How To Keep an Accurate Food Diary or Food Log

Food records can contain valuable information when trying to determine whether someone is or isn’t getting the nutrition they need or if something medically could be contributing to poor growth.In order for a food record to be helpful, it must be very detailed. Often times, parents will keep food records that are incomplete and cannot be used by medical professionals. It is important to list everything your child eats AND drinks for three days (including water). Do not list what you offer but the amount he or she actually eats. If your child's diet varies widely each day, sometimes you can get a better picture keeping the record for five days.

Be very specific and include brand names, amounts consumed and preparation, especially if a dietitian or someone else will looking at the record. If you eat a mixed food, list the ingredients and amounts. Do not assume the person analyzing the diet will know what your child ate.

If you are going to be analyzing the record yourself, you will also want to write down the calories that is in the portion your child eats. You can do so by looking at the nutrition label on any packaged food or by going to Nutrition4Kids' USDA database and food labels and searching for the calories in the food. Obviously, if the amount listed for the portion is other than the amount he or she eats, you adjust for that in your listing. For example, whole milk shows 160 calories in an 8 ounce portion -- but your child only drank 4 ounces, you would only list the 80 calories he consumed.

If you are concerned about the amount of protein, fiber or other nutrient that your child may not be getting in enough quantity, you can track that as well. Simply use the additional column to record the amount in the portion your child eats. You can usually use the nutrition labels on the package. But if the information you want isn't there, see Nutrition4Kids' section on packaged foods and restaurant menu items where just about everything you need can be found. Soon, Nutrition4Kids willl even have a section where you can write (and if you want, share) your recipes. This tool will analyze what you put in the recipe and give you the nutritional information for the portion size you specify.

Some common mistakes to avoid:

Don't use "bites" and "handfuls" to describe amounts. Instead, describe the size of the bite or handful with measurements such as teaspoon, tablespoon, 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup.

Fully describe the food item. Don't just record "milk." We need to know if it was whole milk, or skim milk and if there was flavoring or anything else added (e.g., 1 Tbsp Hershey’s chocolate syrup in 8 oz whole milk).

Don't record "fruit” or “veggie,” especially when reporting baby foods. It should be written as “1 Stage 2 jar Gerber blueberry apple or2 Tbsp Stage 1 Gerber applesauce.”

Incorrect Example
TimeAmountDetailed Food DescriptionCaloriesOther
8:00Sippy cupMilk with cream  
1:001 cupMashed potatoes, chicken, peas  
Correct Example
TimeAmountDetailed Food DescriptionCaloriesOther
8:004 ozWhole milk75 
 1 TbspHeavy cream50 
 ½ cupQuaker instant oatmeal- low sugar maple and brown sugar prepared with 3 oz whole milk and 1 Tbsp butter110, 56, 100 
10:304 ozYoplait light blueberry yogurt90 
1:002 ozGrilled chicken80 
 ½ cupPeas60 
 ½ cup

Mashed potatoes

with 1 tsp butter




For your convenience, we've included a three-day diet record for you to use

TimeAmountDetailed Food DescriptionCaloriesOther
TimeAmountDetailed Food DescriptionCaloriesOther
TimeAmountDetailed Food DescriptionCaloriesOther

Bailey Koch, RD, CSP, LD13 May 2015

Bailey Koch is the President of Atlanta Pediatric Nutrition, Inc., which provides nutrition services to pediatric physicians’ practices and provides consulting services to food Read more

  • 0