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Analysing your food diary

Find out how to analyse a food diary as part of a free online course on Heart Health by the University of Reading.
© University of Reading

Over the last four weeks you have been invited to complete a diary of your food intake and activity levels. In the next few Steps we’ll look at how to analyse this data and understand what your results might mean for your heart health.

If you’re short of time you might like to focus on analysing just your food diary, or your activity diary.

It’s important that you remember that this shouldn’t be used diagnostically – making changes to your lifestyle based on the data in this exercise could have a negative impact on your health. If you’re concerned about your diet or your activity levels you should speak with a healthcare professional who will be able to give you advice based on your specific situation.

Food diary worksheet

First, let’s look at how to collate and analyse the information from your food diary. To do this you’ll need to download the food analysis worksheet.

We’ll start by collating the information that you recorded in your diary and calculate daily or weekly averages based on these figures. You can then compare these results to the UK averages and to the recommended levels of consumption. If you come from outside of the UK, try to find the equivalent statistics for your country. You might like to share how these differ from the UK averages in the comments.

Collating your food diary data using the food analysis worksheet:

Oily fish and meat

Question 1 in the worksheet asks you to indicate how many times per week you ate medium servings of oily fish, and then of meat.

  1. Go through your food diary and add together the average total amount of times you ate oily fish for each week – this excludes white fish and canned tuna. The NHS website has a list of oily fish if you’re not sure.
  2. Add these numbers together. Then divide this by the number of weeks you kept the diary for.

    Eg (Week 1 + Week 2 + Week 3 + Week 4) divided by 4 = Total average

  3. Repeat these steps for meat, excluding poultry.

Vegetables, salads and fruits

Question 2 asks you to indicate how many times per day you ate medium servings of vegetables (excluding potato), salads and fruits (excluding fruit juices).

  1. Go through your food diary and add the number of times that you ate vegetables (excluding potato) each day.
  2. Divide this total by the number of days you kept your diary for.
  3. Repeat this for salads and for fruits (excluding fruit juices).

Note: A medium serving is 80g of vegetables or fruits and this is approximately a handful. For regular fruits (apples, bananas) this is a medium sized piece. For small fruits this is a handful (strawberries, cherries etc.) or 2 satsumas. For large fruits it is half a fruit (grapefruit). For small vegetables (peas, sweetcorn etc) this is 3 heaped tablespoons and for larger vegetables stick to the handful guide.

Different colours of food

Question 3 asks about the number of different coloured foods you ate per day.

  1. Go through your food diary and count the number of different colours eaten for each day and add these together.
  2. Divide by the total by the number of days you kept your diary for.

Note: Class bread, rice, pasta, potato and cereal as all being beige, and meat and poultry as being brown.
For example, meal with chicken (brown), chips (beige) and carrots (orange) would have 3 colours. If you then had cereal (beige) with milk (white) the amount would go up to 4 (not 5).

Salt

Question 4 asks about use of salt.

If you didn’t record your use of salt in your diary then try to answer this question from memory.

In the next Step, you’ll analyse this collated information and compare with the typical UK averages.

© University of Reading
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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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