There are many methods that can be used to assess dietary intake - for example, using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), food diary or a 24-hour recall. Deciding what is the most appropriate dietary assessment tool can be difficult, as each have their own strengths and weaknesses, which can then have implications on research studies themselves. Previously, we wrote an article to help you decide which dietary assessment method to use. You can also download a free cheat sheet on Dietary Assessment Methods covering all you need to know about food diaries, FFQs and 24hr recalls.
In this article, we will explain what a 24-hour recall is, where they can be useful, and what are the strengths and limitations in practice.
What is a 24hr recall?
A 24hr recall is a retrospective method that monitors and assesses food and drink consumption of an individual during the previous day.
The 24-hour recall is normally carried out in chronological order (morning to night), where a list of foods eaten and drank are jotted down. A 24hr recall requires a trained interviewer to ask participants to recall all the food and drink items consumed within 24 hours. The interview can be completed recalling the previous day or the previous 24hrs. It can also either be done online or face to face. This allows the researcher to be flexible with data collection. Portion images are used to allow the participant to determine an accurate food intake. Furthermore, if the 24hr recall is done face to face, the interviewer can ask additional and contextual questions e.g. the type of cooking method used, whether the day being recalled reflects a typical day’s intake and whether was consumed outside of the home. This allows the interviewer to gather as much information as possible for accurate analysis.
When can 24hr recalls be useful?
24-hour recalls are typically used for nutritional surveys and intervention studies. These types of studies can either use one or multiple 24-hour recalls depending on what the researcher is looking for. If the aim is to capture habitual dietary intake, more than one 24hr recall is used for example, in the UK Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey (LIDNS), researchers used four 24-hour recalls to assess dietary intake. On the other hand, if the aim of the study is to determine the average consumption of fruit and vegetables in a given population, one 24-hour recall may be sufficient.
It’s important to note that, if multiple recalls are used over a year, researchers should administer the recalls over seasonal variations to ensure accurate food and drink consumption is obtained. Furthermore, the participant should be unaware of the 24-hour recall the day before, as this may alter their usual diet.
Strengths and limitations of 24hr recalls?
- Researchers can prompt the participant, ensuring that they are not missing any foods, for example, snacks in between meals, and ingredients in meals.
- High response rate and low respondent burden.
- Interview is quick, usually lasting 20-30 minutes.
- Can be done face to face or online.
- Display of portion sizes allow participants to determine their intake more accurately.
- Does not alter food intake of the individual.
- Sensitive to ethnicity-specific differences.
- Participants may forget what they have eaten. It can be particularly challenging in younger children or the elderly.
- Single 24-hour recall may not be representative of habitual diet.
- A trained professional is required to conduct the interview which can be expensive.
- Train coders are required to convert data to nutrients which can be costly and time-consuming.
Using myfood24 as a 24hr recall
myfood24 is a quick, easy-to-use, self-completed dietary assessment and nutritional analysis software that automates the diet tracking and assessment process. The online food diary platform can act as a 24hour recall to give you the ability to accurately monitor nutritional intake of users at the click of a button, anytime, anywhere! This means no interviewer or trained coder is required saving time and money.
You can try myfood24 for free here.
Key features of myfood24
- Users self-complete on a smartphone, tablet or computer – an offline version is also available.
- Simple and easy-to-use interface, users complete diaries in minutes!
- Smart prompts and portion images support accurate recalls and ease of completion.
- Unique and robust food and nutrient database – choose from over 92,000* food and drink products.
- Instant nutrient analysis on 117* nutrients – no coding required!
- Evidence-based design and methodology.
- Validated against nutrient biomarkers* by the University of Leeds.
The myfood24 dietary analysis software is available in 7 different languages with 11 international food and nutrient databases, including for: France, Germany, the Middle East and USA. Find out about our international nutritional solutions.
*refers to the core UK food and nutrient database only
Are you interested in using myfood24?
Still unsure which is the right dietary assessment method for you?
Or download a free cheat sheet on Dietary Assessment Methods covering all you need to know about food diaries, FFQs and 24hr recalls!
You can also visit Nutritools - a resource developed to support dietary assessment - who have released ‘Best Practice Guidelines’ to help researchers decide the most appropriate dietary assessment tool for their research.