Why this dietitian recommends keeping a food diary

While we've approached the food diary from the personal perspective of someone with coeliac and IBS, food diaries are just as helpful for your dietitian to help you, as they are for you to help yourself.

Chloe McLeod, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian from Sydney, Australia and is director of the online program ‘The FODMAP Challenge’ weighs in to let you know her thoughts on food diaries...


Why a dietitian recommends keeping a food diary when you have food intolerance

"Food intolerance. It seems that everywhere you turn, there’s a new person, or a new type, or food intolerance on the block. And sometimes, it can be super tricky to determine exactly what those triggers are.

In some circles, keeping a food diary isn’t advised. It can sometimes lead to anxiety and stress, particularly if you have to show it to someone… the fear of being judged can be excruciating!

However, when it comes to managing food intolerances, I will always suggest keeping a food diary. Not the type of diary where you have to weigh and measure and stick to a certain calorie restriction, but the type of diary where you are clearly able to lay out which foods were consumed, and which symptoms appeared. Why? Here are the reasons I recommend a food diary, at each stage of determining food intolerances:

  1. Determining best way forward: Being a dietitian working in food intolerance can sometimes feel like you’re being a bit of a detective! I don’t expect my clients to remember every thing they have eaten, or every symptom they have had; I know if I was asked to outline everything I’d eaten for the past week I’d be sure to miss something! Keeping a diary means it is written down, its on the paper. This data makes determining what is going on for you a whole lot easier.

  2. Elimination phase: Once we’ve figured out what we think is most likely to be triggers, we usually remove a whole lot of potential triggers. For example, when starting a low FODMAP diet, high FODMAP foods are removed. I like to recommend highlighting when this occurred in the diary, as this helps you to a) see how long it took for symptoms to settle, b) see if there is a withdrawl reaction where symptoms flare, c) be certain you are on the right track.

  3. Challenge phase: So you’ve removed the potential triggers, and you’re feeling great… what do we do now? Most people, particularly in the two key areas of food intolerance I work in (being FODMAPs and food chemical intolerance) do not need to stay on the strict elimination diet forever. Most are not intolerant to everything under the umbrella of where their intolerance sits. For this reason, we then do a series of challenges, to determine what is what. Again, keeping the diary so you can see how far into the food challenge symptoms appeared, what symptoms appeared and how severe they were helps us know how sensitive you are to that potential trigger. For example, it might take less than a day to react to lactose, however sorbitol was fine until day 4 of the challenge.

  4. Reintroduction phase: Once you know your triggers, reintroducing the foods that are no problem, and then, small quantities of foods that are a problem (as this is not an allergy) is recommended. Again, keeping a journal of what happens through this process helps give you (and your dietitian) knowledge of what is happening, and as such, making it easier to manage in the long term.

Keeping a food diary when you have food intolerance is not about anything more than helping raise your dietitians knowledge and awareness of what is happening for you, so that they can help you better."

If you're on, or about to start the FODMAP diet, Chloe has offered our community 15% off the next round of the FODMAP Challenge programme (see below). And you can find out more about how our diary can help you track your food intolerance journey right here.


Chloe McLeod is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian from Sydney, Australia and is director of the online program ‘The FODMAP Challenge’ which helps individuals determine their triggers of IBS. If you’d like to sign up, The FODMAP Challenge is offering The Food Diary Co readers 15% off the next round of the program! Head to the website and input the code ‘FOODDIARY15’ for your discount!

The Food Diary Co