Square peg into round hole: questioning the appropriateness of 24hour dietary recalls for Indigenous children.

Miss Sarah Ryan1,3, Dr Yasmine Probst1,2, Dr Anthony McKnight4, Dr Rebecca Stanley2,3,4

1School of Medicine and Health, University of Wollongong, , Wollongong, Australia, 2Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, Wollongong, Australia, 3Early Start, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia , 4School of Education, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


Motivation/Aim: Research typically reports that Indigenous Australian children overconsume energy dense nutrient poor foods, with minimal evidence about the context surrounding nutritional intake. Current dietary assessment methodologies tend to only capture the physical rather than the spiritual, social and emotional aspects of food, which are important components of Indigenous Australian’s definition of health. The aim of this research was to explore the appropriateness of 24hour dietary recalls as standalone tools to capture dietary intake in Indigenous children. The 24hour recall dietary assessment is a validated tool though fails to capture the context surrounding consumption. Indigenous research methodologies require this context.

Approach/Methods: A pilot afterschool cultural program developed for Indigenous children (aged 7-12y) in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales, used 24hour recalls to assess dietary intake. An analysis was conducted using FoodWorks 2009 software and AUSNUT 2011-13 food composition database. Participants also captured photographs and were interviewed about things connecting them to culture, including food.

Results: The uncontextualised dietary data (n=17) found high consumption of discretionary foods and low intakes of fruit and vegetables. Children photographed food and shared stories of how it made them feel connected to their culture. The context surrounding the food photographs unexpectedly highlighted the potential spiritual, emotional and social impacts of food on health.

Conclusion: Food has strong ties to culture. Incorporating mixed methods in Indigenous research may be more appropriate to provide contextual information to formulate a story and capture the holistic aspects of health. This approach aligns with recommended Indigenous research methodologies.


Sarah Ryan completed a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) with Honours at the University of Wollongong while working with an Indigenous community on the south coast of NSW. She has worked alongside the local Aboriginal community and a team of researchers at the University of Wollongong for two years she has found her passion in working with children and community. Sarah hopes to explore further research in the area of cultural connectedness in the future.

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