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Evaluate Your Existing Nutritional Intake

Evaluate Your Existing Nutritional Intake

Before you begin making nutritional changes, you have to see where you currently stand. Your goal is to identify both the habits you need to change and the habits you can feel good about keeping.


The Right and Wrong Way to Keep a Food Journal


Keeping a food journal requires two things: consistency and honesty. Without both of those, a food journal isn't going to help you replace bad habits with good ones!


You can keep a food journal on your PC, using a mobile app on your phone, or even using a traditional pen and paper approach. Some people even make video blog food journals and stick them on YouTube.


The goal is to record everything you eat and drink so that you can understand why you stall with weight loss if you reach a plateau or start gaining again. It's also supposed to keep you somewhat accountable in helping you stay on track with your diet plans.


Some people like to record everything as they eat every meal. You can record ingredients, portion sizes, caloric intake - down to the percentage of vitamins and other nutrients that the foods you eat offer.


But this can be too time consuming and daunting for many people. If your life is busy, it's okay to take a moment at the end of each day and record what you ate - as long as you don't forget about the time you went into the snack room and grabbed a croissant, or dipped into someone's candy jar on their desk.


You don't have to always keep a food diary, either. Some people like to do it forever, while others prefer to do it periodically just to help them see where their behavior is going wrong in a nutritional sense.


If you eat differently just because you're journaling, this can be a good or a bad thing. It's good if it helps you eat healthier and stick to your plan, but it's bad if the plan is so restrictive that you can't do it without monitoring yourself 24/7 like the food police.


You not only want to track your food, but the other elements that affect your nutrition. That includes where you ate - was it at the table or sitting on the couch mindlessly watching TV?


It also includes how you were feeling whenever you ate. Were you stressed and anxious (could that be why you just polished off a family sized bag of potato chips?) or were you content and eating mindlessly because you were in a comfortable mood and just wanted to feel relaxed and happy? Food diaries help pinpoint triggers for you.


Some people find that it helps to write down their food goals for the day at the beginning of each food journal entry. For example, you can jot down how many servings of grains or fruit you want to try to get into your diet.


You can even cross them off as you consume them, so that you're looking at what you do eat, rather than what you can't have. A food journal can help you figure out which foods you need help getting more of or getting less of.


A food journal won't do any good unless you go back later and actually read it. Look at your weight loss and other health factors for the week and then look back to see where the foods you ate helped or hurt the efforts.


What Are Your Portions Like?


Portions in America have gotten out of control when it comes to restaurant meals - we already knew this. But it's the same in our own homes. We put way more on our plate than we really need to fuel our bodies.


Portion recommendations differ according to your age, your weight, your gender, and whether or not you're pregnant or breastfeeding. But you still need to know a starting point to see where you currently are with portions.


It might help to go ahead and fix your plate and then measure the foods so that you can see what you've been doing. Don't measure before putting them on your plate because that doesn't tell you what you've been used to doing.


You might think you've only been eating a half a cup of mashed potatoes, but get shocked when you measure and realize it's actually been 2 1/2 cups this whole time.


Do you fill your entire plate - and if so, is it a large dinner plate? Plate sizes have grown with portion sizes in America, to help fool us into thinking we're eating a normal amount.


What about how you fill your plate? Have you noticed that the biggest portions on your plate are the meats or fats, with the grains or vegetables being the tiniest portions?


It's important to see how your plate stacks up now against the future health and wellness plate you plan to prepare in the New Year on whatever diet plan you choose to follow.


Are You a Grazer or a Fueler?


Some people snack all day long - from the time they wake up and pour their first cup of coffee to the moment they slip into bed with a little before-slumber snack. This is known as a grazer.


Grazers don't usually sit down to three square meals a day - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, they keep their bodies going all day long by snacking. The key is in knowing why you're snacking.


Strategically, this can be a helpful dietary plan - like those who eat 6 small meals a day rather than three large ones. But if you're snacking because you're stress eating, or snacking on the wrong kinds of food all day (like propping your body up with a non-stop sugar rush), then it becomes a problem.


Fuelers are different types of eaters. They fuel up with a hearty breakfast, work all morning, and stop for more nutritional fuel at lunch - doing the same at dinnertime until the day is done.


They choose not to snack in between meals. Some people prefer this because they like how it feels to eat and fill up rather than never get that specific "full" feeling that grazing lacks.


Either way, you can lose weight and feel great. The key is in choosing healthy foods that keep hunger pangs at bay, but which don't stuff you like a Thanksgiving turkey each meal.


It might be easier for you to transition from foods that aren't as nutritionally sound to foods that offer a multitude of health benefits if you keep eating on the same schedule that you always have - at least for the time being.


You might want to switch schedules after a while if you decide to, once you're familiar with the new foods and feeling confident that you enjoy the meal plans you're working with.

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