This tool makes it easier for practitioners and decision makers to understand dietary patterns and nutrient intake. Such information is critical to design, monitor, and evaluate efforts to improve diets. The decision tool provides existing data sources and data collection tools related to the different target groups and diet questions below.

The tools provide information on diets of five target groups:

  • Children: 6–23 months of age
  • Women: 15–49 years of age (non-pregnant, non-lactating)
  • Pregnant women: 15–49 years of age
  • Lactating women: 15–49 years of age
  • Men

Diet assessments and related interventions should focus on children 6–23 months of age and women because evidence shows these groups are vulnerable to malnutrition, especially during the first 1,000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday, and improving diet during this time can improve health and development.

A healthy dietary pattern consists of nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages across all food groups, in recommended amounts, and within calorie limits.

Lack of healthy dietary patterns is a leading risk factor for malnutrition and poor health including child stunting and wasting; obesity; micronutrient deficiencies; and non communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

To improve the health and well-being of target groups, the implementation of policies and programs that improve diets is essential.

Practitioners and decision-makers need tools and information sources so they can—

  • Assess food and nutrient needs to inform design of activities to improve diet intake.
  • Monitor implementation and factors that influence diet intake (such as the food environment, behaviors, etc.) and adjust activities to improve outcomes as needed.
  • Show how activities improve diet intake in target groups.

Question 1Is my target group consuming foods or food groups that provide adequate nutrients?

Why is this information important?

To find out if the target group is—

  • consuming  adequate or excess micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
  • consuming adequate macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat, and overall energy).

Which nutrient needs tend to be the most difficult to meet? 

Examples will depend on the context and could include—

  • For children 6–23 months: vitamin A, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium, folate
  • For women of reproductive age: iron, folate, vitamin B12, iodine
  • For pregnant and lactating women: iron, folate, vitamin B12, iodine

Question 2What foods or food groups is my target group consuming?

Why is this information important?

  • To find out if children 6-23 months have healthy dietary patterns that promote health and help reduce the risk of chronic disease like diabetes or overweight or obesity.
  • To find out if women of reproductive age, pregnant and lactating women, and men have healthy dietary patterns that promote health and help reduce the risk of chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or overweight or obesity.

What foods are associated with healthy dietary patterns? 

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits    
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains   
  • Dairy   
  • Lean fish/poultry
  • Eggs

What foods should be limited in women of reproductive age, pregnant and lactating women, and men to reduce the risk of chronic disease? 

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Sugary snacks, baked items, and candies
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Ultra-processed packaged salty snacks
  • Processed meat
  • Unprocessed red meat 

Use the decision tool to identify methods to collect data or find existing data to answer specific questions about diets in target groups.

The tool can help answer the following types of questions:

  • What tools are available to identify dietary patterns in target groups?
  • What tools are available to identify gaps or excesses in nutrient intake among target groups?
  • What indicators can be used to evaluate the impact of interventions on diet intake?
  • How much time does it take to use each tool?
  • What is the relative cost associated with using each tool?

The Diet Assessment Decision Tool cannot be used to—

  • Assess the suitability or applicability of the tools for the purpose of individual-level counseling.
  • Describe how to use the tools (although it provides links to details on the “how”).
  • Provide programming options to fill gaps in food and nutrient intake, which is very context-specific.

To get started, choose an answer from the drop-down options below. See something that can be improved? Please send us an email at info@advancingnutrition.org.

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Photo Credit: Liam Wright, Smart Food, ICRISAT
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