The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a measure of diet quality used to assess how well a set of foods aligns with key recommendations and dietary patterns published in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines). The Dietary Guidelines is designed for nutrition and health professionals to help individuals and families consume a healthful and nutritionally adequate diet.
The HEI was originally developed in 1995 as a tool to evaluate the extent to which Americans were following dietary recommendations. In 2005, the structure of the HEI was revised and has been updated three times since 2005 as a collaboration between USDA, Food and Nutrition Services, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and HHS, National Cancer Institute. The HEI-2020 is the most current version of the HEI and aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 edition. The HEI-2020 can be used to assess dietary intakes of populations ages 2 years and older. For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines included specific guidance and dietary patterns for young children ages 12 through 23 months. In response, there is a new Healthy Eating Index-Toddlers-2020 (HEI-Toddlers-2020).
The HEI uses a scoring system to evaluate a set of foods. The scores range from 0 to 100. An ideal overall HEI score of 100 reflects that the set of foods aligns with key dietary recommendations and dietary patterns published in the Dietary Guidelines. The HEI-2020 and the HEI-Toddlers-2020 were developed following the same set of key principles, however the HEI-Toddlers-2020 differs in the scoring standards to reflect the unique guidance for young children.
The overall HEI-2020 and HEI-Toddlers-2020 scores are made up of 13 components that reflect the different food groups and key recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. More information on these components and the HEI scoring is described on the How the HEI Is Scored page. See the HEI Scores for Americans page for more details about the most recent scores for the U.S. population, as well as for specific age groups.
The total HEI-2020 score for ages 2 and older is 58 out of 100. The average HEI-Toddlers-2020 score for ages 12 through 23 months is 63 out of 100. This snapshot of overall diet quality indicates that average diets in the U.S. do not conform to dietary recommendations. Each step closer to eating a diet that aligns with Dietary Guidelines recommendations can help reduce the risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Everyone has a role to play to support access to healthy foods and beverages in multiple settings nationwide where people live, learn, work, play, and gather. Concerted efforts within communities, businesses and industries, organizations, government and other segments of society are needed to support individuals and families in making lifestyle choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines.
To support these efforts, a broad range of resources are available on dietaryguidelines.gov and MyPlate.gov that aim to help the U.S. population make eating choices that align with the Dietary Guidelines. A selection of resources can be found on the Healthy Eating Index Resources page.