Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #229: My Alternate Healthy Eating Index (MyAHEI)

In The Nutrition Debate #200 (here), I lament the fact that the term “Healthy Eating” has been co-opted by the Diet Dictocrats in the Federal Government and their cohorts in U.S. agriculture, food processing and manufacturing. IMHO, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), that produces the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every 5 years, does not have the health of the American consumer in mind; their job is to promote industry. If you want proof for this, read Minger’s Death by Food Pyramid.

In the latest iteration, the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) has produced MyPlate, replacing the original Food Guide Pyramid and later MyPyramid. It has also produced the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) as “a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to federal dietary guidance” and to “monitor the diet quality of the U.S. population and the low-income subpopulation.” The USDA’s CNPP first objective: 1) Advance and promote dietary guidance for all Americans, (emphasis mine). In other words, a one-size-fits-all eating plan for all Americans, regardless of health status.

The Harvard School of Public Health website The Nutrition Source (not to be confused with The Nutrition Debate, a much better “nutrition source”) says the USDA’s new MyPlate still falls short on giving people the nutrition advice they need to choose the healthiest diets. “Tragically,” the Harvard site says, “the information embodied in this pyramid didn’t point the way to healthy eating. Why not? Its blueprint was based on shaky scientific evidence, and it barely changed over the years to reflect major advances in our understanding of the connection between diet and health.” It also acknowledges that, frankly, “intense lobbying efforts from a variety of food industries also helped shape the pyramid and the plate.”

So, what was Harvard’s response? They created their own Healthy Eating Pyramid and Healthy Eating Plate. Then, they went one step further. They created their own Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) , a “110-point measure of dietary quality.” Unfortunately, neither the USDA’s HEI questionnaire nor Harvard’s AHEI questionnaire are in the public domain. They are closely held. Only the scorers of the eating patterns of the self-reporting participants know what the people ate.

Consequently, the outcomes of both indices are useful only for the promotion of their respective points of view about what constitutes “healthy eating.” This leads me to the conclusion that there is insufficient transparency in this type of reporting. I think what we need is yet another tool for assessing diet quality: one that I shall coin “My Alternate Healthy Eating Index” (MyAHEI)©. The principles of MyAHEI are listed below: You can self-report your own score in the comment section at the bottom of the blog post. Give yourself 5 points for each question you can answer affirmatively. Part scores are permitted.

The Nutrition Debate’s 20 Guiding Principles of “My Alternate Healthy Eating Index (MyAHEI)” © of Diet Quality

1.       Eat 3 small meals a day, equally sized and evenly spaced, over no more than 10 hours.

2.       Eat animal protein with saturated fat (and dietary cholesterol) with every meal.

3.       Eat 12 to 18 whole eggs from pastured hens each week.

4.       Eat no snacks between meals (except an occasional low-carb/high fat snack before dinner).

5.       Eat no fried foods and no vegetable or seed oils. Use butter, ghee, and coconut oil. No margarine or store-bought mayo.

6.       Eat no bread, rice, pasta or potatoes.

7.       Eat only nuts that are lowest in polyunsaturated fatty acids (Macadamias, almonds, hazelnuts).

8.       Eat sardines in olive oil or wild salmon at least 5 times a week.

9.       Eat no prepared foods and no food sold in boxes or bags (except some flash-frozen veggies and fish).

10.   Eat mostly fresh vegetables tossed in butter or roasted in olive oil.

11.   Eat fish oil capsules (2g/day).

12.   Eat organ meats (liver, kidneys, heart, brains, etc.) at least once a week.

13.   Eat only low-carb vegetables. Avoid corn, beets, peas and carrots.

14.   Eat no fruit, except berries with heavy cream on very special occasions only.

15.   Eat a salad at least twice a week with supper. Do not use store-bought salad dressings.

16.   Eat salt to taste; add salt to enhance the flavors of real foods.

17.   Drink copious amounts of water and stevia-sweetened iced tea, and coffee with breakfast only.

18.   Drink wine, or other alcoholic beverages, with (and/or before) dinner only.

19.   In restaurants, order from the appetizer or small plate menu only; avoid entrees, sides and desserts.

20.   In restaurants, eat from your own plate only!!!


  1. My score is only 70. I don't eat 3 meals a day, all those eggs, sardines, salmon, or organ meats in a week. That's just too much food for me, too many calories. I know calories aren't supposed to count, and I really wish they didn't, but that hasn't proven true for me. Everything else works wonderfully well.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I scored a 70% myself yesterday. For lunch, I had a glass of wine (during intermission at a matinee theater performance with Renee Fleming!), and a small bite of my wife's cookie; for dinner, I had an appetizer (sweetbreads) plus an entree (seared tuna), plus one 'fingerlin'g potato (about the size of a jelly bean, literally), and a piece of bread (served under the sweet breads); and when we got home (after an evening piano performance, I stole some of my wife's fudge/peanut better ice cream from the freezer. I lived a totally dissipated existance, but still passed (somehow). I'm gonna have to exercise more discipline, or make the passing grade 80 or 90.

  2. Mine's simpler:

    1. Is it an unsullied animal or product thereof? Eat it.
    2. Anything else is a compromise and up to you to calculate whether it's worth it.

  3. At long last, the HEI segment score is determined to utilize the mean proportion for every segment, and the all out score is determined by adding the ratings over the parts.