Dietary Assessment Primer

Learn More about Software for Dietary Analysis of 24 Hour Dietary Recalls (24HR) and Food Records

Computer programs—software—are used to translate reported dietary intakes into variables of interest. Following coding of the foods and supplements reported on a 24-hour dietary recall (24HR) and food record (see 24-hour Dietary Recall Profile and Food Record Profile), data processing leads to the creation of a file that includes a food code and an amount consumed for each food and drink reported for each individual.

Software is required to link the nutrient, food group, and if collected, supplement code of each food, drink, and supplement reported to nutrient and food group composition database files. Once the data are linked, the reported amounts of each food and drink consumed are converted to multiples of 100 g (for example, an amount of 378 grams is converted to 3.78), multiplied by the amount of nutrient or food group in that food or drink per 100 grams or per dose of supplement, and summed across all foods for each nutrient/food group for each individual. For supplements, the amounts reported are converted to multiples of a standard dose and multiplied by the amount of nutrient per dose. Many software packages have been developed that include both nutrient/food group and supplement composition databases and analytic programs that convert individual reported food and supplement intakes to estimates of daily nutrient and food group intakes. The International Nutrient Databank Directory, a listing of many public and commercial dietary analysis software products, has been recently compiled.

Software should be chosen on the basis of research needs, level of required detail, quality of the nutrient composition database, and hardware and software requirements. Sometimes a given study requires analysis of dietary data to derive intake estimates not only for nutrients but also for food groups (e.g., fruits and vegetables) or dietary constituents other than standard nutrients (e.g., isoflavonoids). These additional requirements limit the choice of appropriate software.

In the [glossary term:] National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey's (NHANES) dietary intake interview, which uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Automated Multiple-Pass Method, an automated food coding system called Survey Net is used. Survey Net links to the USDA’s Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS) and the Food Pattern Equivalent Database (FPED) to obtain nutrient and food group estimates. It provides on-line coding, recipe modification and development, data editing and management, and nutrient analysis of dietary data with multiple user access to manage the survey activities. Survey Net is available to government agencies and the general public only through a special arrangement with USDA. A similar program using the FNDDS database is available in a commercial software program called the Food Intake Analysis System. Other widely used commerical software programs are the Nutrition Data System for Research from the Nutrition Coordinating Center at the University of Minnesota, and Food Processor from ESHA Research. Newer automated systems, such as the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Automated Self-Administered 24-Hour Dietary Assessment Tool (ASA24), are linked to databases such as FNDDS and FPED and include software for the derivation of nutrient and food group estimates.

For More Information

ESHA research. The Food ProcessorExternal Web Site Policy.

Moshfegh AJ, Rhodes DG, Baer DJ, Murayi T, Clemens JC, Rumpler WV, Paul DR, Sebastian RS, Kuczynski KJ, Ingwersen LA, Staples RC, Cleveland LE. The US Department of Agriculture Automated Multiple-Pass Method reduces bias in the collection of energy intakes. Am J Clin Nutr 2008 Aug;88(2):324-32. [View Abstract]

Steering Committee of the National Nutrient Databank Conference. International Nutrient Databank DirectoryExternal Web Site Policy. 2010.

The University of Texas School of Public Health. (FIAS)-Food Intake Analysis SystemExternal Web Site Policy.

University of Minnesota, Nutrition Coordinating Center. Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR)External Web Site Policy.