Developing the Healthy Eating Index

The original Healthy Eating Index (HEI) was released by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in 1995. Changes made to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2005 necessitated revisions to the original HEI. At that time, the HEI was significantly updated through a collaboration with the USDA and NCI. This website details information about HEI-2005 and later versions.

For each iteration of the HEI, all of the key Dietary Guidelines food choice recommendations that relate to diet quality are reflected in that index's components.

The performance of the HEI has been evaluated through assessments of its content validity, construct validity, and reliability. More information about the evaluation and validation of HEI-2005, HEI-2010 and HEI-2015 is available.

HEI-2015

The Healthy Eating Index-2015 is the latest iteration of the index and was designed to align with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). As with the previous DGAs, the 2015-2020 edition emphasizes a variety of food groups, nutrient density and improving food and beverage choices within calorie needs.

A new aspect of the DGAs introduced in 2015 is a specific recommendation on limiting intake of added sugars to less than 10% of total caloric intake.

As with the two most recent editions, staff at NCI and the USDA collaborated to revise the HEI to align with the recommendations in the 2015 DGAs. Most of the HEI-2010 components were retained in HEI-2015; however, the "Empty Calories" component has been replaced by two separate components, "Added Sugars" and "Saturated Fats," to better align with the newly quantified added sugars recommendation while still retaining the concept that these components encompass remaining calories in the diet.

Previously, excessive calories from alcohol were included in the Empty Calories component. With the changes regarding the Empty Calories component, alcohol is no longer specifically addressed within a single component. However, overall calories contributed from alcohol in the diet continue to be included in the total energy used as the denominator to calculate HEI-2015 scores.

While the other dietary components remained the same with the HEI-2015 revision, a change was made to the method by which legumes are allocated to the components. In HEI-2015, legumes are now being allocated to four components: Total Protein Foods, Seafood and Plant Proteins, Total Vegetables and Greens and Beans. Because legumes are consumed infrequently by many in the population, this change is expected to have little impact on total scores at the population level. However, for some subgroups, such as vegetarians, individual scores may improve substantially.

After revisions, the HEI-2015 contains 13 components that sum to a total maximum score of 100 points. As in HEI-2005 and HEI-2010, each of the components is scored on a density basis out of 1,000 calories, with the exception of Fatty Acids, which is a ratio of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids. The details of the scoring standards of the HEI-2015 are shown in the accompanying table.

HEI–20151 Components & Scoring Standards

Component Maximum points Standard for maximum score Standard for minimum score of zero
Adequacy:
Total Fruits2 5 ≥0.8 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Fruit
Whole Fruits3 5 ≥0.4 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Whole Fruit
Total Vegetables4 5 ≥1.1 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Vegetables
Greens and Beans4 5 ≥0.2 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Dark Green Vegetables or Legumes
Whole Grains 10 ≥1.5 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Whole Grains
Dairy5 10 ≥1.3 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Dairy
Total Protein Foods6 5 ≥2.5 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Protein Foods
Seafood and Plant Proteins6,7 5 ≥0.8 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Seafood or Plant Proteins
Fatty Acids8 10 (PUFAs + MUFAs)/SFAs ≥2.5 (PUFAs + MUFAs)/SFAs ≤1.2
Moderation:
Refined Grains 10 ≤1.8 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal ≥4.3 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal
Sodium 10 ≤1.1 gram per 1,000 kcal ≥2.0 grams per 1,000 kcal
Added Sugars 10 ≤6.5% of energy ≥26% of energy
Saturated Fats 10 ≤8% of energy ≥16% of energy

1: Intakes between the minimum and maximum standards are scored proportionately.

2: Includes 100% fruit juice.

3: Includes all forms except juice.

4: Includes legumes (beans and peas).

5: Includes all milk products, such as fluid milk, yogurt, and cheese, and fortified soy beverages.

6: Includes legumes (beans and peas).

7: Includes seafood, nuts, seeds, soy products (other than beverages), and legumes (beans and peas).

8: Ratio of poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs and MUFAs) to saturated fatty acids (SFAs).



HEI-2010

Read Overview

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans continued the 2005 Guidelines' emphasis on several important aspects of diet quality, including whole grains, various types of vegetables, and specific types of fat. The 2010 Guidelines also differed from the previous Guidelines in several respects, including an increased emphasis on seafood and plant proteins and on reducing consumption of refined grains. As a result, the HEI–2005 needed to be revised and updated.

Staff at NCI and USDA collaborated to revise the HEI, and a new version, the HEI–2010, was released in February 2013. A paper describing the HEI–2010 in detailExternal Web Site Policy is available.

This revision also provided an opportunity for USDA and NCI to evaluate the psychometric properties of the new index. Results from the evaluation can be found on the Evaluation and Validation page.

The HEI–2010 is based in large part on USDA's 2010 food patterns, which translates recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines into specific, quantified dietary recommendations. All of the food groups contained in USDA's food patterns are represented in HEI–2010 components. Nine of the components focus on adequacy (dietary components to increase) and three focus on moderation (dietary components to decrease).

The HEI–2010 comprises 12 components that sum to a maximum total score of 100. Because USDA food pattern recommendations for amounts of food groups, oils, and empty calories are couched in terms of absolute amounts that vary according to energy level, the HEI–2010 scores use standards that are expressed as either a percent of calories or per 1,000 calories. This "density" approach uncouples diet quality from quantity. The one exception is fatty acids, which are expressed as a ratio of unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids. The HEI–2010 components and scoring standards are shown in the accompanying table.

View HEI-2010 Components and Scoring Standards

HEI–20101 Components & Scoring Standards

Component Maximum points Standard for maximum score Standard for minimum score of zero
Adequacy:
Total Fruit2 5 ≥0.8 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Fruit
Whole Fruit3 5 ≥0.4 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Whole Fruit
Total Vegetables4 5 ≥1.1 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Vegetables
Greens and Beans4 5 ≥0.2 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Dark Green Vegetables or Beans and Peas
Whole Grains 10 ≥1.5 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Whole Grains
Dairy5 10 ≥1.3 cup equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Dairy
Total Protein Foods6 5 ≥2.5 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Protein Foods
Seafood and Plant Proteins6,7 5 ≥0.8 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal No Seafood or Plant Proteins
Fatty Acids8 10 (PUFAs + MUFAs)/SFAs ≥2.5 (PUFAs + MUFAs)/SFAs ≤1.2
Moderation:
Refined Grains 10 ≤1.8 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal ≥4.3 oz equiv. per 1,000 kcal
Sodium 10 ≤1.1 gram per 1,000 kcal ≥2.0 grams per 1,000 kcal
Empty Calories9 20 ≤19% of energy ≥50% of energy

1: Intakes between the minimum and maximum standards are scored proportionately.

2: Includes 100% fruit juice.

3: Includes all forms except juice.

4: Includes any beans and peas not counted as Total Protein Foods.

5: Includes all milk products, such as fluid milk, yogurt, and cheese, and fortified soy beverages.

6: Beans and peas are included here (and not with vegetables) when the Total Protein Foods standard is otherwise not met.

7: Includes seafood, nuts, seeds, soy products (other than beverages) as well as beans and peas counted as Total Protein Foods.

8: Ratio of poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs and MUFAs) to saturated fatty acids (SFAs).

9: Calories from solid fats, alcohol, and added sugars; threshold for counting alcohol is >13 grams/1000 kcal.



HEI-2005

Read Overview

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 and the USDS collaborated to revise 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 accompanying table.

View HEI-2005 Components and Standards for Scoring

HEI–20051 Components & Standards for Scoring

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 equiv. 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 Fats, Alcoholic Beverages, and Added Sugars (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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