Thousands of studies have been done on weight loss. Over and over, there is one action that is associated with more weight loss across these studies. It is keeping a food diary.
A food diary can be kept many ways. Writing a list on a piece of paper, logging the food into an online tracker such as chronometer or my favorite – taking pictures of all food/drink to create a video food diary. The benefit of the video food diary is the ability to quickly evaluate the make-up of food intake. For example, while looking at the pictures it is easy to see approximately what percentage of all intake is coming from vegetables. Cronometer is free and is my preferred online food diary because they have the most up to date nutrient breakdown, specifically fiber. This can be especially helpful if we are trying to determine how many grams of fiber a patient is eating a day.
I recommend a food diary for all patients – for weight loss and also for overall health. It can be effortful to do long-term so I usually recommend a 3 day diary. We typically overestimate the beneficial parts of our diets and underestimate the poor food choices. By keeping a food diary and reflecting on it, you can easily answer these questions:
1) How many servings of vegetables in an average day?
2) How many servings of beans in an average week?
3) How many days a week, if any, are you meat-free (no red meat, poultry, fish)? Dairy free (specifically cheese and cow’s milk)?
4) Generally, what % of your food intake is processed (prepackaged food or from a box or bag like crackers, chips, premade foods)?
For all patients, I usually recommend the following two goals to start their plant-based journey:
1) at least half of all food intake to come from non-starchy vegetables – the plate method: looking at your plate, is at least half of the plate full of non-starchy vegetables?
2) at least 1-1.5 cups of beans a day. Any type of beans, having a variety is best.
And if these are met, the next step is to determine how many grams of fiber are ingested. The general rule with fiber is more is better (fiber is only found in plant foods and no, a fiber pill/supplement doesn’t count!).