Weight management: does a food diary work?


In a 2008 study of 1,700 people conducted by the Kaiser Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, people who kept a food diary for six months lost twice as much weight as those who kept no food record.

The reason: Recording what you eat makes you accountable for every bit of food that goes into your mouth. Keeping a food diary can also reduce or eliminate mindless eating, such as stuffing crisps or chocolate-chip cookies into your mouth while watching television. Knowing you’ll need to record those crisps or cookies can be a powerful motivator for leaving them in their packets.

Just Routine’s food diary goes one step further by also highlighting these ultra-processed foods in red or orange – a handy and easy to see health warning that you might be eating too many of these products. And as it’s an app on your phone it means you don’t need to wait until the end of the day to fill it out, when it’s easy to forget or misremember some details.

Recording foods and drinks as you eat them is also a powerful incentive to do better, as well as being a more accurate record of what you have eaten. It might also make you think twice about having extra helpings.

The other big benefit of an interactive food diary is that it also allows you to experiment with your diet by loading food before it has been consumed. By trying out combinations it’s easy to make new choices before any damage is done. The number of times I have changed my mind from buying a large latte and croissant for breakfast, after seeing how it would look in my diary – well, it certainly has changed many of my old habits.

The bottom line: academic research backs up the effectiveness of keeping a food diary.

Why I developed Just Routine

When I started researching into food a decade ago I had no idea it would lead me to setting up a company reporting on this research, never mind creating an app to make it easy to overcome all the complexity of conflicting nutritional information by offering a simple guide to eating real foods that help manage weight and improve health.

Some of the reasons that have made me so committed along the way have included:

  • A drive to encourage us all to eat more real food
  • A wish to inspire more home cooking as a way of investing in our families, creating more 1-on-1 time with partners, children, friends and extended family
  • The aim to encourage support for local independent food producers
Just Routine explained

The app required a new way of looking at food, developing a formula to point foods based on the quality of their nutrition and designing the graphics to make the information clear and easily understood. Naturally it had to be a food guide as well as a meal planner. However, I always viewed tracking as an essential function. Recording and visualising key components in regular food consumption were important as this enables:

  • Tracking how food intake stacks up on a daily, weekly, monthly or customised basis
  • Making the variety in our diets easy to see
  • Offering the chance to better management balance and moderation across core food groups
  • See what proportion of our diet is made up of real food
  • Monitor what proportion is processed food

From the outset Just Routine was not designed to be a calorie-counting diet, but rather more of a ‘friend’, helping develop a better understanding of food that can assist with weight management as well as contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Some specific benefits of tracking

It’s possible to use the app in many ways – whether it’s to search the real food database, check out the hundreds of Just Routine recipes, or create shopping lists – but I still believe that the tracking element is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of the system.

For anyone serious about eating food for better health calorie counting is woefully inadequate.  I wanted a different approach to creating a food diary. One that can bring many benefits:

  • Tracking what we eat and drink can help keep us focused on our diet, while providing motivation, increase efficacy and help us attain and maintain our goals
  • Recording everything we eat provides regulation and accountability for what we consume
  • The rainbow colours of the body graphics in the app make it easy to follow what we are eating
  • The act of recording our foods in Just Routine makes us more mindful about what we are eating
  • The colours can help us compose balanced meals with healthy proportions of good carbohydrates, protein and fat, while alerting us to components that may be far more detrimental to our health than simple calorie counting will show

With thousands of registered users in the UK, Canada and Australia, it’s easy to give it a try. It’s fun to use with friends and family, sharing your favourite recipes and meals while enjoying the daily food tip notifications, many written by our registered Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom.

If you are interested in food for better health and you want a new way to judge food on wider health benefits rather than simply the energy it provides, you can find out more here.


Move beyond calories


Make eating real food Just Routine


Currently Just Routine App is only available on IoS devices, but our IT team is working very hard on launching Android soon and we will keep you posted.

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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