Knowing what your clients eat on a day-to-day basis is important information for nutritional professionals. Not only can it provide insight on why an individual isn’t meeting his or her goals, it can help you meet them where they’re at, and build a realistic meal plan.
Unfortunately, filling out food journals is tedious and many clients forget to complete this “homework.” Even if they do, dietary recall is notoriously inaccurate and subject to biases.
Here are some suggestions for how to deal with clients who don’t fill out their food journals, as well as how to help them keep more accurate food journals.
1. Have Them Record Only 3 Days Per Week
Instead of asking clients to fill out food journals daily, assign them to keep track of two week-days and one weekend-day. This will provide insights on what they eat on work days, as well as on days off.
Since they don’t have to record every day of the week, clients are more likely to complete their journal. Encourage them to record “typical” days and to eat normally on those days to avoid over-reporting of “healthy” foods.
2. Use a Visual Food Journal
For clients who are comfortable using technology, photo-based food journals can be incredibly helpful. They can also be more accurate as you won’t have to worry about estimating portion sizes.
Clients can use their cell phones to take photos of meals before eating and either email you the photos in a document or upload them to a practice/client-management platform like Healthie or Practice Better.
3. Try Nutrition Tracking Apps
In some cases, using an app that tracks calories, macros, etc. can trigger obsessive food tracking. However, in cases that you feel it would be beneficial, using an app like Cronometer or MyFitnessPal can give clients immediate feedback on their food choices.
By displaying the nutrition information in real time, clients can see how individual foods contribute to their daily nutrition recommendations. You can also have clients add you as a friend, or share their login information with you to track their intake.
4. Make it Part of Their Daily Routine
If you’re providing a pen-and-paper food journal, have clients incorporate it into a part of their daily routine. Keeping it next to their bed, and filling it out at the end of the day is helpful and also keeps them off their electronics at bedtime!
Include sections for tracking mood and symptoms alongside the food so they can reflect and begin to make connections between what they eat and how they feel.
When your clients are able to record food intake consistently and accurately, you're able to do your job better as their nutrition consultant.
Do you have any tips that work for your clients when it comes to filling out their food journals? Let us know in the comments below!