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The Benefits of Keeping a Diabetes Food Journal


Updated January 28, 2012

The Benefits of Keeping a Diabetes Food Journal

Keeping a diabetes food journal is an excellent way to manage your glucose and your weight.

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Why logging your food choices leads to better glucose control:

Keeping a food journal is one of the best ways to monitor what you eat and assess how it is affecting your blood sugar. But keeping a food journal is also perceived by many with diabetes as an ongoing labor-intensive task that they simply don’t have time to do. You can make the process relatively easy and time efficient by following some simple guidelines.

Choose a journal type that works for you

Most people think of a food journal as a bulky notebook that you carry around with you like a school kid. That’s one way to do a food journal, but probably not the best. If paper and pen is your preferred means of recording your eating habits, you might want to pick up a smaller, thin notebook that can easily fit into a purse or shirt pocket.

Some people prefer to record their food choices on their computer, smart phone or tablet. You can use Microsoft Word or Excel and organize the information in any number of ways that suits your style. There are also lots of applications (apps) available for your smart phone or tablet. A free app that comes highly recommended is the dLife Diabetes Companion, which is compatible with iPhones, IPod Touch and the iPad. Another excellent one is My Net Diary. This app is compatible with the same Apple products but also Android and Blackberry products.

There are also online sites that will not only allow you to track and record the food you eat but also provide nutritional information, such as the number of carbohydrates, grams of fat and calories in a single serving. Some sites even include nutrition information from popular chain restaurants to help you when eating away from home. A great option is Calorie Count, which allows you to keep an ongoing log of your food, activity and weight while you work toward your goals. Calorie Count can also be used on your mobile phone.

Record in real time

It may seem like it would be more convenient to record all of your food choices at the end of the day versus doing it several times throughout the day, but your records will be much more accurate if you record what you eat and how much you eat as you are doing it.

Also, a food journal only works if you are honest about literally everything you eat and how much you eat. So, instead of just writing in your journal that you ate chicken, be specific. Was it 3 or 6 ounces? How many ounces of milk or juice did you drink at lunch? Being specific will also allow you to know the number of carbohydrates in that food and better predict how it will affect your blood sugar.

As a minimum, your food journal should include

  • your blood glucose number before you start eating
  • what you ate and how much
  • any diabetes medications you took
  • your blood glucose reading about two hours after your meal

Go over your records periodically

Going over your past records is the best way to spot trends in your food and diabetes management habits. You don’t have to review your log every day or every week. But periodic study of your journal will help you identify patterns that can help you solve management or food problems you otherwise wouldn’t see. You can also use these trends in your routine visits to your doctor to make adjustments to insulin and other management tasks.

Taking action

To use the food journal to its full potential you need to go beyond recording and recognizing trends. You also need to implement an action plan to solve the problem or at least experiment with how you can improve. For example, you find that your blood sugar is going up too high when you eat a certain food. Find a lower-glycemic alternative. If you notice that you eat a high concentration of carbohydrates but a low amount of vegetables, try out some recipes that incorporate more veggies into your meal plan. With practice and perseverance, a food journal can be one of your most important and useful tools to manage your diabetes.


American Diabetes Association. "Keeping a Food Journal.”

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