WEDNESDAY, Sept. 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday that it is updating the marketing term “healthy” to reflect what has been learned about what makes a wholesome diet. The new proposed FDA rule would align the definition of the “healthy” claim more closely with current nutrition science.

“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. But too many people may not know what constitutes healthy food. [The] FDA’s move will help educate more Americans to improve health outcomes, tackle health disparities, and save lives.”

The FDA first defined “healthy” back in 1994, but based the criteria for the term’s use solely on individual nutrients contained in each particular food product, the agency’s new proposal states. Nutrition science has evolved since then. These days, nutritionists focus on a person’s overall dietary pattern, emphasizing the consumption of nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Under the new rule, more foods that are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the U.S. federal nutrition guidelines would be eligible to call themselves “healthy,” the FDA said. These include nuts and seeds, high-fat fish like salmon, and certain cooking oils.

To be able to bear the word “healthy” on their packaging, products would have to contain meaningful amounts of food from one of the recommended food groups — fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and lean protein. They would also have to limit nutrients that are not healthy, including saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. For example, each serving of a cereal sold as “healthy” would have to contain three-quarters of an ounce of whole grains and no more than 1 g of saturated fat, 230 mg of sodium, and 2.5 g of added sugars, the agency said.

The FDA said the new definition is intended to both empower consumers to eat better and, potentially, foster a healthier food supply by prompting manufacturers to add more foods like vegetables or whole grains to their product lines. The agency also is researching a symbol that manufacturers could put on the front of packaging to show their product meets the new “healthy” definition.

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