‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Revelations of a Food Diary

Pie Hole devotees will have noticed that we've been on a hiatus of sorts the last few weeks. The good news is, we're back. Pie Hole rarely does personal pieces, but today a partially personal piece has a particularly powerful appeal...

Recently I started a new job as a nutrition professor at a community college. I've tremendously enjoyed my first semester of students and the opportunity to impart some of my nutrition knowledge and, more importantly, passion. Don't think I've frightened anyone off yet... But there's always next semester!

So, you think your diet is healthy? You think you're getting enough omega 3 fatty acids? What about calcium? Iron? Fiber? Well sure, you have a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast. Your cereal should tick the fiber box, milk should tick the calcium box, if the cereal is fortified it might even tick the iron box. But chances are, no, you're not meeting your needs.

Many of my students, intelligent people with an interest in nutrition, found they weren't meeting theirs. And to almost all of them, this was a revelation.

Their major project was a 3-day food diary analysis. The students had to accurately enter portion sizes for meals and beverages into food analysis software. They then analysed it to see how their diet met individual macro and micronutrients requirements... A classic nutrition project and a rite of passage.

Many students commented that it was difficult and time-consuming to keep accurate records: Welcome to life as a nutrition professional. A majority of students expressed one of two revelations: 
  1. They thought their diet was healthier than it was
  2. They often didn't pay attention to what they were eating
There's a lot of research that shows keeping a food diary helps improve diet and also aids with weight loss and maintenance (1, 2, 3, 4). Diaries make people accountable for what they put in their pie holes. They're an easy and inexpensive way to track eating patterns, portion sizes and they support intuitive/mindful eating. You may realise your diary is turning into a chocolate love letter or a deranged multivitamin mantra... The latter being the ultimate evil.

 Basically it boils down to this:
  • Thinking your diet is healthy doesn't make it so
  • When you track your intake, you're forced to actually think about what and how much you're eating
  • Analysing the nutrient data to see if your supposedly 'healthy' diet is actually healthy and meeting your macro and micronutrient needs is the best way to be sure
Guesstimates, wishful thinking and reading an article in Cosmo about multivitamins doesn't make your diet healthy. It also doesn't make you a health professional... Just saying.

Lastly, well done to all my students, and it's great to be back writing on Pie Hole. Hopefully my hiatus is forgiven!