What’s the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Food?

When it comes to our diets, healthy and unhealthy food are two extremes that are often discussed. But what is the difference between them?

In general terms, healthy food is typically nutrient dense, which means it contains a high amount of essential vitamins and minerals. Healthy foods are also often lower in calories and contain less saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. Examples of healthy foods include lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

On the other hand, unhealthy foods are usually high in calories and low in essential nutrients. They often contain added sugars, unhealthy fats such as trans fat or saturated fat, processed ingredients like white flour or white rice, artificial sweeteners or colors/flavors. Examples of unhealthy foods include processed snacks like chips or candy bars; fried foods such as French fries; fatty meats like bacon; sugary beverages like soda or juice; and refined grains like white bread.

Nutrition Content:

The most significant difference between healthy and unhealthy food is the nutritional content. Healthy foods are nutrient-dense which means they offer a variety of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to stay healthy. Unhealthy food usually has fewer vitamins and minerals but has a lot more calories from added sugars or fats.


When it comes to processing methods used for making food products, healthy foods tend to be minimally processed while unhealthy options tend to be heavily processed. For example, fruits and vegetables are minimally processed while chips are heavily processed with added preservatives.


The taste of a food can also indicate whether it is healthy or not. Unhealthy foods tend to have more intense flavors because they are packed with artificial sweeteners or flavors while healthier options tend to have more subtle flavors since they contain natural ingredients.


At the end of the day, what makes a food “healthy” or “unhealthy” comes down to its nutrition content – its calorie count as well as its essential vitamins and minerals – as well as how it’s been processed. Healthy foods should be lower in calories but higher in essential nutrients while unhealthy options should have higher amounts of calories from added sugar or fats but fewer essential nutrients.