24-hour diet recall

24-hour Diet Recall


The 24-hour hour diet recall interview is a quantitative research method used in nutritional assessment, which asks individuals to recall foods and beverages they consumed in the twenty-four hours prior to the interview. It may be self-administered or administered by a trained professional.

Relevant Characteristics

The 24-hour diet recall method is a type of nutritional assessment that is often triangulated with other methods in nutrition research. It can be utilized by many types of professionals, including medical professionals, nutritional specialists and social scientists. The goal of this method is to document food and beverage consumption and nutrient intake in a given sample. This method records the daily, self-reported consumption of individuals and is most accurate when administered more than once for each participant[1] . Some researchers argue that this interview method is most accurate when administered between 3 and 7 times[2] , although others assert that administration at least twice is acceptable[3] .

Twenty-four hour diet recalls are useful for research that aims to gather nutritional information from individuals, but it also allows researchers to assess what types of foods are being consumed by individuals in a specific community. The interview style of the recall allows participants and researchers to interact and discuss food and food types during the interview. This can often give the researcher rich contextual and ethnographic data to accompany the quantitative nutritional assessment. The ability to record consumption behaviors and then later analyze foods for nutritional content is a valuable tool for researchers who do work with nutritional assessment.

This method has been criticized due to the variation that it can produce (e.g. administrator and participant variation)[4] , but intraindividual variance can be alleviated by repeating recalls, which are then averaged for nutrient intake. This variation can also be reduced by triangulation with other methods, such as food frequency questionnaires. Researcher/interview variation has also been a concern but can be reduced by specialized training[5] , so that the researcher can standardize the way that he/she conducts the interview.

"Method Made Easy”

Twenty-four hour recalls are easy to use, but do require the use of context specific props for accuracy. Use of props is important in order to obtain accurate information on the amounts of foods and beverages consumed. In the United States, dietitians often use props such as a pack of cards to represent a weight amount. Professionals can show this item to their participants to gauge the amount of food consumed. In cross-cultural settings, these props may not be appropriate. Researchers should use items that the individuals are comfortable with and make sure that they reflect accurate amounts. If culturally-specific props do not already have a weight amount, it is possible for the researchers to weigh items on a standardized scale to make sure that measurements obtained are correct.

  1. Required materials: pencil, 24-hour diet recall form, 24-hour diet recall measurement kit, or appropriate props*.
  2. The researcher should explain to the participants that the goal of this interview is to record everything that the participant ate in the last 24 hours. Explain that you will be asking about food types and amounts from the beginning of their day, from the time they wake up in the morning, until the end of their day, to the time they go to sleep at night.
  3. When asking the participant what they ate yesterday, be sure to include the following things:
    • Record their consumption chronologically
    • Record what time they consumed the food
    • Record the amount of food consumed. Use the measuring props that you brought to ensure intraindividual and interindividual accuracy.
    • Record the preparation of each item listed. Make sure to note how the food was prepared (i.e. baked, fried, etc.), what was used to prepare the food (i.e. olive oil, soy oil, salt, etc.), and any other relevant information that the participant wishes to share.
  4. Repeat the interview at least once again with each participant. For the best results, interview the individuals at least once on a weekday and at least once on a weekend.


This method is useful for individual nutritional assessment because it requires little equipment and takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. When aiming to gather nutritional information, this method provides a way for the researcher and interviewee to interact while completing the recall. This method gives the researcher a chance to use memory-jogging techniques and to use props to obtain accurate measurements. Memory-jogging techniques can include working chronologically and asking participants to recall all of their activities the previous day. The researcher/participant interface allows the researcher to ask probing questions about foods and beverages consumed to make sure that the participant can recall as much as possible. It is more interactive than some other techniques (i.e. self administered recalls, food journals, etc.), allowing the researcher to gather contextual information and ask questions about specific food items.


Although variance can be reduced by multiple recalls, this method is best triangulated with other methods. It is not a good stand-alone method because the results are not representative, but reflect a sample of an individual at a point in time, and should be utilized with others, such as food frequency questionnaires or the household food insecurity (access) scale. Also, the use of context specific props is essential for accuracy. This method is not useful to analyze foods that do not have nutritional information that is easily accessible (e.g. does not have a nutrient label or has not been previously analyzed for nutrient content). Some foods reported may be region-specific; therefore, analysis of their nutrient intake may be more difficult.


Nutritional information from twenty-four hour diet recalls is best analyzed by using a computer-based nutritional assessment program. Although free nutritional tools are available online, the use of a program that has more robust analytic features essential for analysis. For example, one program, Food Processor, allows the user to enter the food and amounts for each individual. This program draws on a large database of foods that contain nutrient information for each item. After food items, amounts and preparations are entered into the software, the program creates an analysis with the breakdown of nutritional information. This program also allows the user to enter food items that are not present in the database. After new foods have been added and stored with their nutrient information, they can be saved for future use. This feature is useful if a food item does not exist in the database, but the researcher was able to access nutrient information for that item from a nutritional label on a package, for example. The researcher can manually enter the nutritional information for that food item and it will be stored in the database for future use.

Online Resources

Introduction to 24-hour diet recall:

24-Hour Food Recall - Portion Size:

24-hour diet recall form:

Further Reading

  • Aryeh D. Stein, Steven Shea, Charles E. Basch, Isobel R. Contento and Patricia Zybert. (1994). Assessing Changes in Nutrient Intakes of Preschool Children: Comparison of 24-Hour Dietary Recall and Food Frequency Methods. Epidemiology 5(1):109-115.
  • Ferrari, P N Slimani, A Ciampi, A Trichopoulou, A Naska, C Lauria, F Veglia, HB Buenode-Mesquita, MC Ocke, M Brustad, T Braaten, M José Tormo, P Amiano, I Mattisson, G Johansson, A Welch, G Davey, K Overvad, A Tjønneland, F Clavel-Chapelon, A Thiebaut, J Linseisen, H Boeing, B Hemon and E Riboli. (2002). Evaluation of under- and overreporting of energy intake in the 24-hour diet recalls in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Public Health Nutrition 5:1329-1345.
  • Posner, Barbara Millen, Sarah S. Martin-Munley, Charles Smigelski, L. Adrienne, Serra-Majem, L., D. MacLean, L. Ribas, D. Brulé, W. Sekula, R. Prattala, R. Garcia-Closas, A. Yngve, M. Lalonde and A. Petrasovits. (1979). Comparative Analysis of Nutrition Data from National, Household, and Individual Levels: Results from a WHO-CINDI Collaborative Project in Canada, Finland, Poland, and Spain. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 57(1):74-80.
  • Slimani N, Ferrari P, Ocké M, Welch A, Boeing H, Liere M, Pala V, Amiano P, Lagiou A, Mattisson I, Stripp C, Engeset D, Charrondière R, Buzzard M, Staveren W, Riboli E. (2000). Standardization of the 24-hour diet recall calibration method used in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC): General concepts and preliminary results. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 54(12):900-917.
  • Suitor CJ,Gardner J, Willett WC. (1989). A comparison of food frequency and diet recall methods in studies of nutrient intake of low-income pregnant women. Journal of the American Dietetics Association 89(12):1786-1794.

  1. ^ Bernard, Russel H. (2006). Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.
  2. ^ Cupples, Janet L. Cobb, Ernst Schaefer, Donald R. Miller and Ralph B. D'Agostino. (1992). Comparison of Techniques for Estimating Nutrient Intake: The Framingham Study. Epidemiology 3(2):171-177.
  3. ^ Bernard, Russel H. (2006). Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.
  4. ^ Beaton, G.H.; Milner, J.; Corey, P.; McGuire, V.; Cousins, M.; Stewart, E.; de Ramos, M.; Hewitt, D.; Grambsch, P.V.; Kassim, N.; Little, J.A. (1979). Sources of variance in 24-hour dietary recall data: Implications for nutrition study design and interpretation. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 32(12):2546-2559.
  5. ^ Beaton, G.H.; Milner, J.; Corey, P.; McGuire, V.; Cousins, M.; Stewart, E.; de Ramos, M.; Hewitt, D.; Grambsch, P.V.; Kassim, N.; Little, J.A. (1979). Sources of variance in 24-hour dietary recall data: Implications for nutrition study design and interpretation. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 32(12):2546-2559.