Smarter way to get a snapshot of pregnancy diets

Jul 28 2014

Nutrition researchers Amy Ashman, left, and Dr Megan Rollo with their smartphones.

With little being known about the diets of expectant Indigenous mums, University of Newcastle nutrition researchers are using smartphone technology to gather first-hand insights and provide personalised feedback.

They are currently recruiting for a study titled ‘Diet Bytes & Baby Bumps’, which began at the Gomeroi Gaaynggal Centre in Tamworth and has since been extended to the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus.

“The method we’ve developed allows pregnant women to use their smartphone to photograph the food they’re about to eat and tag it with either a voice or text annotation,” nutrition and dietetics lecturer Dr Megan Rollo said.

“We are getting rich information like recipes and ingredients, as the voice record allows them to be more descriptive. This is sent to a dietitian for analysis and we provide feedback via a short video message, along with a follow-up phone call with the dietitian.”

In addition to the digital recording, participants are also measured with a food frequency questionnaire and 24-hour recall survey. This approach is less tedious than a traditional written food diary where people have to weigh and measure their food.

With expectant mums monitored for 12 weeks in their first or second trimester, Tamworth-based PhD candidate Amy Ashman said a number of early recruits had since given birth to healthy babies.

“The study is unique because we’re using this innovative method to capture the diets of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. It’s especially important as there is limited information regarding Indigenous women’s diets during this important life stage,” Ms Ashman said

Participants receive one-to-one advice based on current dietary guidelines, covering the basic food groups and the key nutrients for pregnancy – such as iron, folate, zinc, calcium and iodine.

To participate in the free study, women need a smartphone that can download the Evernote app, be over 18, be up to and including 24 weeks gestation, and have no current medical conditions. They must also attend two sessions in-person at either Tamworth or Newcastle.

For further information please email or phone 4921 5649.

* Dr Megan Rollo is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.