Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

What do babies eat? Evaluation of a food frequency questionnaire to assess the diets of infants aged 6 months

LD Marriotta1 c1, SM Robinsona1, J Poolea2, SE Borlanda1, KM Godfreya1, CM Lawa3, HM Inskipa1 and The Southampton Women’s Survey Study Groupa1

a1 MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a2 Trent Cancer Registry, Sheffield S10 3TG, UK

a3 Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 1EH, UK


Objective To evaluate the relative validity of a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for assessing nutrient intakes in 6-month-old infants.

Design and setting The FFQ was developed to assess the diets of infants born to women in the Southampton Women’s Survey (SWS), a population-based survey of young women and their offspring. The energy and nutrient intakes obtained from an interviewer-administered FFQ were compared with those obtained from a 4-day weighed diary.

Subjects and methods A sub-sample of 50 infants aged 6 months from the SWS had their diets assessed by both methods. The FFQ recorded the frequencies and amounts of milks, baby foods, regular foods and drinks consumed by the infants over the previous seven days. The diaries recorded the weights of all foods and drinks consumed by the infants on four separate days within 15 days following FFQ completion.

Results Spearman rank correlation coefficients for intakes of energy, macronutrients and 18 micronutrients, determined by the two methods, ranged from r = 0·39 to 0·86; adjustment for energy intake tended to increase the correlation coefficients, range ra = 0·55 to 0·89. Bland–Altman statistics showed that mean differences between methods were in the range of −12·5 % to +12·5 % except for vitamin B12 (−18·9 %).

Conclusion Although there were differences in absolute energy and nutrient intakes between methods, Spearman rank correlation coefficients indicated reasonable agreement in the ranking of intakes. The interviewer-administered FFQ is a useful tool for assessing energy and nutrient intakes of healthy infants aged about 6 months.

(Received April 30 2007)

(Accepted September 09 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Email