A nutritional assessment is an in-depth evaluation of both objective and subjective data related to an individual’s food and nutrient intake, lifestyle, and medical history.
Once the data on an individual is collected and organized, the practitioner can assess and evaluate the nutritional status of that person. The assessment leads to a plan of care, or intervention, designed to help the individual either maintain the assessed status or attain a healthier status.
Elements of the Assessment
The data for a nutritional assessment falls into four categories: anthropometric , biochemical , clinical, and dietary.
Anthropometrics are the objective measurements of body muscle and fat . They are used to compare individuals, to compare growth in the young, and to assess weight loss or gain in the mature individual. Weight and height are the most frequently used anthropometric measurements, and skinfold measurements of several areas of the body are also taken.
As early as 1836, tables had been developed to compare weight and height in order to provide a reference for an individual’s health status. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company revised height and weight tables in 1942, using data from policyholders, to relate weight to disease and mortality. There has been much discussion about the relevance (and appropriateness) of using the individuals who buy life insurance as a basis for “ideal” height and weight. There are also a number of problems with using a table to determine whether an individual is at the right weight—or even what the “ideal weight” means.
Tables should therefore be used only as a guide, and other measurements should be included in the data collection and evaluation.