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How to Create a Diet Chart

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

The right tools are a crucial part of accomplishing your dietary goals. Whether you're aiming to cut back on sugar, eat more fruits and vegetables or decrease your total calories, a diet chart can help you stay on track. Your diet chart is a self-monitoring tool that serves as a visual record of what you're eating. There are several ways you can create a diet chart and no matter which you choose, the most important part is that you update it consistently.

What to Track

Take some time to think about what you'd like to track. If your goal is to zero in on areas where your diet needs improvement, track your daily eating habits. Record your portion sizes and the amount of calories and macronutrients -- protein, carbohydrates and fat -- you consume. Read food labels and record the amount of saturated and unsaturated fat you're eating. Track the amount of sugar in your diet and make a note of whether it's coming from naturally sweet foods such as fruit or processed foods. This provides a more complete picture of where you need to make changes.

How to Track

Take advantage of technology with a smartphone food chart application or online software. These programs track your macronutrient intake, provide tips on healthier food choices, calculate calories burned based on physical activity and feature food databases to take the guesswork out of it. A premade printable chart is convenient, but these typically come as is, with no option to edit. Manually create your own chart using a spreadsheet program. This gives you control over the chart's appearance. Print it out and put on your fridge as a visual reminder of your goals.

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Creating Your Chart

Creating diet charts in smartphone apps or with online software is as simple as choosing your template and plugging in what you eat each day. As for manual charts, this is where creativity comes in. Create your chart based on what you're tracking. For example, if you're tracking your daily eating habits, use one row of the spreadsheet for each meal -- breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Create separate columns for what you ate, estimated calories and portion sizes and a column to record what you were doing or how you were feeling at the time. Use one chart per day or create columns in the spreadsheet for each day of the week. Designate different colors for each column to make the chart easier to read.

Review Regularly

Review your charts regularly to make sure you're meeting your goals. For example, if your goal is to reduce your calories, check whether you kept your serving sizes small and made healthy food choices in place of fatty or sugary foods. Look for patterns of eating when you're not hungry or snacking for too much. Check to see whether you're eating your goal amount of fruits and vegetables and any other goals you may have. Make adjustments where necessary. If you see you're eating sugary processed snacks, for example, incorporate more naturally sweet foods such as fruit.

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