Healthy Foods on Plates

This is the second post of a four-part series on “Building Your Own Nutritional Plan” by Kristen Smith, RD. Follow along as she continues to further discuss how to implement healthier nutrition habits into your life to reach your long-term goals.

Defining Your Areas of Nutritional Need

Before you set out to initiate a healthier lifestyle and develop a nutrition plan, you should evaluate your nutritional needs.

Nutritional plans are more effective when they are tailored to your individual needs and based on things like weight, medical history, and current eating habits.

One of the reasons many people are not successful with diets for the long haul is because they lack to address individual nutrition needs.

Talk to Your Doctor/Dietitian

Today nutrition information is readily available from varying people and media sources.

The ability for nearly anyone to share nutrition information means not all information is coming from a trained healthcare professional and may not always be reliable.

It is common for my clients to share with me information they obtained from a television show, which often lacks solid scientific evidence, recommendations I encourage them not to follow.

Talking with trained healthcare experts such as medical doctors and registered dietitians is a great place to start with determining your nutritional needs.

Begin by speaking with your medical doctor and letting them know of your plan to start a healthier journey through nutrition interventions.

You can confirm with your doctor of any medical history and the need for dietary intervention around that specific condition. Your doctor can help you understand whether that condition can improve with better nutrition.

If you are on medications, likely your doctor will want to discuss these as well. Your doctor can discuss with you any possible nutrition interactions with medications and let you know of any medications that could interfere with your nutrition plan.

For example, some medications may delay weight loss. As you keep on with your nutrition plan, continue to follow-up with your doctor on a regular basis.

Your physician may need to adjust medication doses or discontinue others.

The information gathered from your visit with a medical doctor can be helpful for a Registered Dietitian to work with you and develop a balanced nutritional plan.

Typically one of the first things a dietitian will do is take your body measurements such as weight, height, and waist circumference.

A dietitian will review your medical history, current eating habits, and your measurements to help provide guidance on the amounts and types of foods that should be included in your food plan.

Many dietitians including myself practice a counseling method known as motivational interviewing, a form of counseling with a client-centered decision-making approach.

Keep a Log of What You Eat

Food Journal
Keeping a food journal is one of the best ways to optimize awareness of what you are eating. Recording what you eat or drink will help gain a better understanding of what is going into your body.

Recording what you eat or drink will help gain a better understanding of what is going into your body.

Often people don’t realize how frequently they are eating food they don’t intend on being a primary staple in their diets like cookies or candy.

For some people, the simple fact of knowing they will have to write down the cookie or piece of candy on their log can act as a deterrent from eating those foods.

Most Registered Dietitians rely on food journals to better understand what and when their clients are eating.

When I meet with clients, I always have them keep a daily food journal until our next visit because it helps me to better understand their overall eating behaviors.

For instance, I can see if someone is continually skipping breakfast or eating excessive carbohydrates at a dinner meal.

Keeping a food journal has greatly evolved over the past decade.

Historically people would keep food journals in notebooks, however with today’s technology food journals can be kept via an application in a smart phone or on numerous online programs.

To increase the compliance of my client’s recording in a food journal I typically let them choose the method that will work best with their lifestyle.

For a food journal to offer maximum benefits, detailed records are important. You should always include all food and beverages consumed, the time consumed, and amount consumed.

When starting to use a food journal you may need to measure your foods. People often forget to document added fats such as butter, oils, and salad dressing, all of which can add up in calories quickly.

To also identify trends in your eating habits, recording the place the food was consumed and your mood at the time may be useful.

Determine Problem Areas

After journaling for at least one week, you can start to identify trends and problem areas in your eating habits to create an effective nutrition plan moving forward.

If you are working with a Registered Dietitian at this time, you could work collaboratively together to identify areas of needed improvement. You may start to notice meals you are skipping, repeat intake of larger portion sizes, or lack of a certain food group.

Get in the habit of reviewing your food journal at the end of each week. While you can do a personal review of the food journal, it’s also helpful to have someone else review, like a Registered Dietitian, to act as an accountability partner.

As you review the journal keep in mind the previous problem areas you addressed and evaluate for any arising areas of improvement. You will likely need to adjust your nutritional plan on a weekly or monthly basis in accordance with your food journal analysis.


Although cliche, ‘knowledge is power’ is an apt phrase when it comes to building your nutrition plan. You should learn as much as possible about your current diet. Without understanding where you currently stand, you can’t make educated improvements.

You can do a fair amount of work on your own, but you need to speak with an expert before making any substantial changes. Your physician can help you determine if there is anything you should focus on when it comes to your nutrition. It’s important that you work with your doctor to make safe and healthy choices.

Additionally, your physician can work with your existing dietitian, or refer you to one, to help you with your personal needs. Everyone is different, and you should talk with an expert to make sure you are on the right path.

Along with help from your doctor and dietitian, it’s important to learn about where you currently stand. Keeping an accurate log of what your daily eating habits are will allow you to make an honest assessment about where your diet stands.

What’s Coming up Next

In the first two parts of this series, we have built the foundation for the plan. Next week, I’ll begin talking about setting goals. You will learn the importance of having tangible, measurable goals. Having a plan is fairly pointless without having desired achievements.

Find out next week how to set realistic goals that you can measure your progress with. Sign up with your email below to be the first to know when part 3 of Building your Own Nutrition Plan is available.

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