In the editorial I am writing, I repeatedly say "healthy foods". I searched healthy up in a thesaurus so my paper would not sound so repetitive. The results were ones such as

fit, active, lively, robust, strong, etc.


I am not looking for "healthy" that means athletic or fit, I am looking for healthy that means good for you.

The sentence in which "healthy foods" is used is

Eating healthy foods and drinking water five to seven times in a day is essential to an active brain and body.

  • 1
    First you need to come up with a definition of "healthy foods". High carb, low carb, vegan, ad nauseam.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:00
  • @HotLicks In my essay, I use healthy foods. I am saying foods that are good for health, not defining what makes them good for health. If I had to define them, I would say they are from all over the food triangle. A healthy balance of foods. Mar 21, 2018 at 21:15
  • 3
    If you're trying to be generic you probably should say "healthy diet" rather than "healthy foods". Then you can play with "well-balanced" and probably one or two other idiomatic terms.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:17
  • 12
    Try looking for synonyms of nutritious rather than healthy.
    – 1006a
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:30
  • If you go to page 2 of your link, you'll find relevant synonyms.
    – Laurel
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:43

6 Answers 6


You might say nutritional foods, according to the BBC:

"The key is to eat a balance of highly nutritional foods, that when consumed together, do not contain too much of any one nutrient, to avoid exceeding daily recommended amounts." 1

You could also speak of nutritious foods, from the same article:

"Calculated and ranked by scientists, these are the 100 most nutritious foods:"1


"Future - The World's Most Nutritious Foods." BBC. January 29, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180126-the-100-most-nutritious-foods.

  • 3
    I suspect "nutritious" (containing the substances needed for life) is closer to the desired meaning than "nutritional" (related to food/nutrition) in most contexts.
    – psmears
    Mar 22, 2018 at 11:09
  • @psmears I've read the article I link to in my answer again, they seem to use both. They speak of "nutritional score" as well as "nutritional foods". They also use nutritious to say a particular food is nutritious. I will add it in my answer.
    – JJJ
    Mar 22, 2018 at 11:23

wholesome vocabulary.com

conducive to or characteristic of physical or moral well-being

Synonyms of wholesome foods (my summary - see link for full text):

financially secure and safe
alimental, alimentary, nourishing, nutrient, nutritious, nutritive
good for you, healthy, salubrious
hearty, satisfying, solid, square, substantial
providing abundant nourishment
organic ... foodstuffs w/o synthetic fert/pesticides/hormones
  • 3
    All good ones. Except for 'salubrious'. Sure it has the right meaning but...just no.
    – Mitch
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:53
  • 4
    'Organic' also seems to say more about the type of food than just 'healthy'. Food can be considered healthy even when it's not organic, and organic food can be as unhealthy as food can be (think of sugar, that's organic too ;) )
    – JJJ
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:57
  • 3
    When word nerds form gangs, an initiation rite will be, for the first person they come across that uses 'salubrious', to flip the Scrabble board.
    – Mitch
    Mar 21, 2018 at 21:59
  • 2
    Haha...no need to remove 'salubrious', I was just commenting on its...weird-soundingness, purple-proseishness. Removing it makes me ... lugubrious.
    – Mitch
    Mar 21, 2018 at 22:05
  • 3
    such a wholesome and healthful conservation going on here in comments
    – lbf
    Mar 22, 2018 at 2:39

I would suggest wholesome.

Conducive to or indicative of good health or well-being.

There are a lot of examples for wholesome food.

Origin: from whole (healthy) + -some. (TFD)


thesaurus.com also has entries for "health food", but as Hot Licks points out in the comments, they are all more specific: "low fat food", "low calorie", "natural food".

If you want more generic terms, I suggest using adjectives like "balanced", "optimal", "healthy" with nouns like "diet", "food", "nutrition" to create alternative two-word phrases.


In colloquial usage "healthy food" is fine but it's not correct. that's why you are getting such odd results in your thesaurus search. "Healthy" describes the state of living things. "A healthy person should be able to run a mile in under 9 minutes". As others have pointed out, "Healthful" (and "wholesome" "nutritious" and others) is the word for food.

A person became healthy by exercising and eating healthful foods.

  • Would you use "healthy" in the context of healthy eating? (ex. sentence: Healthy eating has many benefits.) Mar 22, 2018 at 15:21
  • Historically, "healthy" was not an adverb. Quite common and no one would think twice about it, but healthy eating is not strictly correct. Modern usage has blurred the distinction. Good discussion here: grammarphobia.com/blog/2014/04/healthy-healthily.html
    – Rob Latham
    Mar 22, 2018 at 15:24

I think both of the top answers are correct, however I would like to highlight a semantic difference between the two.

I think if you mean "good" in the moral sense, then "wholesome" but if you mean "good" in the scientific/biological sense then "nutritious".

I wouldn't ever call Soylent "wholesome" but I would say it's "nutritious". Whereas home made deep fried battered fish might not be the most "nutritious" it is "wholesome".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.