Nutrition Articles

Discover the Power of Food Tracking

Weight Loss News Flash

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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Member Comments

  • Tracking is most important for me. It keeps me on track.
  • I love tracking! Helps me stay accountable!
  • I took the trouble of following the link to the article about the study. This is about writing down what you eat NOT about counting calories. Also the people in the study had to HAND IN their records of what they ate every week.
    Not quite the same as using the tracker at SP which may even lead to weight GAIN because counting calories can work counter-productiv
  • It's good to keep track of what you eat!
  • Tracking is Golden and keeps me accountable when no one's looking!
  • It only works if we are honest about it. Only when I got a food scale (present from DD) did I accept the fact that my "portions" could feed 2 - 4 people.
    Same with exercise. It's very easy to overestimate our calorie burn.
    I keep a food diary by writing in it. Tracking it on an app or on an online website is too time consuming for me.
  • It takes me a lot of time and effort to track, but it keeps me within bounds for losing weight or just maintaining - I am not intuitive enough to stay "on track" without something like this.
  • With the heavy emphasis on food tracking in SparkPeople, I would imagine that a bit more can be written about it. Nicole's article is a nice teaser, but how about an expansion?
  • The first time I tracked was on WW. I diligently wrote everything that went into my mouth in my log book and yes the weight came off. I also tracked when on MediFast, cooked and weighed my own food for dinner and ate their instant food the rest of the day and the weight came off. Now at 60+ years it seems that no matter what I do the struggle is horrendous to just drop one pound (a box of butter) and it is frustrating. I think the key to weight removal is to cook for yourself, track and weigh the food. I am now considering a meal delivery service which is expensive but not as expensive as going to the hospital due to weight related health issues. WW used to say (for motivation) to look at yourself in the mirror without clothes and jump up and down. This used to work for me, now it is disgusting not motivating. I'm lost and don't know how to find myself.
  • Tracking is something I need to do to take better care of me. I HAVE to, it is my number one accountability piece. When I first began tracking, all day every day, without ever making changes or more informed tracking was busy work. As it slowly began to drive what I ate to hit macronutrient nirvana, to help recognize eating patterns, and to look closely at salt and sugar became an effective tool and a huge piece in my healthy living puzzle!
  • Everyone says that the best way to lose weight is to track your food but tracking food does not always work. I tried tracking using SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker for 6 months and all I did was gain weight because even though I knew eating that candy bar was going to get me off track I still ate the candy and entered it into the tracker. If the tracker could change the way I did things it would work but I have found that I eat the junk just because I can and the tracker can't keep me from eating it. Instead of being a help it only makes me rebel and sabotages me at every turn. You have to want to control what you eat and you don't need a tracker for that. Everyone knows what to eat and what not to eat the tracker may tell you when you are under, over or on track with your calories but can't make you eat the way you should. It isn't the fact that you track your food that you are seeing weight loss. It is the fact that you want to eat right and choose the right food to eat and the amount to eat. The times that I have lost 10 pounds were the times when I did not track but stuck to healthy foods and watched how much I put on my plate. If you exercise and eat mostly veggies and stay away from sweets and salty foods you will lose weight. That is all you need.
  • I was never able to lose without food tracking.

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.