A day's visual food journal with text overlay: Using a Visual Food Journal for Healthy Eating

Using a Visual Food Journal for Healthy Eating

Did you know that most people think they eat healthier than they actually do? Not only that, would it surprise you to know most of us underestimate the amount we eat by around 20%? When we’re trying to improve our wellness, what we eat matters. So if we have such a hard time estimating what we’re eating, how do we know if we’re eating healthfully? One easy way is to keep a food journal.

As we talked about in Using a Food Journal to Improve Your Wellness, “A food journal can give us a realistic view of what and how much we’re eating, how the things we eat affect the way we feel, and help us identify deficiencies in our diet.”

Food journals can be exceptionally helpful, but they can come with a few challenges:

  • For some people, having to write down everything they eat as they eat it is a hassle
  • If we don’t write down foods as we eat them, when we go back later and try to fill in what we ate, we may not remember everything.
  • Even if we’re writing our foods down, we may still be underestimating the amounts.

One way we can avoid these issues is to use a visual food journal. This is a simple way to keep track of what and how much we’re eating without adding any ‘work’ to our day.

The Visual Food Journal

Keeping a visual food journal is so easy; the only tool you need is the one thing we have with us almost all the time — your cell phone.

Now if you’re trying to count calories, this probably won’t be the best style of journalling for you, but if you’re just trying to get a general idea of what or how much you’re eating, it’s a fantastic tool.

For example, if you want to get an idea of how many servings of fruit and vegetables you generally eat per day, this would be great. Or how about if you wanted to see how your portion sizes look?

Here’s my journal from yesterday:

As you can see, these aren’t great pictures; I just snapped them with my phone quickly. Although they’re labeled here, that’s not necessary when you’re doing your own visual journal.

Some Things to Remember When Starting Your Visual Food Journal:

  • Just take pictures of what you’re eating – don’t judge it. When first starting out with any kind of food journal, the purpose is to get a baseline. You want to find out what you’re typically eating. If you start making judgements about your food, you may be tempted to be a little less-than-honest. It could be really easy to just not take a picture of certain foods. That’s not going to be helpful in the long run.
  • Remember that everything counts. For instance, that energy bite above…. It doesn’t look like much, does it? It may not be that much in the grand scheme of things; after all, it only has 100 calories. But what if you ate five different things that only had 100 calories? That’s 500 extra calories you haven’t accounted for.
  • If you don’t have a specific way of preparing foods, you might want to take photos of the individual components. One example – for my oatmeal, whatever kind of fruit or nuts I add – I always use a teaspoon of butter and 2 teaspoons of sugar to prepare it. When I see that bowl of oatmeal, I know I have to account for those two things. If I didn’t make it the same way each time, it would be helpful to photograph those separately so I knew to count them.
  • Be brutally honest in keeping your journal. We’re using these journals to help us improve our wellness. If we’re not honest with ourselves about what we’re actually eating, how will we know what we need to improve? I can tell you I wasn’t happy about having to share that picture of my grande mocha with you guys, but I’ve never made any secret about my love for a mocha every now and then. And that brings me to my next point….
  • Use what you learn from your journal to make small improvements. Once you’ve been keeping your visual journal for a while, you’ll start to notice patterns. Maybe you see you’re not eating many vegetables, or maybe you’re eating a lot of processed foods…. Maybe you realize you’re not eating enough…. Use this information to help you start to make small changes that move you toward healthier eating.
  • Remember that you don’t need to eat perfectly all the time to make progress. While it’s important to eat healthfully the majority of the time, there’s room in our eating plans for occasional treats. Putting an expectation of perfection on ourselves can actually sabotage our wellness efforts. After all, who can eat (or do anything else) perfectly all the time?

Food journals have proven their worth over and over for those of us who are trying to ensure we’re eating as healthy as possible. For many people, though, keeping a detailed journal can be just one more hurdle they have to jump. If you’re one of those people, why not give a visual food journal a try?

Have you ever tried a food journal, written or visual? Did you find it helpful? Please share!



If you’ve found this post useful in any way, I’d appreciate you sharing it!

One day's visual food journal with text overlay: Using a Visual Food Journal for Healthy Eating


  1. Great post, that’s a probblem for so many. It used to be for me but I am so particualer about what I eat 85% of the time. I splurge every once in a while. It’s usually when the recipe calls for cream. We’re still doing Home Chef and some of the better meals are made with cream. I limit this to once a month. Are you doing any meal plans?

    1. Thanks so much Melinda! I’m glad you’re enjoying Home Chef. I’m not on any meal subscriptions, but I did try out Daily Harvest this past month, and I love it! I’ve started replacing my afternoon hot beverage with a smoothie, and these are fantastic. As you know, they’re full of organic fruit and vegetables, and none of that ‘fake’ stuff you find in some smoothies. Sometimes when I’m not very hungry, I just make one of these to replace a meal. I usually add some Greek yogurt to increase protein and get some probiotics if I’m replacing a meal. I also like the energy bites. They taste good, and although they’re pretty small, they fill me up. Wishing you a speedy recovery my friend. Hugs!

      1. I love the smoothies, I add one small container of yogurt and some almond milt to mine. If it’s a starwberry one and I’m extra hungry I keep frozen backups. I had to try many flavros before I selettles in on my favs. I haven’t tried their ice cream but it sure looks good. The other thing I did was but the chia blowls and make tham as smooties. They are so worth the price. You can’t fidn organic fruit like they inlude and it’s ready in less than a minute. I haven’t tried the energy bites, I will jave to see how many calories they have, I’ve pretty restictive because we do Hoem Chef three days and it’s not alwasy on the low calorie side.

      2. I completely agree – I don’t think you can get a better deal on organic fruit, and they’ve already done all the work for us. 😊 If I use yogurt, I usually just use water for the liquid. Otherwise, I use skim milk or unsweetened coconut milk. We tried a couple of their ice creams. We didn’t care for the mint cacao, but we really liked the chocolate one – I can’t remember what it’s called. We’ve enjoyed all the energy bites we’ve tried. Most of them are right around 100 calories. Hope you have a great weekend!

  2. What an awesome tip Terri, who would’ve thought to just snap a picture. in this day and age it should be a breeze to do. Too bad they didn’t have cellphones back then when I was growing up. I was literally writing things down along with the calories to make sure everything was in line with my training regime back when I was really into health and fitness.

    1. Thanks so much Mark! The written food journals can really be helpful, but some people just find it hard to stick with logging everything. Of course, that means they don’t account for everything they eat. This is just a simple way for us to see what we’re eating without the extra work.😊 Blessings to you my friend!

  3. This is brilliant! 💜 Sometimes I don’t even remember what I ate during the course of a day, until the next day. Then it’s like “OMG! Well, that can’t be considered sustenance at all!” Lol! Gonna start taking pics of my food, even if my family looks at me like I’ve gone Instagram crazy. 😂 You’re absolutely awesome! 💜

    1. Thank you so much! I’d like to see your family’s faces when you first start snapping pics of your food. 😁 I hope it’s helpful for you, though. Have a fabulous weekend my friend!

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