Dietary Assessment Primer

Learn More about Diet History

The term "diet history" has several connotations. It is sometimes used generically to mean any dietary assessment method that asks about diet in the past. It also is used to refer generally to a meal-based food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), i.e., an FFQ that asks about usual consumption at each meal rather than usual consumption over a longer period of time (see Food Frequency Questionnaire Profile).

The classic version of a diet history is the Burke Diet History, which consists of three components: 1) detailed questions about usual patterns of eating, organized by meal (meal pattern interview), 2) a list of foods and beverages for which usual frequency and amount are queried, and 3) a self-administered 3-day food record (see Food Record Profile). The food list and the 3-day food record are used only as cross-checks to modify information gathered during the meal pattern interview.

The meal pattern interview and the food list component each can take up to an hour to complete. The food record takes at least 15 minutes to complete each day.

The traditional Burke Diet History approach has been modified in a variety of ways in different research settings. A 24-hour dietary recall (24HR) is sometimes used instead of a food record (see 24-hour Dietary Recall Profile). Food records and 24HRs are sometimes used to [glossary term:] calibrate the diet history rather than as a cross-check. Self-administered and automated versions of diet history instruments have been developed to replace the in-person interview.

An example of a diet history can be seen in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (Cardia) StudyExternal Web Site Policy.

Because the administration and content of diet history instruments vary significantly, the [glossary term:] measurement error associated with these data is not well characterized and the data are not necessarily comparable across instruments.

For More Information

Burke BS. The dietary history as a tool in research. J Am Diet Assoc;1947;23:1041-6.

Kohlmeier L. Gaps in dietary assessment methodology: meal- vs list-based methods. Am J Clin Nutr 1994 Jan;59(1 Suppl):175S-179S. [View Abstract]

McDonald A, Van Horn L, Slattery M, Hilner J, Bragg C, Caan B, Jacobs D Jr, Liu K, Hubert H, Gernhofer N, et al. The CARDIA dietary history: development, implementation, and evaluation. J Am Diet Assoc 1991 Sep;91(9):1104-12. [View Abstract]

Mensink GB, Haftenberger M, Thamm M. Validity of DISHES 98, a computerised dietary history interview: energy and macronutrient intake. Eur J Clin Nutr 2001 Jun;55(6):409-17. [View Abstract]

Thompson FE, Subar AF. Dietary assessment methodology. In: Coultson AM, Boushey CJ, Ferruzzi MG, eds. Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease, Third Edition. San Diego (CA): Elsevier Press, 2013.