Food journaling, in a variety of different forms, is a tried and true strategy for improving dietary habits in the health and wellness community. Food tracking journals are key for identifying eating habits, obtaining nutritional analysis, and creating positive health outcomes. Research has shown persistent food journaling to be a positive predictor of healthy eating behaviors.
There are a variety of different types of food tracking journals available. Each is effective for different types of health goals and can be leveraged efficiently within your wellness business. Nutritional analysis software is a commonly used tool, due to its efficacy and ease of use. Here, we discuss the best practices for using nutritional analysis software with your clients and within your wellness business.
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What is nutritional analysis software?
Nutritional analysis software allows you to track the nutrient composition of meals and recipes and receive an analysis of the dietary habits of an individual. The software typically includes a nutrient database containing the nutrition content of thousands of food products, ranging from fresh produce to packaged goods. Users are able to search the nutrient database, and enter their intake for a set period of time.
The database will automatically adjust the nutrition information based on serving size, and will offer a nutrient analysis covering a wide range of data points, such as calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients.
This type of food and nutrient tracking offers a data-based, precise approach to improving food habits. While client-led journaling is not always 100% accurate, it allows providers to get a holistic view of what clients are eating each day. Providers can subsequently apply this information to their client’s health intervention, making it an effective way to identify and fix difficulties in changing dietary habits.
Commonly used nutrient databases use by nutrition and wellness professionals include:
- USDA FoodData: offers a free searchable database containing thousands of foods, including basic foods, branded foods, and even foods considered experimental according to the FDA. This resources is free to the public.
- ESHA: an extensively researched food and nutrition database of more than 100,000 foods and food items including popular foods, restaurant items, ingredients, and recipes.
- NutriBase Pro: with a robust database containing 900,000 foods, NutriBase is a paid-software frequently utilized in the wellness industry.
- Cronometer Pro: nutrition tracking software utilized by wellness professionals and researchers. Allows clients to log and track their meals, for the wellness provider to review in detail.
Using Nutritional Analysis Software with Clients
When using nutritional analysis software with clients, your first goal should be to explain why you are using it and how to effectively use it. There may be a variety of reasons you are implementing this strategy to improve your clients’ overall nutrition; they may be suffering from a chronic disease and need nutrition management, or simply looking to gain or lose weight and need a concrete method to do so. Whatever the reason, be sure to explain that taking a data-based approach will be most effective for them. Nutrient tracking is more precise than general food logging, and will help you identify both areas for improvement and successes as you work together.
Be sure to walk your client through how to properly use nutrient tracking software to optimize their health outcomes. This means explaining how to accurately input portion sizes and how to check if the information in the nutrient database is identical or similar to what they actually ate. These practices are crucial in ensuring high levels of precision for the subsequent dietary analysis. It’s also important to discuss the importance of transparency in food logging with clients.
Nutrient tracking can be a tedious and time-consuming process for busy clients. Once you’ve established the why and how, it’s crucial to their progress to keep them motivated and engaged to create a habit that will help improve their health in the long-run. First, instill a sense of accountability to the process of daily nutrient tracking. Having their provider monitor their progress through the nutritional analysis software allows them to stay focused. Reviewing food journal entries, giving real-time meal suggestions, and answering questions, and more instills a sense of accountability. Food tracking and journaling is made easy with convenient client messaging from Healthie. Learn how you can foster and grow client relationships with our free starter plan today.
Clients will feel increasingly motivated to continue tracking as they see results forming. Concrete progress will align them to stay determined and focused throughout their entire journey. Each session, be sure to discuss markers of progress with your client, whatever they may be. These goals can be determined during your first session together, depending on the client’s needs and desires for working together. Following-up on how these determinants have improved, however, is crucial to keeping your client working towards their overall goals.
Nutritional Analysis vs. Photo Food Journaling
Nutritional analysis and photo food journaling are both effective ways of tracking client dietary patterns; however, they are each properly suited for a certain type of client and their wellness goals. Neither is necessarily better than the other, but they each serve a purpose when working on nutritional goals with clients.
Nutrient Tracking & Analysis
Nutrient tracking and analysis is bound to be most effective when working with clients with chronic conditions, whose dietary intake is crucial to the management of their disease. Nutrient tracking allows clients to give their providers an accurate picture of their dietary habits through data and analytics, rather than a general description or photo. Providers are able to view the exact items consumed, the amount, and their nutrient content, allowing them to identify any changes that need to be made, or habits to continue.
The subsequent analysis resulting from nutrient tracking gives providers further insight into the composition of their client’s diet. For clients looking to manage their blood sugar for diabetes, or cholesterol for cardiovascular disease, nutrient analysis can be an efficient strategy to identify problem areas and work to alleviate them.
Another client-population that may benefit from detailed nutrient tracking includes athletes and student athletes. For these clients who are focused on peak performance and optimal nutrition levels, setting precise nutritional goals may be part of their program.
Food Tracking Journal
A food tracking journal, on the other hand, can be beneficial when developing intuitive eating habits, working with clients suffering from eating disorders, or helping clients achieve a generally healthy lifestyle. Nutrient tracking is often numbers-focused, which can be triggering and result in obsessive behaviors and thoughts. A food tracking journal, on the other hand, allows clients to simply post photos of what they ate for their provider to review, instead of focusing on the minute details of their meal.
Picture-based food logging can be a mindful option that encourages a more positive relationship with food and allows clients to see their food choices holistically. Some photo food journal apps allow for the tracking of hunger and fullness cues, meal emotions, and reasons for eating. This helps develop more mindful practices in clients looking to become intuitive eaters and move away from unhealthy and disordered eating patterns.
Using Healthie’s Nutrient Tracking Software
Healthie is a practice management platform and mobile app designed to help nutrition & wellness professionals manage their business and build relationships with clients. Healthie combines back-office tools, such as scheduling, billing, and charting, with features needed to work and engage with clients — including journaling, messaging, telehealth, automated online programs and more. To learn how you can test all of these features for your practice for free, click here.
Nutrient Tracking is an upcoming (optional) setting to the Healthie Journaling tool that will enhance the nutrient data collected and logged from clients.
Healthcare practitioners will be able to view this data and engage with clients directly through each journal entry by providing comments. Nutrient data is pulled from the USDA’s food database, and is updated regularly — ensuring the most extensive food choices for your clients.
When this setting is turned on for your client, clients/practitioners will have the ability to:
- Search for, and log, specific food items from our internal nutrient database (both from the web and Healthie mobile app)
- View macronutrient and key micronutrient data
- View overall calories consumed per journal entry, and total calories consumed per day
The Nutrient Tracking setting can be used alongside other journaling settings, including a photo-based food tracking journal, which can be customized for every client. If you prefer, the nutrient-tracking setting can be turned off for any (or all) of your clients. If you work with sensitive client populations, such as those with eating disorders, Healthie enables you to customize the experience for these clients — so that sensitive data such as calories, nutrient data, weight, and more will not be visible.
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