Purpose of review: The obesity epidemic, the increasing occurrence of adult diseases in childhood, and the growing awareness of a connection between adult diseases and the diet of children and adolescents have led to increased interest in what our youth are eating. Designing an instrument to evaluate adolescents' eating habits requires addressing not only the typical requirements for a diet assessment tool but also the unique concerns of the adolescent population. We reviewed current dietary instruments for adolescents.
Recent findings: New nutrient assessment methods fall into one of two groups: instruments limited to a specific nutrient/food or those designed for a specific population. The new tools range from Food Intake Recording Software System, a computer program to assist individuals under 10 years of age in reporting their diets, to short food-frequency questionnaires specifically designed to assess fruits and vegetables or fat. Another new instrument uses picture cards to evaluate the entire diet of low-income, overweight African-Americans. The Youth Adolescent Questionnaire, although not a new tool, has been evaluated in new populations (multi-ethnic, multi-income, and multi-education) and with doubly labeled water.
Summary: A limited number of dietary assessment instruments that are specifically designed for adolescents have been found to be reproducible and validated. There is a demand for a short, easily administered, inexpensive, accurate instrument that can be used in a broad range of adolescent subpopulations. Future tools will need to meet these criteria and evaluate the 'new' nutrients, foods, and other factors that lead our youth to eat the foods they do.