Diet therapy

Forget the dietary ‘shoulds’. It’s what you ‘do’ that counts.

Nutrition information is widely available these days but ‘knowing’ what to eat doesn’t automatically mean that you are ‘getting’ enough energy or nutrients over the course of a week or month to keep you healthy.

It’s what you’do’ that counts…..

So, if you are thinking of changing your diet or buying a dietary supplement for a ‘pep up’ consider getting a nutritional assessment first. This evidence -based approach can save you wasting a lot of health dollars, effort and time chasing the latest trends, instead of focusing on what ‘you need to do for you, living your life’ right now for better health and fitness.

To get underway:

  • See your GP for a wellness check
  • Ask your doctor if blood tests are needed
  • Talk to a Dietitian about a 7-day nutritional assessment before you change anything about the way you eat, because this time of non-interventon is GOLD. It can show up your habits, your energy levels, the nutrients you may be lacking and much more.

What does a nutritional assessment involve?

There are basically 4 components to a nutritional assessment:

  1. Anthropometric measurement of your height, weight, body mass index, waist to hip ratios.
  2. Biochemical parameters determined relevant by your doctor. Such as tests to check out such things as your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, iron, calcium, vitamin D and C status.
  3. Clinical evaluation. This includes an understanding of your functional limitations due to e.g. arthritis, sports injuries that may limit your exercise; health issues e.g. heart, weight, diabetes; social background e.g. work, school and family commitments, mental health e.g anxiety, stress, depression etc. What medication you are on.
  4. Diet history. Is your diet adequate to meet your needs right now? Do you use dietary supplements. What are your goals regarding weight and fitness?

Collecting a dietary history

Its very easy to want to skip this bit. You can’t be bothered, maybe you are embarrassed about how much you do or don’t eat, you’re too busy, you can’t see the point. It may seem so much easier just to flag this bit and dive deeply into the latest ‘diet’ like you have before. How did that work out for you?

If you can honestly record your food and fluid intake for a 7 -day period then this captures invaluable information about your:

Eating and drinking habits:

  • At school and work, how you cope with in-between breaks or shift work
  • Over the weekend, noting the impact of social and recreational activities
  • Eating at school, residential homes or colleges, after school activities
  • When applied to sports nutrition, the gym and eating around training and competition. Do you have a hydration strategy?
  • When you are travelling for work or eating out at company lunches or with friends
  • During family gatherings, festivals, celebrations, annual rituals like Easter and Christmas
  • The times of day that you eat and drink, go to work, sleep, exercise

Nutritional adequacy:

  • Are you eating enough to fuel growth and repair, the activities of your day, your sports or after school activities?
  • Forget the supplements (unless prescribed by your doctor). Are you getting enough of vitamins and minerals from ‘real food’ to fuel your ‘real’ body.
  • How about your bowel health? Are you getting enough dietary fibre and fluids to aid digestion so that you can utilize the best of all the nutrients that you spend money on eating?

Real health issues:

We read a lot about the risk factors associated with consuming too much alcohol, sugar, saturated fat and salt relative to our heart, gut and brain health. So how do you measure up? Are there little things you could be doing to lower these risks now?
In 5-10 years, you might be really pleased to have learnt what they were.

Do you have respiratory issues, coeliac disease, diabetes or iron deficiency? Is your current diet providing for your extra nutrient needs?

Knowing about general nutrition or sports nutrition are wonderful skills to have but it is what you do and how well you apply your knowledge that matters most to your health.

Achievement of life goals

What would you like to be doing in 5-10-15 years -time?

Eating well, protecting your body with better nutrition now can help you to channel your energy into the things in life that really matter to you.

Also, as we get older our body changes along with our goals. Just in the same way that we get a warrant of fitness for our car getting repeat nutritional assessments can help to tick off all the things that you are still getting right as well as picking up any new risks that have emerged because of changes in your health, sporting activities, lifestyle, direction or purpose.

If you would like to have a nutritional assessment, contact me today.

Other articles on this subject

Break free from fad diets
Tips to build a purposeful, healthier life
Weighty issues
Seeking authenticity in food and nutrition information
Hidden hunger. Could this be affecting you?
Are you an emotional eater?

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Also in Diet Therapy View all »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.


Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).



No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).