Self-Report Dietary Assessment Tools Used in Canadian Research: A Scoping Review

Adv Nutr. 2017 Mar 15;8(2):276-289. doi: 10.3945/an.116.014027. Print 2017 Mar.


Choosing the most appropriate dietary assessment tool for a study can be a challenge. Through a scoping review, we characterized self-report tools used to assess diet in Canada to identify patterns in tool use and to inform strategies to strengthen nutrition research. The research databases Medline, PubMed, PsycINFO, and CINAHL were used to identify Canadian studies published from 2009 to 2014 that included a self-report assessment of dietary intake. The search elicited 2358 records that were screened to identify those that reported on self-report dietary intake among nonclinical, non-Aboriginal adult populations. A pool of 189 articles (reflecting 92 studies) was examined in-depth to assess the dietary assessment tools used. Food-frequency questionnaires (FFQs) and screeners were used in 64% of studies, whereas food records and 24-h recalls were used in 18% and 14% of studies, respectively. Three studies (3%) used a single question to assess diet, and for 3 studies the tool used was not clear. A variety of distinct FFQs and screeners, including those developed and/or adapted for use in Canada and those developed elsewhere, were used. Some tools were reported to have been evaluated previously in terms of validity or reliability, but details of psychometric testing were often lacking. Energy and fat were the most commonly studied, reported by 42% and 39% of studies, respectively. For ∼20% of studies, dietary data were used to assess dietary quality or patterns, whereas close to half assessed ≤5 dietary components. A variety of dietary assessment tools are used in Canadian research. Strategies to improve the application of current evidence on best practices in dietary assessment have the potential to support a stronger and more cohesive literature on diet and health. Such strategies could benefit from national and global collaboration.

Keywords: 24-hour recalls; Canada; food frequency questionnaires; food records; scoping review; screeners; self-report dietary assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Diet
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutrition Surveys / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self Report*