Research Reports

Dietary intake assessment: 24-hour recall

Published 30 June 2016, by Mieke Faber, Ernie Kunneke, Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, Friede Wenhold

Publication: Dietary intake assessment: 24-hour recall

Purpose of manual

  • To describe the procedures used to collect dietary intake data using a 24-hour dietary recall method for research participants older than two years.
  • To guide researchers to assemble a dietary kit for their study.
  • To be used as a resource by researchers when training interviewers to conduct a 24-hour dietary recall.
  • This manual should not be used for dietary assessment of infants.
  • This manual does not include information on baby foods, alcoholic drinks or nutritional supplements.

End-user defined

  • Collecting, analysing and interpreting dietary intake data is a specialised field.
  • Dietary intake data should be overseen and managed by trained dietitians or nutritionists.
  • The person taking overall responsibility for the dietary data as well the person who will train the interviewers must be experienced in collecting dietary intake data.
  • This manual should therefore be used by only dietitians or nutritionist who are experienced in collecting dietary intake data.

The use of a 24-hour dietary recall within the context of food security

Dietary intake data collected by 24-hour recall can be used to:

– determine the types of food and liquids consumed

– assess average nutrient intakes for groups of >50 individuals per group

– calculate dietary diversity scores 1,2

– calculate dietary quality scores

– evaluate food intake in terms of food-based dietary guidelines 3

– determine food patterns

– determine the contribution of specific foods to nutrient intake

A single 24-hour recall cannot be used for the habitual dietary intake of an individual.

The content of the manual (e.g. the language use, foods) is relevant to the South African context at the time of the development of the manual.

IMPORTANT: The intention of this manual is not to cover ALL different types of food on the market, but rather to sensitise the researcher to the pitfalls to look out for. New types of food and beverages enter the market daily. It is the responsibility of the researcher to familiarise her/himself with the latest foods and beverages available on the market and include it as examples in the dietary kit.

1 Kennedy GA, Ballard T, Dop MC. Guidelines for measuring household and individual dietary diversity. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010. Available at: [accessed 23 April 2016]

2 Martin-Pr vela Y, Allemanda P, Wiesmann D, Arimond M, Ballard T, Deitchler M, Dopa M-C, Kennedy G, Leed WTK, Moursi M. On choosing a standard operational indicator of women’s dietary diversity. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, 2015. Available at: [accessed 23 April 2016]

3 Food-based dietary guidelines for South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013; 26(3) (Supplement): S2 – S164. Available at:

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