A rapid food screener to assess fat and fruit and vegetable intake

Am J Prev Med. 2000 May;18(4):284-8. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(00)00119-7.


Background: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that Americans lower dietary fat and cholesterol intake and increase fiber and fruit/vegetables to reduce prevalence of heart disease, cancer, stroke, hypertension, obesity, and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in the United States. To provide preventive services to all, a rapid, inexpensive, and valid method of assessing dietary intake is needed.

Methods: We used a one-page food intake screener based on national nutrition data. Respondents can complete and score the screener in a few minutes and can receive immediate, brief feedback. Two hundred adults self-administered the food screener. We compared fat, fiber, and fruit/vegetable intake estimates derived from the screener with estimates from a full-length, 100-item validated questionnaire.

Results: The screener was effective in identifying persons with high-fat intake, or low-fruit/vegetable intake. We found correlations of 0.6-0.7 (p<0. 0001) for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and fruit/vegetable intake. The screener could identify persons with high percentages of calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol, and persons with low intakes of vitamin C, fiber, or potassium.

Conclusions: This screener is a useful tool for quickly monitoring patients' diets. The health care provider can use it as a prelude to brief counseling or as the first stage of triage. Persons who score poorly can be referred for more extensive evaluation by low-cost paper-and-pencil methods. Those who still have poor scores at the second stage ultimately can be referred for in-person counseling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Preventive Medicine / methods
  • Probability
  • San Francisco
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Vegetables*


  • Dietary Fats