Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptHHS Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
J Am Diet Assoc. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 August 1.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2911642

The Beverage Intake Questionnaire: Initial Validity and Reliability


Consumption of energy-containing beverages may lead to weight gain, yet research investigating this issue is limited. An easily-administered beverage intake assessment tool could facilitate research on this topic. The purpose of this cross-sectional investigation was to determine the validity and reliability of a self-administered beverage intake questionnaire (BEVQ), which estimates mean daily intake of beverages consumed (g, kcals) across 19 beverage categories. Participants (n=105; aged 39±2 yrs) underwent assessments of height, weight, body mass index, and dietary intake using 4-day food intake records (FIR) from June, 2008-June, 2009. The BEVQ was completed at two additional visits (BEVQ1, BEVQ2). Urine samples were collected to objectively determine total fluid intake and encourage accurate self-reporting. Validity was assessed by comparing BEVQ1 with FIR results; reliability was assessed by comparing BEVQ1 and BEVQ2. Analyses included descriptive statistics, bivariate correlations, paired samples t-tests, and independent samples t-tests. Self-reported water and total beverage intake (g) were not different between the BEVQ1 and FIR (mean difference: 129±77g [P=0.096] and 61±106g [P=0.567], respectively). Total beverage and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) energy intake were significantly different, although mean differences were small (63 and 44 kcal, respectively). Daily consumption (g) of water (r=0.53), total beverages (r=0.46), and SSB (r=0.49) determined by the BEVQ1 were correlated with reported intake determined by the FIR, as was energy from total beverages (r=0.61) and SSB (r=0.59) (all P<0.001). Reliability was demonstrated, with correlations (P<0.001) detected between BEVQ1 and BEVQ2 results. The BEVQ is a valid, reliable, and rapid self-administered dietary assessment tool.

Keywords: Validity, Reliability, Beverage, Dietary Intake, Questionnaire


Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States (1), with more than 66% of adults overweight (Body Mass Index [BMI] 25–29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) (2). Despite efforts to identify strategies which effectively promote weight management, the prevalence of obesity has not declined (3). According to laboratory-based feedings studies (4), energy-containing beverages are less satiating than solid foods. Specifically, intake of solid food is not spontaneously reduced when energy-containing beverages are consumed (5, 6), regardless of nutrient composition (e.g., low fat milk, soda, or juice) (7, 8). Thus, consumption of energy-containing beverages may increase energy intake and lead to weight gain (4).

Interventions targeting energy-containing beverage consumption could lead to weight loss for overweight and obese individuals. Self-reported energy intake declines when sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake is replaced with water (10); premeal water consumption reduces subsequent meal energy intake and facilitates weight loss over time (9,11). Furthermore, a sugared beverage tax is being enforced to discourage SSB consumption in several US states (12). A recent Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association highlighted the contribution of SSB to total added sugar intake, and recommended added sugar intake guidelines (13). However, the need for direct evidence linking beverage consumption patterns with weight outcomes has been suggested (14).

Food diaries and recalls are commonly used to assess dietary intake; however these methods are resource-intensive, time-consuming, burdensome for participants, provide only recent intake data (i.e. not habitual intake patterns), and are not always feasible in large-scale studies (1517). There is currently no rapid (< 5 minutes) method for determining habitual beverage intake in adults, including quantities and energy contribution. A brief, self-administered, valid and reliable beverage intake assessment tool could enhance nutrition research targeting beverage intake patterns.

The purpose of this investigation is to test the validity and reliability of a newly developed self-administered beverage intake questionnaire (BEVQ) as compared to a “gold standard” of measuring dietary intake–food intake records (FIR), which have been used in numerous validation studies (1823). Although their limitations are recognized (24), FIR are suitable for comparison to questionnaires to establish validity, and have the least correlated errors of the dietary intake methods available (17).


Subjects and Design

Healthy adults (n=105) aged ≥21 years were recruited for this cross-sectional investigation from a local university community between June 2008-June 2009. The Virginia Tech Institutional Review Board approved the study protocol. Participants provided written informed consent prior to enrollment, however they were not aware of the specific purpose of the study; they were informed that the study was evaluating a new food intake questionnaire.


Participation entailed three laboratory visits within a two-week period; visits were completed in one of two randomly assigned visit sequences. The three study visits included the completion of two BEVQ and one four-day FIR, as follows: Sequence 1: (visit 1) BEVQ1, (visit 2) FIR, (visit 3) BEVQ2; Sequence 2: (visit 1) FIR, (visit 2) BEVQ1, (visit 3) BEVQ2. Completing the FIR before the BEVQ could heighten participant’s awareness of their food and beverage intake, and falsely increase correlations between the FIR and BEVQ (17). Randomizing visit sequence provided a means to determine if randomization sequence influenced results. All visits were conducted between 12 pm – 5 pm to avoid the differences in urinary specific gravity (SG) measurements that may occur throughout the day.

For all participants, visit 1 included the following procedures: height, measured in meters without shoes using a wall mounted stadiometer; body weight, measured in light clothing without shoes, to the nearest 0.2 kg using a physician’s balance scale (Seca; Hanover, Maryland); and BMI, calculated as weight (kg)/height (m2). Participants provided information on demographic characteristics and health status (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, medical history, medications). Sequence 1 participants then completed a BEVQ (BEVQ1) and provided a urine sample to determine SG; sequence 2 participants received instructions for completing a four-day FIR, including the use of two-dimensional food models to assist with portion size determination. Urinary SG was determined using a handheld refractometer (ATAGO 4410 Digital Urine Specific Gravity Refractometer, Bellevue, Washington). The urine sample provided an objective indicator of total fluid intake, and also served to encourage the accuracy of participant’s self-reported dietary intake (17). Food records were kept either from Sunday through Wednesday or Wednesday through Saturday, in order to capture both weekend and weekday dietary habits; FIR were reviewed for completeness upon return, and analyzed using nutritional analysis software (Nutrition Data Systems for Research [NDS-R] 2007, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN).

At visit 2, sequence 1 participants were provided with instructions for completing the FIR identical to that for the initial visit of sequence 2 participants; sequence 2 participants completed a BEVQ (BEVQ1), provided a urine sample and returned the FIR. At visit 3, sequence 1 participants completed a BEVQ (BEVQ2), provided a urine sample, and returned the FIR; sequence 2 participants completed a BEVQ (BEVQ2) and provided a urine sample. Participants were compensated $10 upon completion of all three study visits.

Development and Scoring of the Beverage Intake Questionnaire (BEVQ)

The BEVQ was developed to estimate mean daily intake of water, SSB and total beverages (grams [g], kcals) across 19 beverage categories plus one open-ended section for “other” beverages not listed (Figure 1). This tool is a quantitative food frequency questionnaire; the frequency of food items consumed and amounts consumed are assessed (24). Beverage categories were grouped by energy and macronutrient content using published food composition tables (25) and nutritional analysis software (NDS-R 2007, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN). Common beverage portion sizes (e.g., 12 fl oz can of soft drinks, 20 fl oz bottles of juice/water/soft drinks), and common cup sizes (e.g., juice glasses [(4–6 fl oz] and cups [8 fl oz]) were utilized to assess amounts consumed. Due to the desire to develop a brief, single-page BEVQ, the most commonly consumed beverage units were included. To score the BEVQ, frequency (“How often”) is converted to the unit of times per day, then multiplied by the amount consumed (“How much each time”) to provide average daily beverage consumption in fl oz. Energy and grams (per fl oz) for each beverage category were determined using food composition tables (25). Total energy and grams of each beverage were determined by multiplying the number of fl oz per day by the energy and grams per fl oz of each category. To quantify total SSB consumption, beverage categories containing added sugars were summed (sweetened juice beverages/drinks, regular soft drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, energy drinks, mixed alcoholic drinks, meal replacement beverages). During pilot testing of the BEVQ, average administration time was determined to be ~3.5 minutes (range: 2 min 12 sec − 4 min 26 sec).

Figure 1
The Beverage Intake Questionnaire: Evaluation of Initial Validity and Reliability*

Data Analysis

Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS statistical analysis software (v. 12.0 for Windows, 2003, SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL). Descriptive statistics (mean±standard error of the mean [SEM]; frequencies) are reported for demographic characteristics and average total consumption of beverages and beverage categories (g, kcal). Paired sample t-tests were used to compare the energy intake (kcal) and the g consumed of specific beverages across dietary assessment tools. To assess validity, the BEVQ1 responses were compared to FIR responses, and to assess test-retest reliability, BEVQ1 responses were compared to BEVQ2. Independent samples t-tests were used to assess potential differences in the randomization sequence. Associations among variables (beverage intake variables, SG) were assessed using correlational analyses (Spearman’s r). The alpha level was set a priori at P≤0.05.

Results and Discussion

One hundred and five individuals (45 males; 60 females) completed all study visits. Participants were primarily Caucasian (85% of sample), with remaining participants self-identified as Asian (8%), African American (4%), or “other” (4%). Mean age of participants was 39±2 yrs (range: 21–93 yrs), which was distributed across the adult age range as follows: 21–39 yrs, 60%; 40–59 yrs, 23%; ≥ 60 yrs, 17%. Body mass index was widely distributed (mean=25.6±0.6 kg/m2; range 16.2–62.5 kg/m2), although participants were primarily of “normal” BMI status (BMI <18.5 kg/m2, 2%; 18.5–24.9 kg/m2, 53%; 25.0–29.9 kg/m2, 30%; >30.0 kg/m2, 15%). Of 72 participants who provided information on their educational level, most reported being college-educated (n=67).

Results from the validity and test-retest reliability assessment of the BEVQ are presented in Table 1. Of the 21 beverage variables assessed (grams and energy for 19 individual beverage categories, plus SSB and total beverages), responses on the two assessment tools (BEVQ1, FIR) were significantly correlated (all P<0.001) with two exceptions: sweetened coffee and mixed alcoholic drinks. Responses between the BEVQ1 and FIR were not different for intake (g) of water, juice drinks, vegetable juice, milk (all types), soft drinks (regular and diet), light beer, liquor, mixed alcoholic drinks, wine, and total beverage intake. Differences in beverage energy content between assessment tools were < 35 kcal across all categories, although this difference was significant for 100% fruit juice, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, beer, meal replacement and energy drinks. Significant mean differences were detected in total beverage and sweetened beverage energy intake determined using the two tools, although this difference was minimal (63 and 44 kcal, respectively). These two variables were, however, each significantly correlated between the tools. Reliability was acceptable (r=0.45−0.87; all p<0.001), as food frequency questionnaires considered reliable typically report correlations ranging 0.5–0.7 (17, 26). Significant correlations were detected between all variables, although the correlation for energy drinks was lower than that for other beverage categories. No significant differences were found between BEVQ responses based on the two study sessions (BEVQ1, BEVQ2), or between the two visit sequences (data not shown). Urinary SG measurements were not significantly different across visits (1.0146±0.0008 vs. 1.0146±0.0008 UG; mean difference: −0.000019±0.007 UG). As would be expected for a possible biomarker of total fluid intake, SG was negatively correlated with grams of total daily beverage consumption (BEVQ) at time one and time two (r=−0.202 and r=−0.238; p<0.05, respectively). SG was also negatively correlated with BEVQ water intake (g) at time one (r=−0.236, p<0.05) and time two (r=−0.319, p<0.01). Thus, the BEVQ appears to be a valid, reliable, and easily-administered questionnaire for assessing beverage intake in adults.

Table 1
Validity and test-retest reliability of a beverage intake questionnaire (BEVQ): Comparison to a four-day food intake record (FIR) and results of two BEVQ administrations.

Beverage consumption is timely topic in the weight management field (12, 14) and particularly for SSB, there are broad public health implications (13). This tool may be useful for researchers and clinicians interested in assessing habitual beverage consumption patterns, particularly in large-scale investigations where lengthier, resource-intensive dietary intake assessment techniques are not feasible. Among dietetic practitioners, this tool could be utilized as rapid method to assess beverage consumption as part of a Nutrition Assessment in the Nutrition Care Process, and potentially in Nutrition Monitoring and Evaluation.

The present findings are consistent with others using more extensive dietary intake assessment methods, reporting a mean beverage energy intake of 458 kcal per day (27). Water is the most consumed beverage in the US, followed by coffee, soft drinks, whole milk, fruit juices, and alcohol (27). The present findings are consistent with this pattern, with the exception of whole milk. In the general population, the majority of beverage energy (~50%) comes from SSB, such as regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, sweet tea, and energy drinks (27, 28). In this sample, SSB contribute ~40% of total beverage energy. Furthermore, Block (29) reported that energy containing soft drinks are the greatest contributor to total daily energy intake (i.e., all food and beverages) at 7.1%, while beer was also among the top contributors (2.6% of total energy). In this sample, soft drinks were the fifth highest contributor of energy from beverages, preceded by fat-free milk (greatest contributor of energy), fruit juice, reduced-fat milk, and sweet tea. These differences may be attributed to the demographics of our sample, as age, weight status, educational level and socioeconomic status may influence beverage consumption (30).

After completing this initial evaluation of the BEVQ, several limitations were determined. Questions from participants during completion of the BEVQ suggested some refining may be needed, for example the BEVQ does not include a category for hot cocoa and participants were uncertain how to report sports drink intake. Beverage category descriptions may also need modification, for example, “coffee with cream and/or sugar” may be misinterpreted as coffee with cream. Participants were uncertain as to whether milk in cereal and coffee should be included in their responses. To address this issue, future versions will include additional respondent instructions such as to only report consumption of liquids when consumed as beverages. It is possible that the BEVQ underestimates certain beverage categories due to the upper limits on quantities (60 fl oz per day), for example water intake. However, estimated BEVQ mean daily water intake is similar to that reported by National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES)(31) and the present findings did not indicate a ceiling effect. A final limitation is the use of a self-reported FIR for validation, as underreporting errors are common (24). However, FIR are recommended for validation of food-frequency questionnaires due to a reduced likelihood of correlated errors (17), when direct measurement of food intake is not feasible. Future work will determine if reducing the length of the tool is possible without impacting results, if the tool is sensitive to changes in beverage intake, and if the tool may be used in low-literacy populations. Due to the primarily Caucasian composition of this sample, future studies including larger numbers of minorities are warranted to determine if the BEVQ is a valid tool across ethnic/racial groups.


An easily-administered, valid, and reliable beverage intake questionnaire may be desirable for practitioners, as well as for researchers assessing habitual beverage intake and possible influence on weight and health status. This tool may also be useful for large-scale studies, and for interventions targeting changes in beverage intake, particularly in light of data indicating that increasing water consumption and reducing energy-containing beverage consumption facilitates weight loss (9).


Publisher's Disclaimer: This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final citable form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain.

Author Contributions:

Experimental Design: B. Davy, P. Estabrooks, V. Hedrick

Collection of Data: V. Hedrick, D. Comber

Analysis of Data/Data Interpretation: all authors

Writing of Manuscript: all authors


1. Hensrud DD, Klein S. Extreme obesity: A new medical crisis in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proc. 2006;81:S5–S10. [PubMed]
2. Ogden C, Carroll M, Curtin L, McDowell M, Tabak C, Flegal K. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999–2004. JAMA. 2006;295:1549–1555. [PubMed]
3. Hedley A, Ogden C, Johnson C, Carroll M, Curtin L, Flegal K. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999–2002. JAMA. 2004;291:2847–2850. [PubMed]
4. Dennis E, Flack K, Davy BM. Beverage consumption and adult weight management: A review. Eat Behav. 2009;10(4):237–246. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
5. DiMeglio D, Mattes R. Liquid versus solid carbohydrate: Effects on food intake and body weight. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000;27:794. [PubMed]
6. Mattes R. Dietary compensation by humans for supplemental energy provided as ethanol or carbohydrate in fluids. Physiol Behav. 1996;59:179–187. [PubMed]
7. Almiron-Roig E, Drewnowski A. Hunger, thirst, and energy intakes following consumption of caloric beverages. Physiol Behav. 2003;79:767–773. [PubMed]
8. DellaValle D, Roe L, Rolls B. Does the consumption of caloric and non-caloric beverages with a meal affect energy intake? Appetite. 2005;44:187–193. [PubMed]
9. Dennis E, Dengo A, Flack K, Savla J, Davy K, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity. (Published in advance online August 6, 2009). [PMC free article] [PubMed]
10. Stookey J, Constant F, Gardner C, Popkin B. Replacing sweetened caloric beverages with drinking water is associated with lower energy intake. Obesity. 2007;15:3013–3022. [PubMed]
11. Davy BM, Dennis E, Dengo A, Wilson K, Davy K. Water consumption reduces energy intake at a breakfast meal in obese older adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1236–1239. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
12. Brownell K, Frieden T. Ounces of prevention: The public policy case for taxes on sugared beverages. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(18):1805–1808. [PubMed]
13. Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, Howard BV, Lefevre M, Lustig RH, Sacks F, Steffen LM, Wylie-Rosett J. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1011–1020. [PubMed]
14. Allison D, Mattes R. Nutritively sweetened beverage consumption and obesity: The need for solid evidence on a fluid issue. JAMA. 2009;301:318–320. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
15. Marshall T, Eichenberger Gilmore J, Broffitt B, Levy S, Stumbo P. Relative validation of a beverage frequency questionnaire in children ages 6 months through 5 years using 3-day food and beverage diaries. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:714–720. [PubMed]
16. Thomson C, Giuliano A, Rock C, Ritenbaugh C, Flatt S, Faerber S, Newman V, Caan B, Graver E, Hartz V, Whitacre R, Parker F, Pierce J, Marshall Measuring dietary change in a diet intervention trial: Comparing food frequency questionnaire and dietary recalls. Am J Epidemiol. 2003;157:754–762. [PubMed]
17. Willett W, Lenart E. Nutritional Epidemiology. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1998.
18. Block G. A Review of Validations of Dietary Assessment Methods. Am J Epidemiol. 1982:492–505. [PubMed]
19. Block G, Woods M, Potosky A, Clifford C. Validation of a self-administered diet history questionnaire using multiple diet records. J Clin Epidemiol. 1990;43:1327–1335. [PubMed]
20. Cade J, Thompson R, Burley V, Warm D. Development, validation and utilisation of food-frequency questionnaires-a review. Public Health Nutr. 2002;5:567–587. [PubMed]
21. Cade JE, Burley VJ, Warm DL, Thompson RL, Margetts BM. Food-frequency questionnaires: a review of their design, validation and utilisation. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2004;17:5–22. [PubMed]
22. Marshall TA, Eichenberger Gilmore JM, Broffitt B, Levy SM, Stumbo PJ. Relative validation of a beverage frequency questionnaire in children ages 6 months through 5 years using 3-day food and beverage diaries. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:714–720. [PubMed]
23. Matthys C, Pynaert I, De Keyzer W, De Henauw S. Validity and Reproducibility of an Adolescent Web-Based Food Frequency Questionnaire. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107:605–610. [PubMed]
24. Monsen E. Research: Successful Approaches. 2nd ed. American Dietetic Association; 2003.
25. Pennington J, Bowes ADP, Church HN. Bowes & Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. 17th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1998.
26. Willett W. Future directions in the development of food-frequency questionnaires. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994:171S–174S. [PubMed]
27. Duffey KJ, Popkin BM. Shifts in Patterns and Consumption of Beverages Between 1965 and 2002. Obesity. 2007;15:2739–2747. [PubMed]
28. Popkin BM, Armstrong LE, Bray GM, Caballero B, Frei B, Willett WC. A new proposed guidance system for beverage consumption in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83:529–542. [PubMed]
29. Block G. Foods contributing to energy intake in the US: Data from NHANES III and NHANES 1999–2000. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2004:439–447.
30. Rehm C, Matte T, Van Wye G, Young C, Frieden T. Demographic and behavioral factors associated with daily sugar-sweetened soda consumption in New York City adults. J Urban Health. 2008;85:375–385. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
31. Kant AK, Graubard BI, Atchison EA. Intakes of plain water, moisture in foods and beverages, and total water in the adult US population–nutritional, meal pattern, and body weight correlates: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 1999–2006. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90:655–663. [PubMed]