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Dietary assessment in adults

Barbara Olendzki, RD, MPH, LDN
Section Editor
Timothy O Lipman, MD
Deputy Editor
Daniel J Sullivan, MD, MPH


Before discussing dietary change with patients, it is helpful to assess a patient's current eating habits. The goal of dietary assessment is to identify appropriate and actionable areas of change in the patient's diet and lifestyle.

Patients with complex dietary concerns should receive a comprehensive assessment by a dietitian. A complete assessment will examine multiple components, including the physical ability to digest eat, chew and swallow food, evaluation for food intolerances, ability to digest and absorb foods, evaluation for possible eating disorders and appetite fluctuations, unintentional weight loss or gain, taste changes, and skills and ability to comply with dietary lifestyle changes. These patients will require an in-depth, comprehensive consult by a dietitian or behaviorist to assist with the accomplishment of dietary and lifestyle changes [1].

Although complex patients may be referred to a dietitian for such an assessment, other patients can be adequately assessed in a primary care setting. This can be expected to take 5 to 15 minutes. This topic will discuss methods to assess a patient's diet and related behaviors in the primary care setting.

Specific dietary and nutritional counseling recommendations will depend on the patient's comorbidities and are discussed in the appropriate topics. As examples:

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (see "Nutritional considerations in type 2 diabetes mellitus")

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 02, 2016.
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