The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to federal dietary guidance. USDA’s primary use of the HEI is to monitor the diet quality of the U.S. population and the low-income subpopulation. For this purpose the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) uses the data collected via 24-hour recalls of dietary intake in national surveys. The HEI is also used to examine relationships between diet and health-related outcomes and between diet cost and diet quality, to determine the effectiveness of nutrition intervention programs, and to assess the quality of food assistance packages, menus, and the US food supply. The HEI is a scoring metric that can be applied to any defined set of foods, such as previously-collected dietary data, a defined menu, or a market basket. The original HEI was created by CNPP in 1995. It was revised in 2006 by a federal working group, led by CNPP with members from the National Cancer Institute and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, to reflect the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and updated in 2012 to reflect the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The HEI-2010 is described in detail in an article, published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and summarized in a fact sheet. A report on HEI-2010 population scores is available below. A SAS program for calculating HEI-2010 scores is available as well as guidance for researchers. An evaluation of the validity and reliability of the HEI-2010 and additional support information will be forthcoming.
The HEI-2005 was also described in a fact sheet and in a technical report on its development and evaluation, and in two articles published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (vol. 108, pages 1854 and 1896). Reports of population scores, listed below, are available as are support files, including a documented version of the SAS program and Excel worksheet used to estimate the scores and links to the necessary databases. An article on the population ratio method for calculating HEI scores was published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition (vol. 138, page 1725).
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Healthy Eating Index are available here.