Dietary intake assessment - Diet history

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Population of Interest (P=Parent, R=Researcher, C=Child)

  • Age: <1 yr (P); 1-10 yrs (P); 3-5 yrs (P); 10-12 yrs (P and/or C); 12 yrs+ (C)
  • Setting: Clinical; Home
  • Administration Method: Face to Face; CATI


The original diet history usually begins with a face-to-face interview to determine the usual meal pattern, most frequently from a 24hr recall. The second phase is a food frequency questionnaire/ checklist and the third phase, a 3 day food record. It is a combined method and the strengths and weaknesses of each method will be partly equalised.

The diet history method is usually more qualitative than quantitative, allowing detailed information about food preparation and eating habits.


This method covers usual/habitual diet and can provide reasonably accurate estimations of energy and nutrients if conducted correctly.

When to use

Ideally, this method should be used when detailed information about dietary intake is required. It is expensive when compared to other dietary intake methods and unsuitable for large (population) studies.


As this method is retrospective there may be a recall bias and also reporting bias.


As trained interviewers are necessary, children are not required to be literate. However the amount and level of questioning needs to be considered as often this can be too complex for children to comprehend.

Considerations (miscellaneous)

Nutritional databases are needed for analysis. Problems may arise if not using current nutrition composition tables, appropriateness of analysis tables and closeness to composition of foods actually consumed. Analysis is often intensive and requires nutritional knowledge.

Foods from the diet records need coding and this requires expertise and can be time consuming for the researcher.


Comprehensive information can be obtained about portion size and cooking method. The method is often employed in clinical practice.


This method relies on a participant’s memory and foods may be forgotten. It is often not used in epidemiological studies as interviews often last >1 hour. Often requires high co-operation from participants.

There is no standardised technique for conducting the interview, therefore it is difficult to make comparisons across studies. Quality checking/ training of interviewers for how the data is be collected should be carried throughout the data collection period, especially if more than one interviewer is being used.