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Food Diaries and Food Histories

Food Diaries & Diet Histories

What are they and why are they important?

Your doctor or dietitian may want to know more about what you eat on a regular basis to make sure you stay healthy. Collecting information about what you eat is called a “Diet History”. This information is collected to get an idea of what you usually eat, and then help you make changes to avoid food allergens. This information will also be used to make sure you get all of the nutrients needed for growth and development, and for your health. Some ways to collect a Diet History are Food Frequency Questionnaires, a 24 Hour Recall, or a Food Diary, which is also called a Food Record.  Food diaries/records provide a lot of detail, so they are commonly used to take a diet history from someone who has food allergies.

Food Frequency Questionnaire

            With this way of collecting information you will answer questions about how often you eat certain foods. This is a quick way to get an idea of what you eat, but you may not remember how often you eat certain foods, and it may not ask about specific foods you eat.

24-Hour Recall

            A 24-Hour Recall requires you to tell you doctor or dietitian everything you had to eat or drink over the past 24 hours. This gives a general idea of what you eat, but most people don’t eat the same thing everyday so it could leave out certain foods.

Food Diary/Record

            When keeping a Food Diary you will write down everything you eat and drink for 3-7 days. You should include the amount eaten, and how the food was prepared. For example include any oils, butter, sauces and seasonings the food was prepared with. To be more accurate write down the brand name of the food product, and you may also want to save the label, especially if you have questions about the ingredients. Make sure to include all seasonings, spices, vitamins, supplements, herbs, liquids, and drinks.

            To help you organize your food diary label breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day, and/or you can include what time foods were eaten. It may be helpful to carry a small notebook with you so you can record food or drink while away from home. 

            You should not change the way you eat because you are writing it down. Eat and drink as you usually do. Writing down what you usually eat will be more accurate, and then the clinician can help you make changes if needed. Try to include at least one weekend day, since this is often different than what you eat on the weekdays.

Special thanks to Jessiann Andrus and Marion Groetch, R.D. for their assistance in preparing this material.

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