A 24 hour diet intake, also known as a 24 hour recall, is a dietary tool in which an individual is asked to recount all food, beverages and nutritional supplements consumed during a 24 hour period. Depending on who is conducting the recall, other specifics may also be required such as time of day, preparation methods, ingredients, measures and brand names. The 24 hour period being recalled is usually from midnight to midnight from the previous day or over the past 24 hours.
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Twenty-four-hour recalls are primarily used by dietitians and other skilled nutrition professionals to assess calories, nutrient and non-nutrient intake of a patient, client or study participant. However, one day may not be a reliable representation of an individual’s usual intake and is more accurately determined by using a 24 hour recall for several days, including the weekends.
Once dietary information has been collected, it may be analyzed in different ways. For quick results, trained nutritional professionals are able to estimate calories as well compare certain aspects of the diet such as food groups, types of fats, cholesterol, fiber, sugar, alcohol, and water intake by standard recommendations. For more specific information, for example how many micrograms of vitamin A a person is getting, a more detailed and time consuming method is used. Food composition tables, nutrition databases, nutrient analysis software and even certain websites can provide this in depth information.
A 24 hour recall can be, and often is, used to identify and discuss healthy and unhealthy eating habits and patterns. Additionally, appropriate substitutions or additions may be tailored, based off of a 24 hour recall analysis, to fit the needs and lifestyle of the client.
The 24 hour recall has many advantages as a dietary tool. It is quick, easy to administer, requires very little work from the client, does not influence previous diet intake and literacy is not required.
While the 24 hour recall is useful, it does have limitations. It relies on memory, requires the ability to judge portion sizes, may not represent the usual diet and under or over reporting of intake often occur.