Skip to main content

Reliability and validity of food portion size estimation from images using manual flexible digital virtual meshes

  • Alicia Beltran (a1), Hafza Dadabhoy (a1), Courtney Ryan (a1), Ruchita Dholakia (a1), Janice Baranowski (a1), Yuecheng Li (a2), Guifang Yan (a3), Wenyan Jia (a2), Mingui Sun (a2) and Tom Baranowski (a1)...

The eButton takes frontal images at 4s intervals throughout the day. A three-dimensional manually administered wire mesh procedure has been developed to quantify portion sizes from the two-dimensional images. The present paper reports a test of the inter-rater reliability and validity of use of the wire mesh procedure.


Seventeen foods of diverse shapes and sizes served on plates, bowls and cups were selected to rigorously test the portion assessment procedure. A dietitian not involved in inter-rater reliability assessment used standard cups to independently measure the quantities of foods to generate the ‘true’ value for a total of seventy-five ‘served’ and seventy-five smaller ‘left’ images with diverse portion sizes.


The images appeared on the computer to which the digital wire meshes were applied.


Two dietitians and three engineers independently estimated portion size of the larger (‘served’) and smaller (‘left’) images for the same foods.


The engineers had higher reliability and validity than the dietitians. The dietitians had lower reliabilities and validities for the smaller more irregular images, but the engineers did not, suggesting training could overcome this limitation. The lower reliabilities and validities for foods served in bowls, compared with plates, suggest difficulties with the curved nature of the bowls.


The wire mesh procedure is an important step forward in quantifying portion size, which has been subject to substantial self-report error. Improved training procedures are needed to overcome the identified problems.

Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Email
Hide All
1. Tabacchi, G, Amodio, E, Di Pasquale, M et al. (2014) Validation and reproducibility of dietary assessment methods in adolescents: a systematic literature review. Public Health Nutr 17, 27002714.
2. Foster, E, Adamson, AJ, Anderson, AS et al. (2009) Estimation of portion size in children’s dietary assessment: lessons learnt. Eur J Clin Nutr 63, Suppl. 1, S45S49.
3. Burrows, TL, Martin, RJ & Collins, CE (2010) A systematic review of the validity of dietary assessment methods in children when compared with the method of doubly labeled water. J Am Diet Assoc 110, 15011510.
4. Archer, E, Pavela, G & Lavie, CJ (2015) The inadmissibility of What We Eat in America and NHANES dietary data in nutrition and obesity research and the scientific formulation of national dietary guidelines. Mayo Clin Proc 90, 911926.
5. Sun, M, Fernstrom, JD, Jia, W et al. (2010) A wearable electronic system for objective dietary assessment. J Am Diet Assoc 110, 4547.
6. Fang, S, Liu, C, Zhu, F et al. (2015) Single-view food portion estimation based on geometric models. ISM 2015, 385390.
7. Beltran, A, Dadabhoy, H, Chen, TA et al. (2016) Adapting the eButton to the abilities of children for diet assessment. In Proceedings of Measuring Behavior 2016 – 10th International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research, pp. 72–81 [A Spink, G Riedel, L Zhou et al., editors]. (accessed January 2018).
8. Jia, W, Chen, HC, Yue, Y et al. (2014) Accuracy of food portion size estimation from digital pictures acquired by a chest-worn camera. Public Health Nutr 17, 16711681.
9. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (2012) USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, 5.0. (accessed January 2018).
10. Shrout, PE & Fleiss, JL (1979) Intraclass correlations: uses in assessing rater reliability. Psychol Bull 86, 420428.
11. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (2016) USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies 2013–2014. (accessed January 2018).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 35 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 220 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 12th February 2018 - 17th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.