Tools for Nutritional Assessment

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Nutritional assessment is based on information from sources such as medical history, height, weight, laboratory data, physical appearance and a diet interview. A health professional's assessment of nutritional status is critical to meet goals for optimal health. Nutrition is a part of everyday life and nutrition status changes have a serious impact on short-term and long-term health. Dietitians use these tools for nutrition assessment, but there are tools that everyone can use too keep track of basic nutrition status. These tools should be viewed as pieces to a puzzle or as separate elements to a bigger picture, as one item does not give the entire picture.

Body Mass Index

Your body mass index is a good indicator of your overall health. Body mass index, or BMI, assesses weight-for-height and is the preferred standard because it is the clinical measurement mostly closely related to body fat content, according to the book "Contemporary Nutrition" by Gordon Wardlaw, PhD. BMI can be determined using a formula. However, it is much easier to obtain a BMI chart to read rather than calculating a formula. BMI calculators can be obtained online. You enter your height and weight and then BMI is calculated from the numbers entered. It is important to keep in mind that BMI is only a piece to the puzzle and does not take into account muscle mass.

Diet Analysis

When you analyze every piece of food or sip of drink that goes in your mouth you are using a nutrition assessment tool called dietary analysis. This tool takes into account all foods and liquids consumed and assesses the nutrient content. Specifically, a dietary analysis will determine the total number of calories consumed, the calories from fat, protein and carbohydrates, fiber, sugar and the amounts of micronutrients consumed. Dietary analysis compares your needs to what you actually consume and provides a percentage. These reports can range from simple to complex, based on your preferences. Analysis of diet with a dietitian is more in depth and specific to individualized needs. Online programs vary in depth, but provide a good place to start.

Portion Sizes

Portion sizes are very important to assess in determining nutrition status, explains the Center for Disease Control. Many tools exist for assessment of portion sizes to make it as easy as possible. Life size models of appropriate food portions are one tool for portion size assessment. Guidelines exist that promote visualizing a certain object, such as a tennis ball for a one cup portion. Online tools are available to help assess portion sizes as well, in the form of pictures, calculators and guides.

Anthropometric Measurements

It sounds complicated, but it's not. Anthropometric measurements are another common and necessary component of nutritional assessment. Anthropometric assessment takes into account measurements of body weight, length or height, circumferences and thicknesses of the body, explains the book "Contemporary Nutrition." These measurements look at the current nutritional status of a person.