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Guiding Framework: Data Sources

24-Hour Dietary Recall (24HR)


The 24-hour dietary recall (24HR) method provides comprehensive, quantitative information on individual diets. It is one of the most frequently used methods for gathering quantitative dietary information at the individual level. In literate populations, 24HR can be self-administered; however in populations with low levels of literacy enumerators are responsible for conducting the dietary assessment. The approach taken in the 24HR involves the respondent recalling the type and quantity of each food or beverage consumed during the previous 24-hour periods. Typically, a four-stage, multiple pass approach is used which includes 1) recalling all food and drink consumed in the past 24-hours, 2) describing in more detail the food and drink consumed and how it was prepared, 3) estimating the portion size of each food or mixed dish, and 4) reviewing the recall data with the respondent to make sure that the information is correct.

A single 24HR is sufficient to calculate the mean intake of a group, but in order to estimate usual intake the 24HR must be repeated on at least two non-consecutive days. In general nutrients that are present throughout the diet and consumed on a daily basis across many foods (e.g. folate) will have less variability compared to other foods that are found in few foods (e.g. vitamin D). For this reason between-subject variation (also referred to as inter-subject variation) in nutrient intakes will generally be smaller than within-subject variation (also referred to as intra-subject variation). Therefore the mean intake of the group can confidently be calculated provided that the sample size is sufficient and representative of the population of interest. However if the researcher is interested in determining the usual intake distribution of a group to assess the proportion of individuals with inadequate, or excessive, intakes then repeated 24HR must be collected.

The 24HR can serve multiple purposes, in addition to collecting data on food intake to determine mean (or median) daily consumption or to assess the prevalence of high and low intake of specific micronutrients. Some additional examples include developing a better understanding of typical household food preparation and cooking methods and identification of the brand names of foods consumed within the household. Furthermore, if individual level dietary data are collected in conjunction with data on socio-economic status and health status, the data can be particularly useful in understanding linkages between income levels and dietary choices, as well as dietary patterns and health outcomes.


  • Offers a high degree of accuracy in assessing nutrient intake relative to food frequency questionnaires or estimates derived from household consumption and expenditure surveys
  • Provides quantitative estimates of individual food consumption and nutrient intake
  • Captures food eaten inside and outside the home (full diet)
  • Provides quantitative estimates of individual food consumption and nutrient intake
  • Can be structured to take account of food sources, preparation methods, and the effect on nutrient content
  • Can account for foods consumed together that may enhance or inhibit micronutrient absorption


  • Relatively expensive for the user compared to freely accessible data sources such as Food Balance Sheets and Household Consumption and Expenditure Survey data
  • Given relative complexity of surveys, significant training is required to minimize errors in data collection and enumerators are required in low-literacy populations
  • Due to time and cost frequently associated with 24HR, data are frequently collected from small samples that are not nationally representative
  • To capture seasonal variation, the survey must be repeated in multiple seasons

Key take-away points: Methods and types of indicators that can and cannot be derived with these data:

There are a number of ways that 24HR data can be leveraged for food security and nutrition analyses. Some specific examples of how they can be used include:

  • Indicators can be constructed that measure individual intake in order to assess nutrient adequacy can be measured with 24HR
  • A single 24HR provides an estimate of the mean intake of a group, but at least two non-consecutive surveys from the same respondents are required to estimate usual intake
  • When collected in conjunction socio-economic data, health status, or origin of the foods consumed (i.e. purchased, own production, in kind transfer) these data can be particularly useful for policy and programmatic purposes


1) Gibson and Ferguson, (2008), An interactive 24-hour recall for assessing the adequacy of iron and zinc intakes in developing countries:

2) Coates et al. (2012), Applying Dietary Assessment Methods for Food Fortification and Other Nutrition Programs:

24-Hour Dietary Recall (24HR)

7 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)

2 Indicators Quality Quantity

Food Balance Sheets (FBS)

10 Indicators Quality Quantity Stability Sustainability

Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ)

5 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES)

11 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Market data (e.g. Euromonitor)

6 Indicators Quality Quantity Stability


4 Indicators Quality Quantity

Weighed Food Record (WFR)

6 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Data Collection Level: Individual
Data Collection Level: Individual