Now that you have recorded your data in your food journal, these are some things to look for.
From a strictly nutritional viewpoint:
Does each meal have a balance of nutrients – protein, colorful fruits and vegetables, “smart carbs” i.e. high fiber, slow-digesting, healthy fats? (More info about each of these in the days to come!)
Are you eating mostly whole or relatively unprocessed foods, or are there a lot of shakes, bars or other types of “meal replacements” and pre-packaged stuff?
Are there a lot of “extras” - things that are easy to overdo on serving size (like dried fruit, nuts and nut butter, cheese) or just plain forget about (like sauces and dressings, sweetened drinks and juices, alcohol)?
Most important – Does everything you eat add value, by making your body better and healthier, by nourishing you, giving you good stuff like vitamins and minerals?
Look for physical reactions, like if a certain food gave you a stuffy nose, or a funny rumbling in your tummy (these are tricky, because sometimes the reaction is immediate, and sometimes it’s hours later). If you noticed anything like this, it could be a sign of an allergy or intolerance that may require more investigation.
From a mental/emotional viewpoint:
Look for “trigger foods”, and timing. PB cups at 4pm every day? Handful of chips while preparing dinner? Pint of Ben & Jerry’s because the kids/dog/parents/spouse was driving you nuts? Overate because it was your Nonna’s lasagna recipe?
“Trigger foods” tend to trigger us in a negative way, by making poor food choices, eating too much, making you feel out of control, or making you feel bad emotionally or physically.
Trigger foods are different for everyone, but often have these things in common:
high in sugar and/or simple starchy carbs (like chocolate or bread)
high in fat (like nuts and nut butters)
high in sodium (like chips)
highly processed, with chemical additives like artificial sweeteners or preservatives
A special note about alcohol: This situation we’re in started like an extended snow day, and daily drinking (or even day drinking) didn’t seem like a big deal. But at this point, we are probably craving more structure and normalcy. The extra calories from beer or wine do add up. And while it isn’t necessarily a trigger food, it can often contribute to poor food choices because it affects our judgment. Emptying that family size bag of pretzels can seem like a great idea after a few beers.
We are all craving comfort these days. And these foods can soothe us, like the solution to what ails us. Becoming aware of these triggers can help you break the chain between your emotional needs and your nutritional needs.
Now you’re armed with information. No matter what data you collect about yourself and your life, knowing the facts helps you make better decisions.
Information for this post is sourced from my nutrition coaching program, powered by Precision Nutrition's ProCoach platform.