The Healthy Eating Index–2005 Resources

The Healthy Eating Index (HEI)–2005 is a measure of diet quality that can be used to assess compliance with the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans and monitor changes in dietary patterns nationwide. An updated version was created in 2010.


Developing the Healthy Eating Index–2005

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans differed from earlier editions by increasing the emphasis on several important aspects of diet quality, including whole grains, various types of vegetables, and specific types of fat. The 2005 Guidelines also introduced the concept of “discretionary calories.” As a result, the 1995 HEI needed to be revised and updated.

Staff at NCI's ARP and USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)External Web Site Policy collaborated to revise the HEI, and a new version, the HEI–2005, was published in November 2007. This revision also provided an opportunity for USDA and NCI to evaluate the psychometric properties of the new index.

The HEI–2005 is based on MyPyramid, USDA’s revised food guidance system, which translates recommendations in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines into specific, quantified dietary recommendations. All of the food groups contained in MyPyramid are represented in HEI–2005 components.

The HEI–2005 uses a scoring system, as did the original HEI. However, because MyPyramid recommendations for amounts of food groups, oils, and discretionary calories are couched in terms of absolute amounts that vary according to energy level, the USDA and NCI team developed the HEI–2005 scores using standards that are expressed as either a percent of calories or per 1,000 calories. The HEI–2005 components and scoring standards are shown in the table below.

Healthy Eating Index-2005 components and standards for scoring1

Component Maximum points Standard for maximum score Standard for minimum score of zero
Total Fruit (includes 100% juice) 5 ≥0.8 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Fruit
Whole Fruit (not juice) 5 ≥0.4 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Whole Fruit
Total Vegetables 5 ≥1.1 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Vegetables
Dark Green and Orange Vegetables and Legumes2 5 ≥0.4 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Dark Green or Orange Vegetables or Legumes
Total Grains 5 ≥3.0 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Grains
Whole Grains 5 ≥1.5 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Whole Grains
Milk3 10 ≥1.3 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Milk
Meat and Beans 10 ≥2.5 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Meat or Beans
Oils4 10 ≥12 grams per 1,000 kcal No Oil
Saturated Fat 10 ≤7% of energy5 ≥15% of energy
Sodium 10 ≤0.7 gram per 1,000 kcal5 ≥2.0 grams per 1,000 kcal
Calories from Solid Fat, Alcohol, and Added Sugar (SoFAAS) 20 ≤20% of energy ≥50% of energy

1 Intakes between the minimum and maximum levels are scored proportionately, except for Saturated Fat and Sodium (see note 5).

2 Legumes counted as vegetables only after Meat and Beans standard is met.

3 Includes all milk products, such as fluid milk, yogurt, and cheese.

4 Includes nonhydrogenated vegetable oils and oils in fish, nuts, and seeds.

5 Saturated Fat and Sodium get a score of 8 for the intake levels that reflect the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, <10% of calories from saturated fat and 1.1 grams of sodium/1,000 kcal, respectively.

Source: Taken from USDA. Healthy Eating Index–2005. (PDF)External Web Site Policy

Additional details are available in the Development and Evaluation of the Healthy Eating Index–2005 Technical Report (PDF)External Web Site Policy.

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Evaluating the Healthy Eating Index–2005

We evaluated the performance of the HEI–2005 by assessing its psychometric properties, including content validity, four types of construct validity, and one type of reliability. To do this, we scored one-day dietary intakes obtained from a sample of 8,650 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2002 respondants. We also scored several sets of exemplary sample menus, including those from the MyPyramid website, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood’s DASH program, Harvard Medical School’s Healthy Eating Pyramid, and the American Heart Association’s No-Fad Diet.

Results of the evaluation showed that the HEI–2005 has both validity and reliability:

  • Content validity: All of the key Dietary Guidelines food choice recommendations that relate to diet quality are reflected in HEI–2005 components. By design, the HEI does not cover other Dietary Guidelines recommendations, such as those for physical activity, body weight, and food safety.
  • Construct validity: This type of validity evaluates whether an index measures what it is supposed to measure, and the HEI performed well on four types of construct validity. First, four sets of menus representing high-quality diets scored high on the HEI–2005. Second, one-day scores between smokers and non-smokers were significantly different, indicating that the HEI can distinguish between groups with known differences in the quality of their diets. Third, an examination of Pearsons correlations of the HEI–2005 total and component scores with energy intake showed that the HEI can assess diet quality independently of diet quantity. Finally, a principal components analysis (PCA) demonstrated that multiple factors underlie the HEI–2005 and that both the individual components and the total score provide insights into diet quality.
  • Reliability: We used Cronbach’s coefficient alpha to assess internal consistency, which is the degree to which multiple components within an index measure the same underlying construct. Results suggest that individual components provide additional insights into the quality of the diet beyond those of the total score.

Additional details are available in the Development and Evaluation of the Healthy Eating Index–2005 Technical Report (PDF)External Web Site Policy.

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