Single-Meal Nutrient Assessment by a Self-Administered, Electronic Exit Survey Compared with a Multipass Dietary Interview in University Undergraduates in an All-You-Care-to-Eat Campus Dining Hall

Published:April 24, 2019DOI:



      Assessing nutritional intake in all-you-care-to-eat dining facilities poses unique challenges. New methods that streamline accurate data collection would facilitate better nutrition intervention research in this dining hall environment, which is common on university campuses.


      To compare nutrient and food group intake data of university undergraduate students from a single visit to an all-you-care-to-eat campus dining hall, collected by two methods: multiple-pass dietary recall interview and self-administered, electronic survey.


      Undergraduate students (n=42) ages 18 and older were recruited as they exited the dining hall during lunch service hours during 1 week.


      Using a cross-sectional design, participants completed two dietary assessment methods in random order: an electronic tablet-based exit survey listing the available menu items at that service with drop-down menus to report portion size consumed and a multiple-pass structured dietary interview by a single, trained interviewer.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Agreement of nutrients and food groups between the two methods was assessed by Pearson and Spearman correlations and paired t tests. Significance was set at P<0.05.


      Respondents were primarily underclassmen and women who lived on campus, with 16 of 42 students identifying as white. Students reported an average of 1.1 additional food items via the diet interview method compared with the survey. Average kilocalorie intake by the interview and survey methods was 837±561 and 860±586, respectively. Mean intake of all measured nutrients and all food groups except total and lean protein was not significantly different across the two methods. Spearman correlations between method results ranged across nutrients from r=0.541 to r=0.998 and across food groups from r=0.507 to r=0.948; all were significant at P<0.001. However, mean differences between methods exhibited notable variation.


      The electronic survey method performs similar to a multiple-pass dietary interview in assessing mean nutrient intake of ethnically diverse university undergraduates in a single eating occasion at an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall, but the survey may not be as efficient at capturing the total number of food items consumed.


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      M. Slavin is an associate professor, Department of Nutrition & Food Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      A. Polasky is a master of science graduate, Department of Nutrition & Food Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      K. Vieyra is a master of science graduate, Department of Nutrition & Food Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      A. Best is a professor and chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      C. Frankenfeld is an associate professor, Department of Global and Community Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      L. Durant is a resident dietitian (retired), Mason Dining, Fairfax, VA.