Evaluating the food environment: application of the Healthy Eating Index-2005

Am J Prev Med. 2010 May;38(5):465-71. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.01.015. Epub 2010 Feb 20.


Background: The Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005), a tool designed to evaluate concordance with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, has been used to monitor the quality of foods consumed by Americans. Because the HEI-2005 is not tied to individual requirements and is scored on a per 1000 kcal basis, it can be used to assess the overall quality of any mix of foods.

Purpose: The goal of this paper is to examine whether the HEI-2005 can be applied to the food environment.

Methods: Two examples were selected to examine the application of the HEI-2005 to the food environment: the dollar menu displayed at a fast-food restaurant (coded and linked to the MyPyramid Equivalents Database and the Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies) to represent the community level and the 2005 U.S. Food Supply (measured with food availability data, loss-adjusted food availability data, nutrient availability data, and Salt Institute data) to represent the macro level.

Results: The dollar menu and the 2005 U.S. Food Supply received 43.4 and 54.9 points, respectively (100 possible points). According to the HEI-2005, for the offerings at a local fast-food restaurant and the U.S. Food Supply to align with national dietary guidance, substantial shifts would be necessary: a concomitant addition of fruit, dark-green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, and nonfat milk; replacement of refined grains with whole grains; and reduction in foods and food products containing sodium, solid fats, and added sugars.

Conclusions: Because the HEI-2005 can be applied to both environmental- and individual-level data, it provides a useful metric for studies linking data across various levels of the socioecologic framework of dietary behavior. The present findings suggest that new dietary guidance could target not only individuals but also the architects of our food environment.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fast Foods
  • Food Analysis
  • Food Supply
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*