Saturday, March 31, 2012

Visual Food Diary

Daily log of food consumed
2 years ago, when I got serious about healthy life-style, and started this blog, the first article I wrote was about determining our calorie needs. This is very important, because regardless of how much workout we do, it all comes down to what we eat, and more importantly, how much we eat.

The very next article I wrote was about keeping a food journal - and the various resources available online. My favorite resource for tracking calories consumed is My-Calorie-Counter. Initially, I used this resource extensively to figure out what I should be eating, and how much I should be eating in a day.

Both these resources have helped me to reach most of my fitness goals. Of course, keeping track of a food diary is not practical on a daily basis. It is something we should do for 1 or 2 weeks, and then use that knowledge to guide us for the rest of the way. Since we tend to go astray after some time, it's a good idea to come back to the food journal every few months to keep ourselves in check.

I felt that I have started slacking off, so I decided to go back to my food logging. The difference this time is that I decided to go one step beyond the traditional food journal. I decided to add a visual element to the journal, by taking pictures of everything I eat for a period of 1 week.

The log includes break-down of macro-nutrient composition (proteins, carbs and fats)
The concept of a visual food diary is not something new. There are even apps for mobile devices that help you to take pictures of food that you eat, and keep everything organized.

I added an extra dimension to the visual food diary, by keeping a companion EXCEL spreadsheet that accurately tracks each item, and gives me an analytical breakdown of calories consumed, and the breakdown of the macro-nutrients.

Tracking nutrition data of each food item.
I picked up most of the nutritional data from the actual food package itself. Where there was no data available (such as raw chicken), I relied on caloriecount database to estimate the nutritional data.

After 1 week of planning, and tracking my food intake, I must say that the experiment was a success.

The visual journal helped me to visualize what I should eat.
The Visual journal (and the accompanying EXCEL tool), helped me to plan my daily food intake. Every morning, I would select the food items that I would like to eat during the day. The EXCEL tool would then show me the breakdown of the 3 macro-nutrients (Proteins, Carbs, and fats). If the graph was not to my liking (I wanted around 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fats), I would then fine-tune the food items to make the graph fit within my desired ranges - and also to limit the amount of calories to approximately 1500.

This visual food journal will help me immensely in future. Whenever I find myself going astray, I can just pull out the journal and correct my eating pattern. The photos give me a reference of how the food should look, and the quantity to be consumed.

It's a great tool, and highly recommended to anyone who is serious about their health.

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