Basic Steps in Calculating HEI Scores

The basic steps in calculating HEI scores are:

  1. Identify the set of foods under consideration:

    The set of foods considered could include, for example, the entire US food supply, the sum of choices available in a particular environment, or the foods consumed by a person or group of people on a day or over a longer period of time.

  2. Figure 1: summarizing the three steps for deriving HEI scores across each of the four levels of the food stream. Read the following sections for a complete explanation.
    Figure 1: HEI Scoring Illustration
    Click to enlarge.
  3. Determine the amount of each relevant dietary constituent in the set of foods:

    An example of dietary constituents as labeled in the Food Patterns Equivalents Database (FPED) and the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS) can be seen in Table 1: HEI-2015 Components, Dietary Constituents and Scoring Standards. This table describes the types of dietary variables needed to calculate the score and indicates examples of databases that contain this information. Though energy is included in the table, it is not a component in and of itself, but rather comprises the denominator of most of the component scoring equations. The table also includes maximum scores and scoring standards for reference.


    Dietary Constituents for HEI-2015

    The relevant dietary constituents for calculating HEI–2015 component and total scores are: total fruit; whole fruit (total fruit excluding juice, i.e., citrus, melons, and berries plus other intact fruits); total vegetables; dark green vegetables; legumes (beans and peas); whole grains; dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy beverages in the form of skim milk equivalents); total protein foods (lean fraction only); seafood; eggs; soy products; nuts and seeds; refined grains; saturated fatty acids; polyunsaturated fatty acids; monounsaturated fatty acids; sodium; calories from added sugars; and total calories.


    Dietary Constituents for HEI-2010

    The relevant dietary constituents for calculating HEI–2010 component and total scores are: total fruit; whole fruit (total fruit excluding juice); total vegetables; legumes (beans and peas); dark green vegetables; whole grains; dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy beverages in the form of skim milk equivalents); total protein foods (lean fraction only); seafood; nuts and seeds; refined grains; saturated fatty acids; polyunsaturated fatty acids; monounsaturated fatty acids; sodium; calories from added sugars, solid fats, and alcohol (separately); and total calories.


    Dietary Constituents for HEI-2005

    The relevant dietary constituents for calculating HEI–2005 component and total scores are: total fruit; whole fruit (total fruit excluding juice); total vegetables; legumes (beans and peas); dark green vegetables; orange vegetables, whole grains; dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy beverages in the form of skim milk equivalents); total protein foods (lean fraction only); total grains; oils; saturated fatty acids; sodium; calories from added sugars, solid fats, and alcohol (separately); and total calories.


    How to Determine Amounts of Each Dietary Constituent

    Determining the amounts of each dietary constituent contained in the total quantity of foods under consideration requires linking to relevant databases, as information on nutrients, certain food ingredients (such as added sugars) and food groups are needed to calculate HEI scores. To appropriately capture the amount of each of the guidance-based food groups of interest, foods and beverages must be disaggregated. Such disaggregation allows for estimated amounts to reflect only the constituent of interest and not the total amount of the foods and beverages in which it may be contained. See Figures 2 & 3.

    For example, the fruit juice fraction of a juice drink -- which may represent only 10% of the total product -- counts toward total fruit, but the remainder of the beverage counts toward added sugars. Likewise, the skim milk fraction of whole milk counts toward the dairy constituent, but the butterfat in whole milk counts toward calories from solid fat.

    Figure 2: Lasagna 100g
    Figure 2: Lasagna 100g [D]
    Click to enlarge.

    Figure 3: Example of food linkage from reported intakes.  The intakes could be reported on a 24-hour recall or food record or derived from FFQ line items.  Once the intakes are assigned to a food code, they can be linked to nutrients and food consumption amounts for use in HEI scoring.<br /><br />* Nutrient data from FNDDS<br /> ** Food group data from FPED<br /><br />Note: There are other dietary constituents relevant to the HEI-2015 that are not included here because they are not in the three sample foods.  The HEI-2015 includes 13 components (Total Fruit, Whole Fruit, Total Vegetables, Greens & Beans, Whole Grains, Total Protein Foods, Seafood and Plant Proteins, Dairy, Fatty Acid Ratio, Refined Grains, Sodium, Saturated Fats, Added Sugars).  Some constituents of foods will need to be summed to create the component variables to calculate the HEI.  For example, Total Protein Foods is calculated by summing together all animal and plant proteins, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy, and legumes.
    Figure 3: Example of Food Linkage from Reported Intakes [D]
    Click to enlarge.

  4. Derive pertinent ratios and score each HEI component using the relevant standard:

    HEI scores are based on density values or ratios of intake per total energy. The resulting ratios are compared with the applicable standards for scoring (see standards for HEI–2015).

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