Dr. Anne McTiernan and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle said study participants were given the following tips for keeping a food journal:
-- Be honest, record everything you eat.
-- Be accurate, measure portions, read labels.
-- Be complete, include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments.
-- Be consistent, always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smartphone.
"While the study provided a printed booklet for the women to record their food and beverage consumption, a food journal doesn't have to be anything fancy," McTiernan said in a statement. "Any notebook, or pad of paper, or online program will do."
The analysis was based on data from 123 overweight-to-obese, sedentary, Seattle-area women, ages 50-75, who were randomly assigned to two arms of a controlled, randomized year-long dietary weight-loss intervention study -- diet only and exercise plus diet.
The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not; women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 fewer pounds than women who did not; and women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average 5 fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently.