In an attempt to improve data quality and ease of administration of standard self-administered food frequency questionnaires, various alternative approaches were tried for inquiring about frequency of consumption, portion size, seasonal intake, and food preparation. Evaluation consisted of a cognitive interviewing method in which respondents verbalize their thought process while completing several variations of a questionnaire. Interviewers observed and asked follow-up probe questions to evaluate problems or inconsistencies verbalized by respondents. Consensus and judgment by interviewers and observers suggested several problematic features of food frequency questionnaires: formatting of questions about frequency and portion size; computing average frequencies for aggregated food items or for foods eaten seasonally; comprehension of many items; and ordering of foods. These findings led to cognitive refinement and innovations, which included detailed questions regarding preparation or use of low-fat varieties or other alternatives to help better describe specifics of intake for some foods; questions on seasonal intake for several foods; inclusion of portion size ranges; and additional response categories for frequency of intake. Cognitive interviewing is an important step in pinpointing cognitive problems in dietary questionnaires.