Dietary Assessment Primer

The purpose of the Primer is to help researchers determine the best way to assess diet for any study in which estimates of group intakes are required. This can be a challenge because no perfect measure of diet exists. Understanding the key features of self-report instruments and the benefits and drawbacks of potential approaches to collecting and analyzing dietary intake data can help you make the best choices given your research question and resources.

Before you get started, we encourage you to visit the Diet Assessment Primer Roadmap to orient yourself to the primer's content.

The Dietary Assessment Primer has six sections that will help you choose the best dietary assessment approach for your research objective:

  • Dietary Assessment Instrument Profiles provide details on the major self-report instruments and guidance for using these instruments alone or in combination to address different research questions.
  • Key Concepts provide background on two central issues in dietary assessment—measurement error and validation.
  • Choosing an Approach for Dietary Assessment provides our current recommendations for choosing a dietary assessment approach in research settings requiring group-level estimates.
  • Learn More provides brief overviews on selected aspects of dietary assessment research.
  • Glossary provides definitions for terms commonly used in diet assessment research. Many terms have cross-references to other terms in the Glossary, indicated by "See also."
  • References and Resources provides a consolidated list of all the references cited in the Primer as well as links to the dietary assessment instruments, tutorials, databases, software, and other resources mentioned in the Primer.

Although each of these sections is designed to provide stand-alone information, they are all closely related and contain numerous links to each other. Links with dashed underlines will show you terms from the Glossary. Links with solid underlines will take you to other sections of the Primer.

If you are new to dietary assessment research:


This resource was developed by Susan M. Krebs-Smith, Amy F. Subar, Frances Thompson, Jill Reedy, and TusaRebecca Schap, who at the time the Primer was created, were all in the NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Science; Anne Brown Rodgers, Science Writer; and Sharon Kirkpatrick, formerly with the NCI and currently Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems. They received valuable statistical support from Laurence S. Freedman, of The Gertner Institute, and Victor Kipnis, Kevin Dodd and Douglas Midthune of the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention's Biometry Research Group.