Background: Practitioners and researchers are interested in assessing children's dietary intake and physical activity together to maximize resources and minimize subject burden. Objective: Our aim was to investigate differences in dietary and/or physical activity recall accuracy by content (diet only; physical activity only; diet and physical activity), retention interval (same-day recalls in the afternoon; previous-day recalls in the morning), and grade (third; fifth). Design: Children (n=144; 66% African American, 13% white, 12% Hispanic, 9% other; 50% girls) from four schools were randomly selected for interviews about one of three contents. Each content group was equally divided by retention interval, each equally divided by grade, each equally divided by sex. Information concerning diet and physical activity at school was validated with school-provided breakfast and lunch observations, and accelerometry, respectively. Dietary accuracy measures were food-item omission and intrusion rates, and kilocalorie correspondence rate and inflation ratio. Physical activity accuracy measures were absolute and arithmetic differences for moderate to vigorous physical activity minutes. Statistical analyses performed: For each accuracy measure, linear models determined effects of content, retention interval, grade, and their two-way and three-way interactions; ethnicity and sex were control variables. Results: Content was significant within four interactions: intrusion rate (content×retention-interval×grade; P=0.0004), correspondence rate (content×grade; P=0.0004), inflation ratio (content×grade; P=0.0104), and arithmetic difference (content×retention-interval×grade; P=0.0070). Retention interval was significant for correspondence rate (P=0.0004), inflation ratio (P=0.0014), and three interactions: omission rate (retention-interval×grade; P=0.0095), intrusion rate, and arithmetic difference (both already mentioned). Grade was significant for absolute difference (P=0.0233) and five interactions mentioned. Content effects depended on other factors. Grade effects were mixed. Dietary accuracy was better with same-day than previous-day retention interval. Conclusions: Results do not support integrating dietary intake and physical activity in children's recalls, but do support using shorter rather than longer retention intervals to yield more accurate dietary recalls. Additional validation studies need to clarify age effects and identify evidence-based practices to improve children's accuracy for recalling dietary intake and/or physical activity.
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