A dietary assessment is the first step in looking at potential dietary causes of symptoms, identifying significant nutritional gaps or treating an existing medical condition. It involves a detailed discussion and 360o view about what, when and how much is eaten, from which I estimate energy and nutrient intake of the diet as a whole. This estimate provides information about calorie intake and also proteins, fats, (including essential fats) fibres, carbohydrates, sugars, vitamins and minerals with a focus on the key minerals calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Bowel habits, digestive function and physical sensations in the gut are another key element of the dietary assessment. An important part of every initial appointment, it may also be seen as an individuals food/nutritional story, providing relevant and individual information to the presenting situation, in order to consider next steps and dietary treatment options. Tailored dietary treatment is then built around this assessment.

Measuring Growth

Measurements of growth are usually taken; so weight and height; body mass index (BMI or % weight for height) is calculated and, where helpful, waist circumference measured. I use growth charts, which provide a comparison with teens of the same age and sex; growth charts also provide a way to monitor growth over time for each person. Used as a record of development in infants and young children, this historical time-line of information may be called upon to address any concerns about changes to growth patterns. Some young people may have concerns about measuring growth, and this is always taken into consideration.

Holistic approach

Family, school/work and medical background is also touched upon, so that the dietary assessment is as holistic a view of circumstances as possible. Medical tests results can be helpful, and if indicated may be requested from your GP or specialist service. An allergy focused clinical history is used when food allergy/sensitivity is present, and an ED dietary assessment if there is concern about disordered eating or an eating disorder.