Have you ever kept a food journal? It is a great tool for the young and the not-so-young to take a good look at their eating habits and to determine if they are really getting what their bodies need. Download the FREE food journal at the end of this post.
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As parents, it is our job to do our best to keep our children healthy. We can keep them warm, clothed, and safe. We can teach them how to brush their teeth and wash their hands. All of these are important, but the number one way to be and stay healthy is to eat nutritious food.
Without good food, children are prone to growth and development problems, obesity, mental and physical health issues, and poor concentration. Many diseases and health problems could be eliminated or drastically reduced by simply having a better diet.
So, if nutrition is that important how do we teach it to our children?
How do we stop them from eating an apple instead of Doritos for a snack?
How do we get them to eat their veggies at dinner?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that teaching them about health and nutrition is huge. It teaches kids the basics of staying healthy and show them that moms just aren’t making them eat their veggies and brush their teetch because we are mean.
Another thing that has helped all of us to eat healthier is to keep a food journal.
Why Use A Food Journal?
I first started using a food journal in college when I was playing sports, in the honors program, carrying a very full class load, and having a typical college social life. As my schedule filled up and my training started to build, I started to feel it in my body – and not in a good way. I was tired and had trouble concentrating. My muscles were having a harder time recovering. I talked with my doctor who recommended I make an appointment with a nutritionist.
When the nutritionist asked me what my diet was like, my answer was “good”. At least in my mind it was good. I ate vegetables daily, well almost daily. I didn’t eat a lot of sweets. So, I thought I was doing pretty well.
She asked me to write down everything I ate or drank each day and the amounts in a notebook and then report back to her in a week. When I returned the next week, we went through my entries. She looked at the amounts and wrote down the number of servings I ate at that time next to that food.
After that, she made a graph for each day with servings on one axis and food groups on the other. We, then, graphed how many servings of fruits, vegetables, proteins, grands, dairy, and plain junk food I ate each day. I was a little surprised at the small number of fruits and vegetables and the large amount of grains, but I still thought I was ok.
Then, she brought out a chart with my recommended number of servings from each food group she had made based on my age, gender, and activity. When I compared these numbers to my graphs, I saw exactly where I was lacking and where I was out of balance.
After that, I kept a food journal until eating a nutritious balanced diet became second nature. When eating healthy became a habit, my body would actually tell me when I was getting off track. My energy levels would drop. I would have a hard time concentrating on my studies. I wasn’t as strong on the field. Through the food journal exercise, I learned just how much nutrition and eating habits affected my body.
Using Food Journals To Teach Nutrition
Related post: Why Teach Health And Nutrition In Homeschool?
We have used food journals in our house on and off throughout the years. My kids are athletes and really busy. It is easy to just grab food and go. But, since they practice and train so much, good nutrition is essential. Not to mention they are growing like weeds.
Like any other kids, mine do not always make great food choices. They would rather eat Doritos than an apple for a snack or skip the vegetables at dinner. We broke out the food journals when I finally got sick and tired of nagging them to eat better. They needed a tool to help them make choices on their own.
The kids kept daily food journals and we compared their results to what they should be based on their age, gender, and activity level, just like I had done in college. Even though they were younger, the results were similar.
When the kids recorded everything they ate and drank in their food journals and compared it to what their diet should have looked like, they actually started making better food choices. No nagging required. (Ok, a little nagging but not near as much as before.) There is something about seeing it down on paper.
Generally when I keep a journal, I just record food groups and serving sizes. In the Apologia curriculum, their food diary has a spot to record calories and nutrients, as well. Just another layer of nutrition for your kids to learn about!
Food Journaling Activity
Do your kids eat healthy? Do you? Try food journaling with your kids and find out for sure. Here’s how.
Determine how many servings of each food group you need. We used the USDA’s My Plate guidelines to determine what our diets should look like. Enter your weight, height, age, gender, and activity level in the Get Your My Plate Plan tool and it will tell you how many calories you should be consuming. Then, click on your age range and recommended calorie intake into the graph below the tool and it will show you how many servings of each good group you should be eating each day. Record your findings.
Track your food. Keep track of all you eat and drink each day for a week. You can use notebook paper or a printable food journal like the free one at the end of this post. Record the food and the amount of each or number of servings. The My Plate website can help with serving sizes.
Anaylze your results. Compare what you should be eating to what you recorded in your food journal.
Make adjustments. Chances are after analyzing your food journal entries you will need to make some adjustments in your eating habits. Keep your food journal for another week or longer. This time, keep your goals in mind and really try to hit them.
Analyze again. After another week, analyze your food journal entries. Is your diet closer to what was recommended for you? If so, do you feel any different? Keep your food journal for as long as you can and see how your diet improves.
FREE Food Journal Printable Download
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