Snack guide

Scientists rank 15 favorite American foods by health

How good is pizza for you, really?

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It helps to know how nutritious your food is when you’re looking to improve your diet.

One way nutritionists visualize a food’s “healthiness” is by accounting for its many characteristics, such as vitamin and fat content.

Then, they give it a numerical ranking based on its total nutritional value.

This ranking technique is called a nutrient profiling system (NPS) and can help consumers make more holistic food decisions.

In an October 14 study published in the journal Nature Food, researchers created a new NPS called Food Compass to account for nutritional factors that are often overlooked.

That includes additives, phytochemicals, and how processed a food is.

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The researchers analyzed a database of 8,032 popular American dishes and gave them each a nutritional ranking of 1 to 100.


“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant.”


Foods with a ranking between 70-100 should be consumed the most, while foods ranked 31-69 should be eaten in moderation.

Anything with a ranking of 30 and below should be avoided when possible.


Here are 15 foods ranked in the study, from most to least healthy:

15. Raspberries

If you eat them raw, these bright fruits get a perfect score of 100.

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14. Almonds

When salted, these nuts get a score of 91.

13. Vegetable curry

Earns a solid score of 90.

12. Tuna Salad

When prepared with light mayo, earns a score of 73.

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11. Coffee

Including nonfat cappuccinos, this staple earns a score of 73.

10. Sweet Potato Chips

This sweet-and-salty snack earns a score of 69.

9. Chicken breast

If it's grilled and has no skin, this protein source earns a score of 61.

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8. Turkey or Chicken Burger

These each have a score of 50 when topped with condiments on a whole wheat bun.

7. PB & J

On white bread, this sandwich earns a score of 35.

6. Grilled Cheese

This American staple gets a score of 32 when it’s made with cheddar cheese and whole wheat bread.

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5. Pizza

If you’re snacking on a slice with thick crust and extra meat, this would earn a score of 25.

4. Cornflakes

This popular cereal gets a score of 19.

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3. Cheeseburger

A small cheeseburger from a fast-food restaurant earns a score of 8.

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2. Instant soups

Packaged soups like Ramen noodles get a score of 1.

1. Pudding

The packaged, ready-to-eat kind in flavors other than chocolate also gets a score of 1.


Here’s the full infographic for comparison.

Tufts University

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