The #1 Tool for Weight Control: Keeping a Food Diary

By Renee Covey, RD, LD, CDE
Center for Weight Management at Gwinnett Medical Center


Of all the behaviors a person might adopt to manage body weight, perhaps none is more powerful than the food diary.

In fact, research has shown that people who record their food intake regularly lose twice as much weight as people who do not.

Keeping a food diary is commonly the first step recommended by professionals to getting back on track when plateaus occur. However, accuracy and timeliness make or break this tool.

Whether you keep a food diary on paper or online, here are some things to keep in mind when recording food intake:
  • Food diaries are about guidance, not judgment. Think of it as a way to be informed to make the best dietary decisions to stay healthy.
  • Food diaries can offer protection against hidden calories. Higher calorie foods can be identified and either portion controlled or consumed less frequently.
  • The National Weight Control Registry has cited food diaries as strong support for not only weight loss but prevention of weight re-gain.
  • In order for the food diary to be useful, the food should be recorded at the meal or snack time. Any food consumed should be entered in the record as soon as it is consumed.
  • The more specific the record, the more useful the information. If the portion was 1 cup, then include that amount. If unsure of the portion, then measure before consuming. If the food was broiled with butter, etc. then include the specific preparation or brand of food.
  • Food diaries can replace the frustrating scale. If the meal plan is followed, then the calories are accounted for. You can be assured you’re on the right track and can avoid the frustrations associated with seeing fluid weight fluctuations on the scale.
  • Food diaries shield against mindless eating. Keeping a food diary helps evaluate, “Why am I eating?”
  • Food diaries help form habits and plan meals. What worked previously may be worth repeating.


If not convinced yet about the value of food diaries in weight management, then give it a trial. It only takes about five to eight minutes per day and can last a lifetime!

How Gwinnett Medical Center Can Help


The Center for Weight Management at Gwinnett Medical Center understands dieting and exercise alone aren’t the answer for every person, and that keeping the weight off can be a challenge. 

We offer a full spectrum of weight loss programs, from medically supervised weight loss, to the ORBERA® Balloon weight loss program, to various types of bariatric surgery. The Center for Weight Management also offers the only accredited adolescent weight loss surgery program in the region. 

Plus we have a world-class aftercare program to provide each patient a wide variety of services under one roof. Learn more about our program or view a free online weight loss surgery seminar at gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/bariatrics.

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