Nutrition Assessment: Well-Child Health Care Fact Sheet

A nutrition assessment reviews a child's eating and growth patterns to detect inadequate diet, growth problems, or anemia. Health managers, health staff, and nutrition coordinators can check this sheet for basic facts about this important tool to promote healthy growth and development.

The following is an excerpt from Well-Child Health Care: Making It Happen.

What Is Nutrition Assessment?
How Is Nutrition Assessment Done?
What Might I Observe?
Follow-Up To Nutrition Assessment?

What is nutrition assessment?

The nutrition assessment reviews the child's eating and growth patterns. A child's diet can affect how she grows, develops, looks, and feels.

How is nutrition assessment done?

Nutrition assessment is usually done by trained Head Start staff with consultation from a nutritionist.

It includes:

  • Discussion with the family about the child's eating habits, food allergies, feeding problems, and special dietary needs
  • Review of the child's growth-height, weight, and head circumference (for infants)
  • Review of other screening results-medical/physical exam, hemoglobin/hematocrit, lead, sickle cell, intestinal parasites

What might I observe?

You might notice a child who:

  • Looks very short, thin, large, or overweight
  • Looks pale or tired
  • Eats very little, too much, or prefers non-nutritious foods like sweets, candy, and junk food
  • Has chronic illnesses such as allergies, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or intestinal parasites

Follow-up to nutrition assessment

If nutrition assessment finds inadequate diet (e.g., too little, too much, or unhealthy foods), growth problems (e.g., failure to thrive or overweight), or anemia, the child should be referred to a health care provider for evaluation and treatment.

Treatment may include:

  • Referral to a nutritionist
  • Counseling for parents and Head Start staff on the types and amounts of food the child should eat and recommended amount of physical activity
  • Iron supplements or iron-enriched vitamins
  • Treatment of medical conditions causing nutritional and growth problems

How a child eats can affect how she grows, develops, looks, and feels. Nutrition assessment and counseling can promote healthy growth and development.

Nutrition Assessment: Well-Child Health Care Fact Sheet. Well-Child Health Care: Making It Happen. DHHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 1998.

Last Reviewed: February 2009

Last Updated: May 28, 2015