Usability Test of an Interactive Dietary Recording

Article excerpt

Introduction

Dietary intake methods are used to collect one's diet habit. Knowing one's energy profile and nutrient profile can help to assess whether the individual has balanced energy or has risks for metabolic syndromes or obesity related diseases. Food diary, food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and 24-hour recalls are the most common dietary intake methods applied currently. However, the user-friendliness of the common dietary intake methods is poor. This discourages clients to record their diet in a specified period of time. Black et al. (1) stated that absolute agreement between energy intake and energy expenditure is impossible from a single measurement because of the intra-individual daily variation that occurs in food intake. Wang et al. (2) found that most clients thought the food records and 24-hour recalls were somewhat burdensome and time-consuming. This indicates that current methods discourage clients from keeping good dietary intake records, which could be valuable for health promotion and disease prevention.

Most dietary recording methods rely heavily on memory recall and cognitive development. All of the common methods are in paper format, which means it is not convenient for clients to bring them along as they go about their daily activities. Many clients record their dietary intake at the end of each day, and thus the food they ate earlier in the day may be forgotten, (3) which indicated that this could significantly affect the reliability of diet analysis. Contemporary dietary recording instruments also take the assumption that individuals have clear memories of their usual dietary habits and that these memories can readily be recalled and quantified. (4)

Serving sizes is another problem for documentation in the food diary and 24-hour recall methods. A serving size is the amount of each food or beverage consumed and is difficult to standardize because food is served in different ways and in different containers. Usually, clients were given descriptions or photographs of pre-defined portion sizes for reference during dietary intake recording. However, they may still lack confidence in converting the portion they consume to the pre-defined portion size, which will eventually affect the reliability of dietary analysis.

Good-quality food diaries required intensive coaching and follow-up contact. (5) Debriefing or close monitoring during the dietary intake recording process is a must, even if the logbook contains instructions. For example, users may just write down "buffet" instead of what type of foods they ate during the buffet, or they may just write down "spaghetti" without mentioning the sauce and ingredients used. When these common errors occur, it is difficult for nutritionists to make further nutrient analysis. When incomplete food records are received, follow-up phone calls or interviews are required to supplement the information.

FFQs were commonly adopted as alternative to the food records and 24-hour recalls. FFQs offer a list of food items from which respondents can choose what they have eaten, and how frequently, in the previous week. But the lists are usually long and require a certain literacy level. Some food items may be unfamiliar to respondents and such questionnaires are unable to show meal patterns, which are important in revealing people's eating behavior. Therefore, important data may be missed if FFQs are used as the dietary recording method.

Purpose of Study

The objective of this research was to design and develop an interactive dietary recording instrument with dietary education and to evaluate its usability.

Methods

New Dietary Recording Instrument (The Portal)

The research team developed an interactive dietary recording instrument using 2-dimensional food images. It is named eDietary Inake Portal (the Portal). Apart from this recording function, the instrument is programmed to report nutrient profiles of daily diet and report evaluation results. …