Nutrition: Education

Dietary Assessment

A dietary assessment is an evaluation of information related to an individual's food intake, supplement use, lifestyle, and medical history. Once the information is collected and organized, a practitioner can assess and evaluate the nutritional status of that person.

The assessment is used to design a care plan that helps the individual maintain their current status or outlined steps needed to attain a healthier status. It is important to remember that people are individuals with unique needs and concerns and no single assessment tool can accurately evaluate the totality of one’s nutritional status.

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Recommended Dietary Allowance
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) were originally intended to prevent clinical signs of nutritional deficiencies for military personnel during World War II and were not used to define optimum intake. RDAs are quantities of nutrients in the diet that are required to maintain good health for most healthy people in the United States.  A separate RDA value exists for each essential nutrient but the actual amounts needed to maintain good health in specific individuals differ from person to person.

U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances
U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances were established by the Food and Drug Administration in 1973 for use in nutritional labeling and other laws and regulations involving nutrients. FDA's U.S. Recommended DAILY Allowances provide a safety factor designed to exceed the actual requirements of most individuals.

Dietary Reference Intake
In 1997, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences changed the way we evaluate the diets of healthy people by creating a system of nutrition recommendations called the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  There are four types of DRI reference values: the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the Adequate Intake (AI) and the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). The primary goal of having new dietary reference values was prevent nutrient deficiencies and also reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.


  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is periodically revised to represent the average nutrient intake level needed to satisfy the needs of 98 percent of all healthy individuals by age and gender.
  • Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) is used when there is not enough scientific evidence to calculate an RDA. The EAR is estimated to satisfy the daily needs of 50% of the people in a specific age and gender group and is used as the basis to calculate RDAs.
  • Adequate Intake (AI) is used when there is not enough scientific evidence to calculate an EAR. It is the amount of a nutrient needed to maintain observed nutritional states like growth, well being, and general health.
  • Tolerable upper intake levels (UL) was designed to caution against excessive intake of nutrients that can be harmful in large amounts like vitamins A and D

Updated Wednesday, October 08, 2014 at 11:37AM