The Healthy Eating Index logo.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Have you ever heard of the Healthy Eating Index? The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) measures the quality of Americans’ food choices. At USDA we use the HEI to see how closely Americans are following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. The HEI assigns scores to diets on a scale in which the maximum score of 100 indicates that the diet meets all Dietary Guidelines recommendations. The HEI shows us that the diets of most Americans could use some improvement. For example, HEI scores for 2007-08 averaged about 53.5 points out of 100 points, and these scores have not changed substantially since 2001-02. Using the HEI we can also compare how food choices and overall diet quality differ among males and females and in certain age groups, such as HEI scores for children and adolescents.
The HEI includes 12 components, each of which measures one aspect of dietary quality. These components represent all of the key Dietary Guidelines food choice recommendations. Nine of the components focus on the types of foods that Americans should eat more of, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. Three components focus on foods or nutrients that are over consumed and Americans should eat less of, including refined grains, sodium, and calories from solid fats and added sugars (empty calories). Read more »
Everyone wants to save money at the grocery store, especially those on a tight budget. The new Healthy Eating on a Budget section of ChooseMyPlate.gov empowers cost-conscious consumers to make healthy choices with insightful information about meal planning, smart shopping ideas, and creating healthy meals with simple ingredients. Web-based trends indicate that consumers continue to look for information about how to make better eating decisions with limited resources. Healthy Eating on a Budget offers a step-by-step game plan to help families save money and make nutritious meals at home.
Recent scores from the USDA Healthy Eating Index indicate that Americans can struggle to meet recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most of us need to increase our intake of whole fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy. Cost is often considered a barrier to eating healthier and the new resource will help consumers overcome this perception. Read more »
Grandchildren are a treasure.
Grandkids are a grandparent’s greatest treasure. From time to time during grandchildren’s young lives, grandparents may have the pleasure of being their caregiver. Show them how to be healthy, including how to make healthy food choices–an important way grandparents show how much they love and care about their grandchildren.
As a proud grandmother, I can attest that grandkids learn by example! They mimic everything you do, so be a healthy role model by taking care of yourself and they will learn to value healthy habits. Use ChooseMyPlate.gov to guide your food choices and better understand the nutrition needs of young children in your life. Take your grandchildren shopping at a farmer’s market and the grocery store. Talk about the choices you are making—choosing the juicier oranges or the fresher vegetables. Help them learn cooking skills, which will benefit them throughout their lives. Encourage them to be active throughout the day. Read more »
Recent studies indicate that obesity rates among young children are finally starting to decline.
USDA believes in giving children a foundation for life-long health through access to healthy food and quality nutrition education. So, that’s why we are encouraged by a couple of recent studies that indicate that the rates of obesity among young children are declining. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that rates of obesity among young children ages 2-5 years have declined in the last decade, while another found that obesity is declining in low-income preschoolers in 19 states. These results suggest that we are making progress in our efforts to improve the health of our next generation! These findings were noted by Dr. Bill Dietz, former Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity during his presentation at the 3rd meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on March 14, 2014.
Efforts to turn the tide of obesity, both within the Federal government and in communities across the country, are having an impact in the preschool population. The USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services programs are an important part of these efforts. Through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, USDA is making critical changes to the foods available to children – even the picky eaters. Read more »
These “My Plate” models show how FDPIR foods fit into recommended food groups.
Finding groceries can be difficult in many inner city neighborhoods, and in many rural areas the challenge can be even more daunting. Americans living in remote areas might easily spend half a day just making a grocery run. And for many Native Americans living on Indian reservations, simply getting to a place to purchase nutritious foods becomes a constant struggle.
Food security is a top priority for the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand for agricultural products.” Read more »
USDA and HHS jointly release new 10 Tips to help women, men, and teens in making healthy choices!
March is National Nutrition Month®, the time we remind ourselves of the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Four new MyPlate 10 Tips have been developed to target women, teen girls, men, and teen guys. Find them online at ChooseMyPlate.gov! These new 10 Tips provide accurate, informative nutrition resources for women, teen girls, men, and teen guys through the 10 Tips Nutrition Education series.
The four new resources target: Read more »