To meet the objectives for dietary assessment in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) prospective study, we developed a dietary history to provide accurate and reliable quantitative data on habitual individual nutrient intakes at baseline. The CARDIA dietary history was an interviewer-administered method that included a short questionnaire regarding general dietary practices followed by a comprehensive food frequency questionnaire about typical intake of foods using the previous month as a reference for recall. For each broad category of foods, participants were questioned in detail about specific foods only if they indicated that they consumed foods from that category. Follow-up questions for selected foods concerned serving size, frequency of consumption, and common additions to these foods. Provision was made for reporting foods not found in the food frequency list. The interview took approximately 45 minutes. Cue cards prompted responses and plastic food models assisted in estimating usual amounts consumed. A precoded format standardized coding for reported items and established the detail needed for recall during the interview. Baseline nutrient analyses from the CARDIA dietary history provided estimates that agreed reasonably well with expected caloric intake for body mass index according to the age- and sex-specific Recommended Dietary Allowances, but were higher than those reported from 24-hour recalls for comparable age, sex, and race groups in the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The CARDIA dietary history is a comprehensive assessment tool that can provide a dietitian with detailed information regarding habitual eating patterns and nutrient intakes among adults.