at or below your goal?

Carbs. 50% of your calories should come from “healthy” carbs. Whole grain, fiber-containing, unprocessed.

Protein. 25% of your calories should come from lean protein.

Fat. 25% of your calories should come from “healthy” fats.

Was the fat contributed by healthy omega 3 fat found in soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, fish: trout, herring, and salmon? Omega-3s boost heart health, help rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Was the fat contributed by saturated fat found in high-fat cheeses, high-fat cuts of meat, whole-fat milk and cream, butter, cheese, ice cream, palm and coconut oils? Diets high in saturated fat have been linked to chronic disease, specifically, coronary heart disease.

Was the fat contributed by trans-fat from any product that contains partially hydrogenated oil, fried items, savory snacks (like microwave popcorn and chips), frozen pizzas, cake, cookies, pie, margarines and spreads, ready-to-use frosting, and coffee creamers?  
Cholesterol. 300 mg is the most you should have per day. Cholesterol is found in animal products: egg yolks, beef, poultry, lamb, pork, organ meats, fish and dairy products. Keep in mind that trans fat and saturated fat have a bigger effect on a person's blood cholesterol than dietary cholesterol.

Sodium. 2400 mg or less is the goal.

Sugars. 40 grams or less. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 100 and 150 calories daily for women and men. (12 ounces of regular soda supplies 35 grams; one teaspoon of table sugar contains 4 grams).

Fiber. Goal is 35 grams per day.

Did you get soluble fiber? Soluble fiber attracts water and form a gel, which slows down digestion. Soluble fiber delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, which helps control weight. Slower stomach emptying may also affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes. Soluble fibers can also help lower LDL ("bad") blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol.

Sources of soluble fiber: oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, chia, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, cranberries, grapes, peaches, plums and prunes.

Did you get insoluble fibers are considered gut-healthy fiber because they have a laxative effect and add bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. These fibers pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut. Insoluble fibers are mainly found in whole grains and vegetables.

Sources of insoluble fiber: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, corn, fruit, and root vegetable skins.

Did you eat beans? 3-4 times per week use beans instead of meat, add them to salads, soups or use as a side dish.

Did you get at least 2 servings of dairy? Intake of dairy products is linked to improved bone health, reduced risk of osteoporosis, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lower blood pressure in adults. It also is a source of protein. For milk, 1 cup of fluid milk; For yogurt, 8 ounces; 2 cups of cottage cheese or half a cup of ricotta cheese; 2 ounces of processed cheese such as an American cheese slice, 1/3 cup of shredded cheese or 1 ½  ozs. of hard cheese such as cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Parmesan.

Was there a lot of "volume"? Choosing foods that are high in water and fiber and low in density allows dieters to enjoy larger, more satisfying portions, and to lose weight without feeling hungry. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cooked grains are examples of low-energy-density foods that give you plenty of water and fiber for very few calories.

Did you get 3 servings of whole grains? Do so and enjoy reduced risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, inflammatory disease, colorectal cancer, gum disease, better weight maintenance, and healthier blood pressure.

Women   19-50 years old   6 ounce equivalents   3 ounce equivalents
    51+ years old   5 ounce equivalents   3 ounce equivalents
Men   19-30 years old   8 ounce equivalents   4 ounce equivalents
    31-50 years old   7 ounce equivalents   3 ½ ounce equivalents
    51+ years old   6 ounce equivalents   3 ounce equivalents

Did you eat at least 2 cups of vegetables?

Women   19-50 years old   2½ cups
    51+ years old   2 cups
Men   19-50 years old   3 cups
    51+ years old   2½ cups

Vegetable subgroup recommendations are given as amounts to eat WEEKLY. Over a week, try to consume the amounts listed from each subgroup as a way to reach your daily intake recommendation.


Dark green vegetables


Red and orange vegetables


Beans and peas


Starchy vegetables


Other vegetables



Women   19-50 yrs   1½ cups   5½ cups   1½ cups   5 cups   4 cups  
    51+ yrs old   1½ cups   4 cups   1 cup   4 cups   3½ cups  
Men   19-50 yrs   2 cups   6 cups   2 cups   6 cups   5 cups
    51+ yrs   1½ cups   5½ cups   1½ cups   5 cups   4 cups

*Red or orange peppers, carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce, red potatoes, beets, radicchio, sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkin.

*Green: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoflower, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, endive, green cabbage, green peppers, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, peas, snows peas, spinach, sugar snap peas, watercress.

Did you eat at least 1.5 cups fruit?

Women   19-30 years old   2 cups
    31-51 years old   1 ½ cups
Men   19-51+ years old   2 cups

How many ounces of protein did you eat?

Women   19-30 years old   5 ½ ounce equivalents
    31-51+ years old   5 ounce equivalents
Men   19-30 years old   6 ½ ounce equivalents
    31-50 years old   6 ounce equivalents
    51+ years old   5 ½ ounce equivalents

Categories:   Food  Weight Management 

Tags:   #weightloss

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