As you've totaled your quantities in your Diet Inventory over the three-day period, you probably noticed some patterns in your eating and activity behaviors. Perhaps you found that you always snack at a certain time of day or that you don't eat nearly the number of vegetables that you imagined. Not all the patterns will be that obvious, but if a few have jumped out at you, you've already begun the process of identifying your major dietary downfalls.
Further analysis of your inventory will reveal habits that already promote a healthy lifestyle, as well as areas that you can improve. Let's look at one category at a time:
How Was Your Timing?
When and how often did you eat? Did you eat within two hours of getting up to keep your metabolism revved up -- or did you skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and practice the "See Food Diet" (eating everything in sight) in the evening because you were starving? Ideally, you should eat three moderate meals, including breakfast, and two small snacks each day to keep your metabolic engine running and to avoid getting so hungry that you binge.
How Was Your Food Prepared?
Did you eat breaded and/or fried foods, or items served with sauces? If so, just changing the preparation method or substituting a low-fat topping for a high-fat one can significantly cut calories. Consider baking, steaming, broiling, or sauteeing, rather than frying food.
Were You Really Hungry?
This section will give you insight into your emotional reasons for eating. Knowing your emotional triggers will help you resist them or substitute other activities for eating. Also notice what kinds of food you ate when you weren't really hungry. You may not have realized how often you tend to reach for junk food.
Quantity by Category
This is the nitty-gritty of the food log, where you will find out how your current food consumption compares with the Dietary Guidelines' recommendations for your desired calorie intake level. After completing this section you'll know which foods your diet lacks and which foods you tend to overeat. You'll also find out how active you are and how that compares with the Guidelines' recommendations for physical activity.
Before you begin, you'll need to set a daily calorie intake goal. That's the number of calories that you want to consume each day. Then find the same or similar calorie intake amount on the USDA Food Guide chart and follow the column from top to bottom. This will give you the recommended food pattern for that calorie intake level.
Now record the recommended amounts for each food group in the row called "Recommended Amounts from USDA Food Guide for My Calorie Level" near the bottom of the log. When recording the amount for the Vegetables and the Grains groups, just list the total amount recommended, which you'll find in the top row of each of those groups.
There is no recommended intake for alcoholic beverages. These will be accounted for in the context of your discretionary calorie intake.
Finally, write 60 minutes in the "Recommended Amount of Activity" row. This is the minimum amount of physical activity the Dietary Guidelines recommends for weight loss.
How Did You Do?
With this last step, you'll find out how your typical eating patterns compare with the Dietary Guidelines' recommendations. Subtract the "Recommended Amount from the USDA Food Guide" from the "Amount Consumed" for each food category. The numbers you get will tell you whether you are meeting, exceeding, or lacking in the recommended food intakes.
Negative numbers mean you didn't eat enough to meet the recommended amount. These are foods you need to eat more of. Positive numbers mean you ate more than the recommended amounts. These are foods you need to cut back on -- unless you went overboard on vegetables; you can't eat too many of them! If the total is zero, then you've eaten the recommended amount.
Consider all three days together to see which foods are abundant in your eating routine and which ones are scarce. Then write down the food groups you need to eat more of to be in alignment with your new food pattern. Finally, total up the amount of time you spent in moderate and vigorous activity for each of the three days. Did you meet the Guidelines' recommendations or your goal for the number of calories you need to expend to balance your calorie scale?
The next section will talk about setting achievable goals. When it comes to setting goals, they need to be realistic and attainable for your own situation.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.