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Keeping a Food Diary - An Essential Tool in Diabetes Management
This feature is an excerpt from ADA's Guide to Eating Right When You Have Diabetes by Maggie Powers, MS, RD, CDE

A food plan is an essential part of diabetes care and blood glucose control. Keeping a food diary will help you:

Design a food plan that includes the foods you like to eat.
Know how your body responds to certain quantities of food.
Review your blood glucose records and guide decisions about how to change your diabetes management to better control your blood glucose.

Keep a food diary especially if you are just starting or restarting a food plan, beginning or adjusting your diabetes medication, have poor blood glucose control, have a schedule change or are on a weight loss plan. Keep a food diary for at least a week or two so you can determine the best food plan, activity plan and medication, if needed.

Your Food Diary

A food diary is a personal record of your eating style. By keeping a food diary, you may observe patterns in your eating that you hadn't noticed before. It is helpful to capture how you truly eat so that your diabetes food plan reflects your eating style and not an eating style that is not yours.

Keep your food diary handy or in a special place that makes it easier to keep track of what you eat close to the time you actually consume the food or drink. It can be very easy to forget what you have eaten.

You will use this information to help you determine whether any of your eating habits need to be changed in order to meet your diabetes nutrition goals. Once you have developed a food plan that works for you in helping you meet your nutrition goals, you may not need to keep such detailed records. You may want to record two to four days once a month, just to be sure you are following your food plan. Or you may decide to continue to keep all your diabetes records in a daily food diary.

Getting Started

Write down everything you consume, even if it is a snack, taste or nibble. Some people are quite surprised at how many snacks or nibbles they have in a day. When you're writing things down, you really see your eating style. You can decide later whether you need to make any changes. If you do not write something down, you may forget to include it in your food plan.

The time you eat: Write down the times of your all your meals and all snacks.

What and how much you eat: This is often the hardest part to record in your food diary. Is that scoop of potatoes a half cup, a cup or two cups? The only way to know for sure is to measure. Vague measurements make it difficult to define how much you eat. Surprisingly, many people with diabetes never measure their food, yet it is important to know how much you are eating. Then a food plan can be designed that takes into account how much food you like to eat.

Measuring with standard measuring equipment is recommended. You can observe your measured serving sizes so you can learn to accurately eye-measure to make it easier to keep your food diary. Then periodically check your estimated portions to be sure they are the size you think they are.

Other Information

Include the results of your blood glucose checks and note your activity for the day. If you take a diabetes medicine, weigh yourself or take your blood pressure and pulse; add that information.

Some people like to include information about how they are feeling when they eat, who they ate with and where they ate. This is especially useful if you are on a weight-loss food plan.

The food diary is your first step in establishing your food plan. It will be interesting and probably surprising to find out exactly what you eat. The goal of a personal food plan is to stay as close to your own eating style as possible. Your food diary is important in helping design your food plan and in reviewing your blood glucose records.


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