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Concept Development and Use of an Automated Food Intake and Eating Behavior Assessment Method

Published: February 19th, 2021



1Division of Human Nutrition and Health, Wageningen University & Research


Important: There has been an erratum issued for this article. Read more …

This protocol shows and explains a new technology-based dietary assessment method. The method consists of a dining tray with multiple built-in weighing scales and a video camera. The device is unique in the sense that it incorporates automated measures of food and drink intake and eating behavior over the course of a meal.

The vast majority of dietary and eating behavior assessment methods are based on self-reports. They are burdensome and also prone to measurement errors. Recent technological innovations allow for the development of more accurate and precise dietary and eating behavior assessment tools that require less effort for both the user and the researcher. Therefore, a new sensor-based device to assess food intake and eating behavior was developed. The device is a regular dining tray equipped with a video camera and three separate built-in weighing stations. The weighing stations measure the weight of the bowl, plate, and drinking cup continuously over the course of a meal. The video camera positioned to the face records eating behavior characteristics (chews, bites), which are analyzed using artificial intelligence (AI)-based automatic facial expression software. The tray weight and the video data are transported at real-time to a personal computer (PC) using a wireless receiver. The outcomes of interest, such as the amount eaten, eating rate and bite size, can be calculated by subtracting the data of these measures at the timepoints of interest. The information obtained by the current version of the tray can be used for research purposes, an upgraded version of the device would also facilitate the provision of more personalized advice on dietary intake and eating behavior. Contrary to the conventional dietary assessment methods, this dietary assessment device measures food intake directly within a meal and is not dependent on memory or the portion size estimation. Ultimately, this device is therefore suited for daily main meal food intake and eating behavior measures. In the future, this technology based dietary assessment method can be linked to health applications or smart watches to obtain a complete overview of exercise, energy intake, and eating behavior.

In nutrition research and dietary practice, it is key to have good measures of what, how much, and how people eat, to find solutions to the overweight and obesity problems. To assess dietary intake, often conventional self-report questionnaires are used such as food diaries, 24 h recalls or food frequency questionnaires1. These methods rely on self-report and are therefore time-consuming and prone to bias due to social-desirable answers, memory inadequacy, and difficulties in estimating portion sizes2,3. In addition to measures of the diet quality (food type and amount eaten), it is als....

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This pilot study was approved by the METC of Wageningen University prior to starting the project.

CAUTION: All the participants contributing to this project provided an informed consent, including the approval of video images showing visible and recognizable faces.

1. Sample preparation and participant consent

  1. Prepare a juice (glass or cup), fruit yoghurt (bowl), and fruit pieces (plate).
    NOTE: These foods are selected for demonstration purposes o.......

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A slower ingestion rate (Figure 7), smaller sip/bite sizes (Figure 8), and more chews (Figure 9) led to lower intake of the salad compared to the yoghurt and juice (Figure 6) as measured by the mEETr tray. The participants ate 17% less of the fruit salad compared to the fruit juice. All the eating behavior characteristics differed between the juice, yoghurt, and salad (Figure 7

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A healthy diet and a healthy eating behavior have shown to play a key role in the prevention of and solution to overweight and obesity11. However, many of the methods used to measure the dietary intake and the eating behavior are burdensome for users, researchers, and health-care professionals and may be biased as they are dependent on memory and portion size estimations. Using the mEETr, independently or alongside conventional video and dietary assessment methods, would decrease the effort and th.......

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We thank J. M. C. D. Meijer of theTechnical Development Studio of Wageningen University and Research for his help in the development of the mEETr tray. This research was funded by the 4 Dutch Technical Universities, 4TU- Pride and Prejudice project.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Battery na na Battery pack (LiPo) and charge electronics via an USB port connector. No data from this port.
Connector program Noldus Noldus Information technology software dashboard nview
Dinner tray na na Standard dinner tray from glass inforced epoxy
Larger scale na na One high range custom made scale based on a triple force sensor method.
Mainboard na na A mainboard converting the three scale measurements to calibrated weight numbers. This board also contains the low power short range RF transmitter.
OS Windows Microsoft windows 10 Pro 64 bit
Processor program Noldus Noldus Information technology software FaceReader
Receiver program Noldus Noldus Information technology software Observer
RF receiver na na Custom build USB converter connected to a RF receiver. This receiver has a squelch setting for making it low range sensitive.
Small scales na na Two low range custom made scales based on a triple force sensor method.

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Erratum: Concept Development and Use of an Automated Food Intake and Eating Behavior Assessment Method

An erratum was issued for: Concept Development and Use of an Automated Food Intake and Eating Behavior Assessment Method. An author name was updated.

The name was updated from:

Cees de Graaf


Kees de Graaf

This article has been published

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