4 Tips to Keep Food Logging On Track

by Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Last Updated: December 9, 2020

Food logging can be used for many different reasons and can help improve our nutrition when done correctly. Logging what we eat can promote weight gain, loss, or maintenance. It can help someone who likes structure and needs accountability, like those who follow a specific macronutrient profile (percentage of fat, carb, and protein in the diet), to meet their goals. Logging food intake can be used to manage medical conditions through diet as well. For example, people who suffer from pancreatitis require a low-fat diet. Logging their food can help them see how much fat they are eating and if they need to make changes to manage their condition. This practice can also help identify food sensitivities, intolerances, or other food patterns or habits. It is not recommended for those with eating disorders to log their food intake.

In recent years, apps like MyFitnessPal and Lose It! have made food logging much easier than the days of pen and paper. These apps automatically upload the nutritional profile of food and calculate daily totals rather than do this yourself. However, food logging is often inaccurate. To meet our health goals, we need accurate information. Logging accurately takes time and effort, but it’s important to get the best results no matter the use of food logging. Keep these tips in mind when logging to get the most accurate results and put you one step closer to your health goals.
  1. Measure.
    We are all short on time these days, and it’s easier to estimate portions rather than measure, but they can make a significant difference in our intake if we are not estimating well. Take a few more minutes before eating to weigh with a digital scale or measure with measuring cups how much you are eating. Most people tend to underestimate how much they eat. After finishing your meal, log how much you ate. Being specific with measurements is important for those who are trying to identify food triggers or intolerances. A small amount of a specific food (1/4 cup) may be tolerated well, but a larger amount of the same food (1/2 cup) may cause symptoms. Being specific is key in eating the least restrictive diet in these cases.
  2. Include fats and seasonings.
    Cooking oils, sauces, and seasoning packets tend to be easily forgotten when logging meals. Still they can add up to a significant number of unidentified calories if not logged, leaving people feeling frustrated with why they aren’t reaching their goals.
  3. Include “drive-by” bites.
    It seems picky, but those bites of candy we grab out of a dish walking through the kitchen or that handful of nuts eaten between lunch and dinner need to be accounted for to get the most accurate results.
  4. Be consistent.
    Logging consistently is key in finding trends and patterns to help identify problems. People tend to log only days they feel they ate “well.” If problem areas aren’t logged, they can’t be identified. Logging consistently will give a better picture of typical days plus atypical days such as those where you ate differently than normal.

With these tips in mind, logging won’t leave you frustrated and wondering why you don’t see results! We can help you identify areas for improvement or where there may be gaps in your daily food patterns. If you would like to discuss food logging further, make a FREE telenutrition appointment here.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Teaching people about the positive things that food can do for the mind, body and spirit, and helping them understand that all foods can fit into a healthy diet is Lisa’s nutrition philosophy. She believes food should be exciting and fun! Lisa encourages celebration of non-scale victories, which focus on what good nutrition can do for your life beyond weight. She loves food, but also loves to break a sweat whether it’s cycling, walking her dog or doing CrossFit.