Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score

Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score
4.23 (84.67%) 30 votes

Rate your diet on a scale of 0 to 100 using the phytochemical index, and compare your score to the Standard American Diet.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A few years ago, a proposal was published for a healthy eating index, and I thought it might be interesting to look at the latest USDA dietary survey to see how the standard American diet is doing. The index is simple; it’s a score of 0 to 100, which simply represents the percent of dietary calories derived from foods rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemical is just a more technical term for phytonutrient, since nutrient implies essential for life, whereas phytochemicals are merely essential for a long, healthy life.

So if 1% of our diet is composed of phytonutrient-rich food, our diet gets a score of 1. If that’s where half of our calories come from, then we score 50. And if that’s all we eat, we can max out at 100; 100%.

How are Jane and Joe Sixpack doing? Here is the latest data on the standard American diet: 3% of calories come from beans and nuts; 3% from fruit; 5% is vegetables; 23% from grain; 17% is added sugars, like candy and soda and other junk; 23% comes from added fats—butter, margarine, oil, shortening; and 26% of the American diet is meat, dairy, and eggs.

For the healthy eating index, we only get to count phytonutrient-rich foods, since they’re the ones most associated with chronic disease prevention, treatment, and cure. So, first off, the reason they’re called phytonutrients is that, by definition, they are found in plants—derived from the Greek word “phyton,” for plant.

So, automatically we start with a score of 74. Neither lard nor candy are phytonutrient-rich either, so taking away the added fats and oils, we’re down to 34. But the grain category is a combination of both whole grains—rich in phytonutrients—and refined grains, which had the phytonutrients largely removed. Only 4% of the American diet is composed of whole grains—like oats, barley, whole wheat, brown rice—and the rest is highly processed garbage, like white flour and cornstarch.

Yikes, down to 15! But it gets worse. 2/3 of our vegetables are white potatoes, half of which are potato chips. The average American eats 23 calories of potato chips every day. But none of the white potato products count, since they contain relatively few phytonutrients.

Similarly, a third of our fruit calories are low-phytonutrient juices, and so the typical American diet rates 12, out of 100. So on a scale of like 1 to 10, we get about a 1.

How do you score a perfect 10? “Theoretically, a vegan diet that excluded refined grains, potato products, hard liquors, and added sugars and oils could have a [perfect dietary index rating] of 100. Sadly, the [score] of most current American diets would be unlikely to be as high as 20 [yeah we wish it were 20!]—which means that there [is] quite ample room for improvement.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

A few years ago, a proposal was published for a healthy eating index, and I thought it might be interesting to look at the latest USDA dietary survey to see how the standard American diet is doing. The index is simple; it’s a score of 0 to 100, which simply represents the percent of dietary calories derived from foods rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemical is just a more technical term for phytonutrient, since nutrient implies essential for life, whereas phytochemicals are merely essential for a long, healthy life.

So if 1% of our diet is composed of phytonutrient-rich food, our diet gets a score of 1. If that’s where half of our calories come from, then we score 50. And if that’s all we eat, we can max out at 100; 100%.

How are Jane and Joe Sixpack doing? Here is the latest data on the standard American diet: 3% of calories come from beans and nuts; 3% from fruit; 5% is vegetables; 23% from grain; 17% is added sugars, like candy and soda and other junk; 23% comes from added fats—butter, margarine, oil, shortening; and 26% of the American diet is meat, dairy, and eggs.

For the healthy eating index, we only get to count phytonutrient-rich foods, since they’re the ones most associated with chronic disease prevention, treatment, and cure. So, first off, the reason they’re called phytonutrients is that, by definition, they are found in plants—derived from the Greek word “phyton,” for plant.

So, automatically we start with a score of 74. Neither lard nor candy are phytonutrient-rich either, so taking away the added fats and oils, we’re down to 34. But the grain category is a combination of both whole grains—rich in phytonutrients—and refined grains, which had the phytonutrients largely removed. Only 4% of the American diet is composed of whole grains—like oats, barley, whole wheat, brown rice—and the rest is highly processed garbage, like white flour and cornstarch.

Yikes, down to 15! But it gets worse. 2/3 of our vegetables are white potatoes, half of which are potato chips. The average American eats 23 calories of potato chips every day. But none of the white potato products count, since they contain relatively few phytonutrients.

Similarly, a third of our fruit calories are low-phytonutrient juices, and so the typical American diet rates 12, out of 100. So on a scale of like 1 to 10, we get about a 1.

How do you score a perfect 10? “Theoretically, a vegan diet that excluded refined grains, potato products, hard liquors, and added sugars and oils could have a [perfect dietary index rating] of 100. Sadly, the [score] of most current American diets would be unlikely to be as high as 20 [yeah we wish it were 20!]—which means that there [is] quite ample room for improvement.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to desktopwallpaper.org

80 responses to “Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score

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  1. Another amazing video! Something to look forward to every day now, watch each video as soon as I get home.

    Is there any way to sort the existing videos in a particular order, I think I’ve seen them all by now but it would be good if you could do them in date order etc.

    1. Yes! If you just go to the home page the videos should be listed with the most recent first. So if you’re up to date then it’s just a matter of checking back after 8am EST every day!

    1. Wouldn’t that be cool? The best diet analysis site out there that I know of (please anyone share any other suggestions!) is CHRON-O-Meter, and open-source (free) web application for tracking personal nutrition and health data, but it doesn’t have this particular functionality. If you just eat whole plant foods it would be pretty easy to calculate though :)

      1. there is a site that gives amazing calculations, you enter what you have eaten in last defined time periods and it outputs for you an assessment of any deficiencies linking to foods for fixing, for example, the first several times I used it, there was a consistent outcome of a couple of deficiencies and a consistent recommendation to add mushrooms to my diet. Amazing stuff, really. It is a bit hard to find but here is the link http://www.whfoods.com/foodadvisor.php

    1. I have tremendous respect for Dr. McDougall. Those following his prescription could presumably range anywhere from as low as 49% (by eliminating meat, dairy, eggs, and added fats) up to 100%, depending on how healthfully they choose to eat.

  2. “theoretically?” I’m so sick of the mainstream dismissing veganism a a pie in the sky idea! It’s proven, it’s doable, it’s a rational way to live!
    Thank you so much for this site!

  3. Amazing information!

    I have a BS in genetic biology, so I can even understand some of the scientific jargon. As an avid hiker, I’ve witnessed the spreading obesity epidemic with horror. I’m not hitting many home runs with my diet, but am seeking to improve steadily. (Baby Steps!) I’m buying some nuts at the GS tomorrow!

  4. Hi Michael,

    Brilliant insights. Thanks for all the work and efforts to share.

    Could you reference your source for the percentage of calorie distribution you use in this video.

    Thanks!

    Michael

      1. Sorry you had to hunt around! I always link to all the sources (or at least the source citations if they aren’t available full-text online) in the Sources section below the videos. Thank you CapeBreton for your interest!

  5. Hi Dr Greger:
    Based on the “Greger Dietary Recommendations” of getting in daily servings of greens, beans, nuts, berries and tea, would 2 Tbsp freshly ground flax seed be included in the nuts category?

    1. Hello Karen,
      to answer your question, definitely! Nuts and seeds fall under the same category and to include flax seeds in this is definitely very beneficial! Keep up the good work!

  6. Thank you for the helpful video. As an economical, convenient juicing alternative to the norwalk juicer, what juicer do you recommend for juicing kale and greens (as well as fruits and veggies in general)? (Assuming of course that your learnings have not suggested that juicing is not beneficial…)

      1. This video link is about fruit juice vs the whole fruit, not about juicing at home with veggies. Juicing is beneficial when it is done at home and is a part of your whole food plant based diet. Juicing has been shown to greatly increase the phytochemical intake since you can drink much more (for instance carrot) juice than you will ever be able to eat in carrots, adding greens to your juice aids in blood sugar regulation and many many patients have great beneficial outcomes when juicing.

        1. The issue presented in the video is that we are throwing out the fiber and much of the nutrients in the pulp. Plus, if someone is trying to lose weight or is insulin sensitive, fruit juicing has a lot of sugar not binded up in the fiber which can lead to spiked blood sugars and a large intake of easily consumed calories that do not satiate. Overall it seems quite wasteful.

          1. There is a huge difference between home vegetable juicing and sickly sweet store bought pasteurized fruit juice! My favorite at the moment is kale, lemon, ginger and apple. Quite a bit of the fibre stays in – some of the insoluble, and nearly all of the soluble.Of course, it should be used in moderation like everything.

              1. Supposedly, 80% – 90% of the antioxidants are in the juice. That’s a serious amount of antioxidants and other phytochemicals if you’re juicing several kg of produce – condensed into a large glass. Most of the insoluble fiber is removed, but the soluble fibers like pectin mostly remain, and they do slow the absorption of nutrients (and sugar) considerably. Most juicers also leave some insoluble fiber, and my juices are quite ‘pulpy’.

                It is absolutely different from store bought juices – where the antioxidant activity has been pasteurized out, and any remaining pulp removed (then preservatives + sugar added and sat on a shelf for a few months)

                Having said that, juicing isn’t natural. There is a huge industry behind it pushing it as a cure-all – and plenty of exaggeration everywhere on the net. Whole foods will give you the full nutritional load in a balanced package.

                Personally, I don’t see a problem with kale, ginger and lemon juice – with an apple thrown in for sweetness. The shear volume of veggies would be hard to eat on their own. Dr Gregor’s video on Kale juice seems to be in favor as well – http://nutritionfacts.org/video/smoking-versus-kale-juice/ . In an ideal world, maybe we’d spend all day eating masses of greens – but in reality I think it a good way for people to add greens to their diet. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing very positive results – including from diabetics – so until further evidence comes to light, I think it’s a good addition to my day.

                  1. Your point is valid – and you have inspired me to research this further. But – your statement is a generalization. That video also talks about 3 studies: and none of them clear this matter up. Eg The apple study makes no comparison between juice and waste – it just mentions the source of the phenolics as the apple waste. It also deals with an extraction – not exactly comparable to the whole food – and it only looks at specific compounds – so generalizations cannot be made. The grape study is interesting, but the highest ORAC value was in the seeds – something we don’t digest anyway. The skins were high.

                    I couldn’t view the orange study from the USDA thanks to the Government Shutdown!

                    Both these fruits contain most of their power in the skins – and most water and sugar in the centre. I don’t know how home juicers perform extracting from the skins. They must be partly effective, because purple grapes make purple juice – but my guess is not as great as juice promoters make out. RE the 90% claim – I have found no evidence.

                    I think it is a different issue with veg like kale and carrots, where there is a smaller difference between the skin and the flesh. With kale, I’d expect the antioxidant loss to be much less. Then Also, nutrients are probably more bioavailable – so thats another factor.

                    I have become more skeptical. The problem I see is huge lack of data. Sites like nutritionSELF and the USDA database contain no data on fresh raw juices. The closest was canned carrot – of which 100g was more nutritionally dense than 100g of fresh carrots – but obviously took a lot more raw ingredient to make. Although not fresh – pasteurization and shelf storage are two important factors that make store bought juice incomparable.

                    I’d love to see a study comparing the most common home-juiced vegetables versus the whole food. I think that’s the only way we’ll know. For now, the data just isn’t there, and we should refrain from deciding one way or the other. Without knowing the nutritional values of the juices we consume, or the effect on bioavailability, we are in the dark.

                    I will continue juicing because of positive personal experience – but my mind will not be made up until there is some decent research on the subject.

                    Thanks for the interesting conversation!

          2. I agree that it is probably better in general to eat whole fruits and vegetables than their juices. But, what do you think of the argument that fruit and vegetable juices are less filling (due to loss of their fibre) and are therefore more likely to be consumed in greater quantities without having to stop due to satiation, thus providing more of other nutrients (including antioxidants)?

            1. I think the argument is sound, I remember Jeff Novick discussing the phenomenon when people consume a fruit before a meal vs a juice or smoothie. The people who consume the fruit eat less of the meal as it triggers satiation better then pureed liquid. Of course, I do not have a study on hand. But it makes sense.

  7. I score 100 most days, though I do still eat white potatoes on a fairly regular basis, though never with unhealthy toppings.  (My favorite topping is a mixture of nutritional yeast and yellow miso mixed with a little water; second fave is home made salsa…)  Still, this video demonstrates what a sad state of nutritional affairs we are in for a society as a whole.  How do we change this?

  8. is air popped organic plain popcorn a healthy whole grain i can eat daily?does popcorn have a good phytochemical amount?so according to your dr greger dietary prescription ,an optimal diet would be comprsied of:vegetables,fruit,legumes,2 Tablespoons of ground flaxseed and whole grains/starchy vegetables optional or always daily?thanks!

    1. I think the point in the video was that french fries are not a source of nutrition – and that makes up the bulk of potato eating in America. Boiled potatoes have a good nutrient content – they’ve sustained cultures in the past!

    2. Potatoes are not bad, per se, but they are not as nutrient-dense as other starchy foods. I see no problem with eating potatoes in moderate amounts on occasion, especially steamed or baked in the skin. Fried potatoes obviously are not healthy.

      Just because something is not chock full of phytonutrients does not mean that is ‘unhealthy.’ Potatoes are a good source of a carbs to keep you going! If you are eating kale and shiitakes alongside your spuds, and that’s how you like it, then keep it up. Maybe try it out with sweet potatoes, if you really wanted to add a few more nutrients to your meal.

    3. It is healthy, to think otherwise would be silly. The video was referring to crips or deep fried potatoes. Boiled, dry roasted or steamed potatoes are very healthy.

  9. I think I score around 85-95%. I cook with oil and use margarine on occasion… and I eat refined grain in tortillas.

    Some days it’s more of an 85%. Fruits, veg, nuts, beans, and greens compose the majority of the diet in our home. We love it and feel great.

  10. There are many superfoods with very high antioxidant values. For example, amla or gooseberries. Any implications? (Specifically, is there any benefit in adding more after 100%?)

  11. This should be the leading headline on the evening news, like every day – until “they” get it!!!! That may eventually foment complacency. But, ce la vi, eh?

  12. Below website is just an illustration of the fact that we know everything about healthy food as soon as we can make an extra penny out of growing animals in a more healty way. As a teenager 35 years ago, I was calculating feed for cows and believe me , at that time we where applying more knowledge in our cow feeding then we do today for feeding people.
    http://bronto.ua/pages/more/extrusionofricebran%E2%80%93thebestwaytoobtainhigheffectiveanimalfeed.html

    So what people are eating today, all comes down to “money”
    besides , political propaganda in old sovjet union was nothing compaired to modern advertising for food.

  13. Dear Dr Greger – Is mieliepap a traditional staple here is South Africa a refined grain ? It is made from corn flour added to boiling water and then left on a dying fire to slowly cook… This is then eaten as a staple with some green leaves or smashed tomatoes…

    1. As with more widely available polenta or grits, mieliepap is better if the grinding keeps all parts of the dried corn. After that, there’s the salt in the mix and maybe butter in some recipes.

  14. Just started to minimize my intake of refined carbohydrates now that I am used to the Vegan diet – it’s amazing how well you feel.
    This video came just at the right time !

  15. I am curious, are blue potatoes in the same low phytonutrient category as white potatoes? I have read that they have the same anti-oxidents as blueberries.

  16. Love this article. I probably score 95% now. I moved to vegan 5 weeks ago from mostly vegetarian eating for many years. I continue researching foods to add and refinements to make. I will occasionally grab a potato chip from husband or son but usually buy whole grain organic and sprouted grain snacks for my sporadic treats. I eat mostly raw whole foods and unprocessed foods are limited. And I am loving it!! My sweetners are stevia, honey or agave. I am working to keep my diet varied – most things are cooked from scratch every day. While this is time consuming – it is a priceless way to live. I am watching my brother suffer horribly from uncontrolled diabetes. AT 53 I run several times a week and bike and hike.

  17. Great book Dr Gregor – I’ve shared the audiobook with several friends. According to your app I am doing well in hitting 85-90% of my daily dozen, however I’m also eating say 6oz of lean meat once a day (maybe twice) and/or some other animal based proteins (milk, yogurt etc). I would like to think that I’m still getting most of the benefits your book speaks of but would appreciate your thoughts on a diet that is much improved but still be 100% vegan. Thanks so much for writing this book. – Pete S

    1. Peter, I think Dr. Gregor’s response would be the closer you can get to a fully plant-based whole foods diet, the better off you’re going to be in the long run. I think many of us understand that the expectation of “100% vegan” amongst the entire population is not attainable; however, we would be better off as a whole if we dramatically cut down our animal product intake to make us some greater percentage vegan than where we are now. I would say great job getting in a great percentage of the daily dozen and would also suggest finding good, plant-based substitutes for the animal products you still incorporate into your diet…the research simply shows the less, the better. Glad you enjoyed his book and thanks for posting.

    2. Peter S: I think you have already gotten a great reply from Dr.Alex. I share his congratulations on your progress so far!!
      .
      I also agree that you would be better off weaning yourself off of the meat. I based this opinion from information I have gathered from this site. To back up what I am saying, I share these videos with you:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/low-meat-or-no-meat/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/vegetarians-versus-healthy-omnivores/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-okinawa-diet-living-to-100/
      .
      That last one on the Okinawan diet gives you a sense of how much animal protein you may be able to eat and still be healthy (maybe), and it is a very small amount–much smaller than the amount you are eating I believe. I couldn’t find it, but I remember one other video that talked about eating one meal in 20 or 19 or something with meat in it as being low enough to maybe not cause problems in some area. By that standard, 6-12oz of meat (lean or otherwise) every day is a lot.
      .
      That’s not to say that you haven’t made great progress and done yourself good so far. I’m just trying to say that based on as objective a measure as I can come up with, I think you would want to work to take it to the next step. Want some ideas?

  18. The only bad thing I have everyday is 1/2 tablespoon of white sugar (for my coffee, Ethiritol is not available here, Uruguay). I think I am 99%.

      1. May be! I’m 99.999% since 3 weeks. Before that I was like 70% ( 30% white rice and sugar). But 99.9% whole foods and leaving salt really makes a big change. I feel better than ever. Even though I am 19 years old, I have a health issue. My period is really painful (I cannot get out of bed first day) and I hope that 30% of white carbs I eliminated will make the difference.

        1. AnnieVanCookie: It is awesome that you are willing to make a change to make your life better. You may (or may not) be surprised at how many people would rather suffer than make a change. You may only be 19, but you are way ahead of the game.

          I hope this works for you on the particular health problem that motivated you to change. But even if it is not successful (or only partially successful), it is worth doing in order to prevent other problems from making your life more complicated.

          I’m rooting for you. Keep up the good work.

          1. The good thing is that I started because I wanted to take care of myself. I want to have a long life and with the less sickness possible. I never thought I could solve my painful periods with this. But! I could evade pain at two opportunities, in those months I ate less white rice, less sugar and less salt (and more veggies) so that’s why I knew this could cure me. That’s why I decided to go 99.99% whole plant based 3 weeks ago and I’m doing/feeling great. I encourage everyone that hasn’t done it, to give it a try, it’s worth. And yes, I cant understand why people that have big health issues attempting their lives don’t change their diet. I did it just because I love myself, I didn’t even need to be sick to do it. I love my food so much right now, I would never change this for any junk in the world

    1. White potatoes are perfectly fine to use. All potatoes are a good source of fiber and nutrients – especially if you eat the skin. Sweet potatoes are technically more nutrient dense, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop using white potatoes.

  19. Hi Dr Greger,

    I’m writing an article on whole-food plant-based eating and would love to place a screenshot and link to this video in it.

    Do I have you permission to do so?

    Keep on doing your thing – you’re fantastic.

    Jean-Luc

  20. Hi Jean- Luc, I am one of the volunteer moderator on the website. Thank you for your interest on the website. I think it would be great idea to show Dr Greger as a reference in supporting your material about WFPB eating habits. There are so much evidence based research in this website that you can use as your references.

    1. Thanks for your comment Emanuela,

      Dr Greger was strictly referring to process foods that contain potatoes (eg. fried chips). These have relatively few nutrients and do not count towards potato or vegetable intake.

      Hope this answer helps.

  21. Can all nutrients broken down once they are absorbed into our body? I guess that’s why, for example, protein we eat is not protein we wear.
    Many people are interested in collagen especially women, but the same is true for this one as well? I believe our body can produce collargen
    protein or whatever neccessary nutrients we need if we are on a right path, and that’s why we need to eat a variety of healthy food. I’d appreciate
    if anyone send me reliable sources or link me to studies.

    Thanks

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