This Is What “Healthy” Means at Taste of Home

At Taste of Home, healthy recipes are about way more than just calories.

Traditional vegetables used in Arabian cuisine. Vegetables on wood. Bio Healthy food, herbs and spices. Organic vegetables on woodcasanisa/Shutterstock

If you think trying to eat healthfully is overwhelming, you’re not alone. The concept of healthy eating is really complex: There are a lot of factors to consider, research is constantly uncovering new information and there’s still a lot that science doesn’t know about how food and nutrition affect our health. To make things even more complicated, what’s healthy for one person might not be beneficial for another because we all have unique needs and goals when it comes to health and well-being. With all this in mind, we’ve created a set of guardrails that keep us on track.

Here’s Our Approach to Healthy Eating (and Cooking)

Since “healthy” covers such a wide spectrum, we take a middle-of-the-road approach at Taste of Home. Organizations that make recommendations rooted in proven science like the USDA, FDA, WHO, NIH plus the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics help guide us.

What Healthy Is

The idea that healthy food should be nutritious is the foundation of what “healthy” means to Taste of Home. Healthy foods nourish us with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and healthy fat. So, healthy recipes are made up of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, low-fat or fat-free dairy and healthy fats. It’s a combination of these foods that gives us the most nutritional bang for our caloric buck.

What Healthy Isn’t

The big picture isn’t just about what’s in our food, but what’s not in our food, too. It’s widely recommended that we limit saturated fat, trans fat and sodium for optional health and disease prevention, so we steer away from those in our healthy recipes. We also believe that healthy eating doesn’t mean cutting out whole food groups, feeling deprived or eating food that doesn’t taste good. It’s not about replacing “bad” foods with imitations, focusing on single nutrients or foods, or a quick fix for better health.

Finding a Balance

We eat healthfully most of the time, but not all of time time. Enjoying a piece of cake doesn’t break any of our “rules” because (surprise!) there are no rules. It’s about balance: a recipe that’s made up of mostly healthy ingredients, a meal that’s made up of mostly healthy recipes, a day that includes mostly healthy choices and provides us with all the nutrients we need to function our best. Nutritious recipes can include butter and sugar, just like healthy meals can include an indulgent dessert—it’s all about moderation and the big picture.

“Healthy” by the Numbers

Beyond the idea that healthy recipes are made up of mostly healthy ingredients, we also consider objective criteria, like maximum calories, saturated fat and sodium per serving. It’s one more tool that helps us evaluate a recipe. For example, a soup that’s packed with veggies, whole grains and legumes but is also super high in sodium, wouldn’t make the cut.

We have a sliding scale of parameters depending on the food category. Meals-in-one, like lasagna, are allowed more calories, saturated fat and sodium per serving than, for example, a simple grilled chicken breast. Starchy side dishes like potatoes are allowed higher numbers than non-starchy sides like broccoli or tomatoes. These are just some of the guidelines for maximum calories, saturated fat(g) and sodium(mg) that we follow:

Meal-in-one main dish: 500/6/700
Protein-only main dish: 400/5/650
Starchy side dish: 300/3/625
Non-starchy side dish: 200/3/400

Our Definition Is Always Evolving

As research uncovers new information about foods and nutrition, health recommendations will evolve and Taste of Home’s healthy guardrails will follow suit. “Healthy” is not about the numbers on a scale or the size of clothes you wear and isn’t a single-minded proposition. Instead, it lives on a spectrum where food is just one part of the equation along with our mental, social and physical health that make up our well-being.

Ready to try Taste of Home’s brand of “healthy”?

30-Minute Healthy Dinner Recipes
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Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.