Written Food Journals vs. Journal Applications: Pros & Cons

Food journal apps, like myFitnessPal and Lose It!, allow for easy tracking of dietary intake and exercise. But don’t ditch the old pen-and-paper method of journaling just yet! Here is a list of some pros and cons comparing written food journals versus journal applications.

Written Food Journals

Pros:

  • You can document everything and anything you want! Your written food journal gives you the freedom to be as detailed as possible and write as much information as you feel. You can also write down food information accurately without having to rely on a restricted list.
  • You can document your thoughts and feelings throughout the day. Feeling successful? What made that day successful for you? By writing down your thoughts and feelings, you can see the patterns of behaviour that help you make healthier food choices.

Cons:

  • Food journals are a lot of work and can be time consuming. Taking time to document everything you eat and how you feel can be exhausting…especially when it is a new habit! Plus, food journals rely on the amount of work you put into it. If you don’t put the effort in, you may not get the feedback you desire.

Food Journal Applications

Pros:

  • Food journal applications can create personalized plans for you to follow. Although food journal applications can use your personal measurements to help create a personalized plan, it may not be appropriate compared to the goals that your health care team has provided for you. Be careful - talk with your health care providers about your unique needs.
  • Help you calculate and track of all your nutrients hassle-free. No need to pull out the calculator or look at food labels! Some applications do all that for you (and more).
    Visuals and graphs can help you see your progress. By well documenting your day-to-day foods and activities, some applications can display your progress through fun visuals and graphs.  Seeing progress can be rewarding!

Cons:

  • Missing foods or activities may lead to underreporting. When using a food journal application, some databases may lack a full range of foods or physical activities for you to record in your journal. What do you do then? Find a similar replacement? But what if that replacement doesn’t have the same nutrient profile that your food did? Do you forgo the food completely? These are all very common obstacles people face when using food journal apps.
  • Many apps lack the ability to document your feelings or reasons for eating throughout the day.  Pinpointing certain behaviours towards eating foods can be just as important as the nutrient composition of the foods you eat. Many applications fail to recognize this important part of food journaling. Additionally, applications also focus on numbers and measurements, which can be discouraging when you aren’t seeing immediate results.
  • Food journal applications can cost money and require the use of an electronic device. If you don’t want to opt for an expensive app or rely on using your cellphone throughout the day, food journal applications may not be for you.

Blog post contributed by Alyssa Ramuscak, Nutrition & Dietetics Student, University of Western Ontario