Nutrition Articles

Discover the Power of Food Tracking

Weight Loss News Flash

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You hear all the time that to lose weight, you should track what you eat. Well, a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that keeping a "food diary" may double your weight loss efforts.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research kept tabs on 1,685 overweight and obese adults (men and women), whose average weight was 212 pounds. The researchers encouraged participants to adhere to a reduced-calorie, DASH eating plan and asked them record their daily food intake and exercise minutes.

After 20 weeks, the average weight loss was 13 pounds per person. But researchers discovered something else; the more participants recorded what they ate, the more weight they lost in the end. Participants who did not keep a food diary lost about 9 pounds over the course of the study, while those who recorded their food intake six or more days per week lost 18 pounds—twice as much as those who didn't track any food!

Action Sparked: If you've ever doubted that using SparkPeople's personalized Nutrition Tracker would help you lose weight, think again! At SparkPeople, we've always encouraged daily food and fitness tracking for people who want to lose weight, and this new study supports what we've been encouraging for years. By tracking your food, you become more accountable: If you know you're going to have to record that candy bar on your food tracker, you might think twice before eating it. Plus, SparkPeople's detailed food tracker shows you exactly what you're putting into your mouth so you can make better, more informed choices.

This isn't news to the millions of people who have lost weight by tracking their food and fitness minutes on Each month, over five million people utilize SparkPeople's free tools, Community, and resources to get healthier. And every day, our members track more than one million foods on their free Nutrition Trackers, making's food tracker the most popular in the world! It works away from home, too: SparkPeople's Nutrition Trackers is available on web-enabled cell phones.

Do you know someone who would be interested in SparkPeople's free food diary and tools? Then Spread the Spark! Share this article by clicking the "Send This Article to a Friend" button below.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

    This is so true. I eat WAY more when I don't track my food, because little things you don't even think about add up. And certain foods are shockingly high-caloric. A lot of times it's not even about HOW MUCH you eat, but WHAT you eat that throws you off.

    I'm glad that there are apps now that make tracking food faster and easier than ever. If I had to write it all down on paper, and reread labels a hundred times, I'd give up fast. Apps that let you scan barcodes are a godsend, but as I'm moving away from processed, packaged foods to more natural foods, I'm still searching for the perfect system to make tracking my food painless. - 12/11/2015 2:15:40 AM
  • After coming home from surgery following a heart attack, I made an effort to become aware of what I consumed during the day. I dutifully entered into an automated journal what I ate and drank, and when I took my medications. I kept at it for 5 years, during which I gained more than 35 pounds. I finally realized that while I knew what I consumed, which was more healthful than I ever had before, I had no idea how much. In the last 3 years, after finding SparkPeople and other similar sites, I began measuring my food. In these 3 years, because I had a much more accurate record of my consumption and began a heavy campaign of walking and lots of other cardio exercising, I successfully lost those 35 plus 20 more. In addition to organizing my consumption and exercise practices, I also devised a better system of ensuring that I would no longer miss some medications, which while previously was infrequent, just doesn't occur any longer. - 11/14/2015 10:38:22 PM
  • I agree completely! I've been a member of Spark People for quite some time...but only recently have I really started carefully tracking everything that I eat. It's made a HUGE difference. I used to hate tracking everything because it was so time consuming. Who wants to sit down and figure out how many calories they ate when they get home from a long day at work? That's when I started planning out all my meals/snacks for the upcoming week on Sunday. Spark People lets you log your food up to 7 days that's what I do. I plan what I'm going to eat for the week, enter all the days in at once, and then all I have to do during the week is look up what's already been planned and tracked. It's really taken the headache out of counting calories since I only do it once a week. - 4/30/2014 3:51:30 PM
  • Ive been with sp for some time and found the only thing that works. Is to track when i quit i gain it back so stick with it - 10/15/2013 7:30:47 PM
  • I love tracking my food so I know if I went over or see did I eat enough. - 7/1/2013 9:22:57 AM
  • I really believe that tracking calories in vs. calories out is the best way to diet. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of creating calorie deficits everyday. Personally, I like to use the myfitnesspal app on my iPhone-it makes it so easy to track the foods I eat and the calories I burn, and makes it easier to stay on track!! - 5/29/2013 11:22:02 AM
  • Ive been tracking my meals and exercise for 3 years now and have lost 80lbs. Its great but I believe if I was not tracking I still would have lost the same weight. It was more of lifestyle changes I made. - 4/23/2013 9:13:11 PM
    I just went to read the link for the original research. It seems that this research DOES NOT speak about 'counting calories' or using a food tracker like on SP.
    Quoting: ""Keeping a food diary doesn't have to be a formal thing. Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice. It's the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior," says Keith Bachman, MD, a Weight Management Initiative member. " - 4/20/2013 12:54:36 PM
    So, I wonder, did the participants only write down what they ate or did they track calories and nutrients? The article doesn't mention it.

    Also, it is very well possible that the persons who did not keep a record did not do so BECAUSE they weren't (very) good at sticking to the food plan. And those who were good at sticking to it had less of a problem tracking.
    So I'm not convinced that it is tracking leads to more weight loss.
    - 4/20/2013 12:50:36 PM
    I am completely convinced that recording the food you eat helps to loose weight. The reason I'm discouraged when I do it is that I often make my own recipes which are not easy to record in the programs. so I have to search the data base to input my recipe before I can begin to record it. It can take me 30 minutes to just get my recipe into the system. Has anyone else encountered this problem and how have you solved it? - 4/20/2013 8:40:49 AM
  • I finally bought a tablet so when travelling I can keep track of food in the food tracker. Keeping track by writing it down is the only way to go, it is too easy to cheat when you are not writing it down. - 4/20/2013 8:21:44 AM
  • My personal experience has been that it's an indispensable tool. I had done Weight Watchers for many years and never tracked, at least not accurately and consistently. And guess what? I always gained all the weight back and then some. Once I started using SparkPeople's trackers, I not only lost the weight but I've also kept it off for more than a year now. I have little sense of correct portions, even after three consistent years, and will easily let them creep if I'm not on top of things. Is tracking a pain? Yes, sometimes. Is it worth spending the time each day to weigh, measure and log my food to make sure I don't end up at 260 pounds ever again? ABSOLUTELY! Of course there are other factors that have come into play, but tracking has been one very important piece of my weight loss success puzzle. - 4/20/2013 5:28:42 AM
    Just started today. so excited..... plan to lose 50 lbs by October 7th this year wish me luck.... - 4/15/2013 10:52:10 AM
  • I track, but what I need to change with tracking is(eyeballing it) I am committed to weigh and measure so I know I am headed in the direction I want to go. I find the tracking here on Sparkpeople user friendly + I get loads of nutritional information. - 1/30/2013 2:39:29 PM
    I tend to start obsessing about food MORE when I track. Not sure it has been a good thing. Just depends on the individual. - 12/26/2012 1:03:14 PM

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