Experience has shown that subjective perception usually differs significantly from actual nutrition. In order to get to the bottom of one’s own diet in more detail, nutrition diaries have therefore proven their worth. With the help of these diaries, all meals and drinks that are consumed throughout the day are first documented. In tabular form, nutrition diaries provide a complete overview as well as valuable detailed information on personal habits and preferences. In further steps, the current diet can then be analysed specifically for parameters such as nutrient ratio or energy content. How this works is shown step by step in the following description.
How does a nutrition diary work?
The handling of a nutrition diary is simple, but requires some discipline: In order to obtain meaningful information, the diary should be kept as meticulously as possible and for a minimum period of one, but preferably two weeks. Usually, the consumer notes the time, type and quantity of all food and drinks consumed during the day. Since individual components, their number or quantity are very quickly forgotten, this note should always be taken during or immediately after the respective meal. All beverages containing calories, especially alcoholic beverages, are also noted: although alcohol is by definition not one of the energy-providing macronutrients, it is of great relevance for the metabolism and the energy balance.
What other nutrient information is determined and how is this done?
Depending on which part of the diet is to be analysed in detail, very specific information can be taken from the completed daily protocols afterwards. Basically, the focus can be on dietary fibre content, vitamins or minerals. Most frequently, however, the energy balance and the composition of the macronutrients fat (F), protein (= protein/ P) and carbohydrates (KH) are of interest. It therefore makes sense to add further columns in the right half to analyse the recorded food. The amounts of the individual nutrients of all meals are entered in these columns and then added to a daily total. If available, the energy content of each meal can also be transferred directly to the last column.
In the case of finished products, all the necessary values can be found relatively easily on the packaging. In the case of products and meals eaten away from home, bought openly or assembled by the customer, they must be estimated or calculated on the basis of the individual ingredients. The use of a scale can therefore be helpful when cooking or baking. If no packaging or manufacturer information is available, the proportion and energy content of individual dishes or foods can usually be determined via the Internet.
How long should a nutrition diary be kept?
A dietary record of a single day is virtually meaningless. Since the eating habits during the week usually differ from those at the weekend, a nutrition diary should be kept at least over the period of 7 days.
A well kept diary helps to create an overview, to identify misjudgements, to unmask hidden calories, to uncover deficiencies and to sharpen the awareness for one’s own nutrition. Nutrition diaries are a valuable aid and the basis for targeted nutrition planning in the context of diet changes or weight reductions.