Your oncologist or cancer nutritionist may have already advised you on what to eat during your cancer treatment. If not, then you can find some ideas here.
Even when you know what you should be eating, you may not be seeing the right results. Be it maintaining your weight, improving your energy levels, or reducing the side-effects of the treatment, your diet can be the key to your nutrition goals. This makes it very important to track what you are eating, and how much you are eating on a daily basis.
A food journal is a way to keep track of your daily nutritional goals. Depending on what is most convenient for you, you can keep this journal in a book, on your phone, or can take the help of your caregiver to track your progress.
Do I need a food journal?
If one or more of the below statements is true in your case, then you will benefit from a food journal:
- You feel you are eating right, but you are still not meeting your nutritional goal.
- You forget to eat certain foods like fruits, nuts, or specific snacks.
- You are not eating sufficient calories per day.
- You are eating too many calories per day and your doctor has asked you to reduce your calorie intake.
- You are not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables as advised for you.
- You are not drinking enough water.
- You suffer from lower levels of energy.
- You are facing severe side-effects like nausea, vomiting, constipation or loose motions.
- You have a poor appetite and don’t feel like eating.
How will a food tracker help me?
With side-effects like nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea, there are foods that reduce the intensity of your symptoms. There are also other foods that make your symptoms worse. For a list of the foods that you should and should not eat during this time, read this blog on the best diet for chemotherapy.
Using a food tracker, you can ensure that you are eating the foods that will reduce your side-effects. Keep a checklist of which foods you need to have in a day. Tick them off as you consume them so that you know you have completed your food requirements for the day.
Ensuring adequate calorie intake
During cancer treatment, it is common for patients to either lose a lot of weight or gain weight. Extreme changes in your weight can affect your treatment outcomes. It is, therefore, very important to monitor your daily food intake.
Using a food journal you can record how many calories you are able to consume per day. This is useful information for your doctor or dietician to help you improve on your diet plan.
Checking for dips in energy levels
Your food journal can help you identify which foods are boosting your energy levels, and which foods are leading to a dip in your energy levels. Keeping track of how you feel after each meal will help you identify the problem foods.
This can also be used to check which foods make you sleepy, and which foods are contributing to your insomnia.
Building a successful meal plan
Keeping a food journal also helps you identify which foods are easier to consume, due to their taste or texture. You can then alter your meal plan to include more foods that are enjoyable to help you eat better.
For example, if you notice that you eat less fruits but are able to consume good amounts of fresh fruit juices, you will know which one to include in your meal plan.
An easy way to a food journal
A food journal does not have to be complicated, here are some easy ways to do it:
Note down what you eat
The simplest way to journal is to note down what you eat. You can look through your notes on a weekly basis to draw conclusions on which foods are helping you and which foods need to be avoided.
Make a checklist
Make a list of foods that you are required to eat. This might look like this:
- 1 egg at breakfast
- 1 bowl of fresh fruits at breakfast
- 1 small bowl of mixed nuts as early morning snack
Ticking off the items each day ensures you do not forget any of them.
Categorise the foods
You can also use a tabular form of tracking your food intake to know which foods are better for you. Draw up columns for the categories that are relevant for you. Here’s an example:
|I felt bloated after eating this||I felt nauseous after eating this||I felt sleepy after eating this||I felt energised after eating this|
This will help you identify which foods are repeatedly making you feel a certain way. Of course, certain cancer medications may also have these effects. You can speak to your doctor about how you can manage such side-effects.
There is no one correct way of doing this. It’s about finding the way that is most beneficial to you. If you are new to this, you may find that you are not very regular in updating your food journal. It will take a bit of practice. Keep at it, even if you have missed out for a couple of days. Go back and start again, till you can get the most out of your food tracker.