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Nutrition and Dietetics Service

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Last updated: April 2020
Next review: April 2022

Leaflet: Food diary

Food diary: Keep track of what you eat and drink

A food diary is a useful way of keeping track of what you eat and drink. This record will enable your nurse/doctor/dietitian/health professional identify nutrients or food groups which may need some adjusting (increasing or decreasing) for good health. They can then provide practical advice on how the necessary changes can be achieved.

How to complete a food diary

Complete the food diary for at least 3 days in a row (including a weekend day). A longer period is a better option if you can manage it, because this will provide a more comprehensive picture of your eating and drinking habits.

The purpose of the diary is to look at everything you eat and drink, including meals, snacks, sweets and fluids such as water, juices and alcoholic drinks. It is important that information is as accurate as possible, so do remember to record everything.

Try to describe the food and drink and how it was prepared. For example if you ate chicken, was it roasted, in a sauce, or in breadcrumbs? If you ate bread, was it white or wholemeal?
Try to specify how much of the food you ate, so if it was toast did you eat it all, including the crusts, or did you eat a half a slice, or a quarter?

If you are feeling unwell, such as feeling sick, this may explain why you may not be eating and drinking as much as usual. Please record these symptoms where relevant.

It might be useful to ask a carer, relative or friend to help you complete the diary.

Weight monitoring

Small changes in weight over time are entirely normal. If however you are eating less than usual, and/or you have lost weight unintentionally over a period of time, you may be advised to monitor your weight at home. You may be asked to monitor your weight every month, or more often (such as every 1-2 weeks). Most people do not benefit from weighing themselves any more often than once a week, unless you have been specifically told to do this from your doctor or other healthcare professional (such as specialist nurse).

Weighing yourself at home

To weigh yourself at home, you need to be able to stand and balance safely on the scales. You should also check that your scales are in good working order.

It is best to record your weight at the same time of day, wearing similar clothing each time. Wearing light clothes and no shoes might be the best option if you can manage this, but don’t worry if this isn’t possible, just try to be as consistent as possible.

Ensure the scale is placed on a hard, flat surface and avoid using a scale on carpet. A scale that tilts or is uneven will not measure your weight accurately. The bathroom or kitchen, are usually the best places to use scales at home.

What if I can’t weigh myself at home?
Other general markers of weight change to look out for are things like changes in physical appearance and whether your clothes, belts and jewellery become loose or ill fitting. If nurses or healthcare professionals visit you at home to monitor your nutritional health, they may take a measurement from around your upper arm to help monitor your progress. If you have any concerns about changes to your weight, please contact your GP.

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