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Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program

Overview & Background of The Healthy Eating Index

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What is the Healthy Eating Index?

The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a scoring metric that can be used to determine overall diet quality as well as the quality of several dietary components. The HEI is a measure of diet quality, independent of quantity, that can be used to assess compliance with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Since 2005, researchers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have collaborated to update the HEI based on updates to the DGAs.

The HEI also is a valuable tool for research and can be used to address different types of questions.

What is the most recent version of the HEI?

The Healthy Eating Index–2015 (HEI–2015) is the most recent iteration. The HEI is in the process of being updated for ≥2 years and a new HEI is being developed for <2 years based on the 2020-2025 DGAs.

How do I get started using the HEI?

The basic steps for calculating HEI scores are pictured in the graphic below and there is a page describing the basic steps in more detail. Additional resources are available to learn more about how the HEI is used in research, provide an overview of methods and calculations, to help choose a method, to provide sample SAS code, and to visualize and interpret scores.

This figure summarizes the three steps for deriving HEI scores across each of the four levels of the food stream: National Food Supply, Food Processing, Community Food Environment, and Individual Consumption. National Food Supply Food Processing Community Food Environment Individual Consumption