Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ)

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A food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) is a finite list of foods and beverages with response options to indicate usual frequency of consumption (and, in some cases, portion size) over a specified time period. It is the most common dietary assessment tool used in large epidemiologic studies of diet and health.


The Nutrition Assessment Shared Resource (NASR) FFQ is self-administered. It asks participants to report the frequency of consumption and portion size of approximately 125 line items over a defined period of time (e.g., the last month; the last three months). Each line item is defined by a series of foods or beverages. Additional questions on food type and preparation methods enable the analysis software to further refine nutrient calculations. The database for the NASR FFQ is based on the nutrient strings in the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR) developed by the Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC) at the University of Minnesota. See more about NDSR.

The GNA (General Nutrition Assessment) is the current version of the standard FFQ. It has a counterpart called the MNA, which is intended for use with male participants. The line items on these two questionnaires are identical, but the medium portion sizes are larger on the MNA.

The GNA/MNA is available in English and Spanish. See sample FFQs and the serving size resource.

For procedural details, see Using FFQs.


Please contact for pricing information.

Custom Services

Custom services are available. For example:

  • Customization of FFQ's.
  • Customized datasets (e.g., additional variables on Healthy Eating Index [HEI] scoring).
  • Individualized Participant Feedback (called the Nutrient Analysis Report or NAR) – a printable report giving the estimated dietary intake of specific nutrients for each study participant.

Please contact for information about custom services and related pricing.

Development History

NASR periodically updates its standard FFQ to reflect U.S. food consumption patterns and major changes in the marketplace.

The previous version of the standard FFQ was the GSEL (and its counterpart, the MSEL). The GSEL/MSEL was designed in 2001 under the direction of Fred Hutch nutritional scientists and epidemiologists and was based on the questionnaires used in two large NIH-funded studies, the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) and the VITamins and Lifestyle study (VITAL). The GSEL/MSEL was updated in late 2010 to become the GNA/MNA. See more about differences between the GSEL/MSEL and GNA/MNA.

The validation study by Patterson et al, using the WHI FFQ, is an excellent approximation of the inter-method reliability of the standard FFQ. The questionnaires use the same format and analysis algorithms. There are some differences in FFQ items. The nutrient database systems are the same; however, the standard FFQ nutrient database is updated regularly as new nutrients/food components are added to NDSR and improved analytic methods result in updated nutrient composition data.

Reference: Patterson RE, Kristal AR, Carter RA, Fels-Tinker L, Bolton MP, Agurs-Collins T. Measurement characteristics of the Women's Health Initiative food frequency questionnaire. Annals of Epidemiology. 9: 178-187, 1999.

For more information about development of the standard FFQ and related methodological research, see the list of NASR references.

Citing NASR

Please cite both the Nutrition Assessment Shared Resource (NASR) and NDSR in publications which use this technology. See more about citing NASR.