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Assessing a Patient's Nutritional History

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  • 0:02 Nutritional History
  • 0:49 24-Hour Recall
  • 1:43 Food Diary
  • 2:57 FFQ
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Proper nutrition plays an important role in the health of a person. Learn about different methods health care providers can use to assess a patient's nutritional history, including 24-hour recall, food diaries and food frequency questionnaires.

Nutritional History

When you drive your car to the gas station for a fill up, you choose the quality of gas you will put in the tank. The highest quality fuel will make your car run well and help prevent engine problems. Like your car, your body runs best when it gets the best fuel.

Good nutrition is important to your general well-being and can prevent many health problems, ranging from fatigue and headaches to diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, health care professionals should routinely assess a patient's dietary intake as part of the general health history taking process. In this lesson, you will learn about different methods used to assess a patient's nutritional history.

24-Hour Recall

What did you eat yesterday? This is the central question explored with a dietary assessment tool known as the 24-hour recall. This is a method of assessing nutrient intake in which a person recounts all the foods, beverages and supplements consumed over the past day. This requires some brain power by the patient, who might not be expecting this type of evaluation; however, the advantage of using a 24-hour recall is that it's easy to obtain. The provider can perform the evaluation at the time of the office visit and only needs to record one day worth of data.

The disadvantage is that this method is limited to one day. If the patient was at a party or went out to eat the day before the assessment, then that day might not be a good representation of their typical food intake.

Food Diary

If a bigger picture of a patient's diet is needed, a health care provider might utilize a food diary, which is also referred to as a food journal or food log. This is a method of assessing nutrient intake in which a person records their food, beverage and supplement intake over a period of time. There are advantages that come with the use of a food diary. For instance, because the patient can record their data soon after consumption, food diaries tend to be more accurate than other methods.

Another advantage is that a food diary can be entered into a computerized system. The computer program can provide objective and in-depth analysis. For example, a computer program can break down the foods and beverages into their nutrient components. This provides the health care professional with data concerning the person's average calorie, fat, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin intake. Of course, no method is free of drawbacks. One notable disadvantage of a food diary is that patients know their diet will be analyzed. Therefore, they might consciously or subconsciously under-report poor food choices.

FFQ

To obtain even more of an overview of a patient's nutrient intake, a health care provider might use a food frequency questionnaire, or FFQ. An FFQ is a method of assessing nutrient intake in which a person uses a checklist to report their consumption of particular types of foods. With a food frequency questionnaire, the patient is presented with a standardized written or computerized set of questions. FFQs can be designed in different ways. For example, a questionnaire might ask a person to estimate the quantity and frequency in which they consume different foods over a defined period, such as the past month or the past three months.

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