EatingWell Nutrition and Recipe Guidelines

Table of Contents:

The EatingWell Difference

The EatingWell reputation is built upon recipes that are as good for you as they are delicious. This starts with healthy ingredients. Our recipes emphasize nutrient-rich, unprocessed and, whenever possible, in-season and local foods.

All EatingWell recipes are analyzed for their nutrient content and are consistent with nutrition parameters set by EatingWell’s Nutrition Team of registered dietitians and nutritionists.

A staff dietitian reviews all recipe analyses as well as other published nutrition content, including but not limited to Nutrition Bonuses, Nutrition Icons and Carbohydrate Servings and Food Exchanges.

Nutrition Parameters

Our recipes are developed taking into consideration specific target goals for sodium, saturated fat and calories (see chart below).



Saturated Fat2


Entrees ≤ 500 ≤ 5 g ≤ 500 mg
Side dishes, muffins, breads ≤ 250 ≤ 3 g ≤ 360 mg
Desserts ≤ 350 ≤ 3 g ≤ 360 mg
Per-unit items (e.g., cookies, appetizers) ≤ 120 ≤ 2 g ≤ 360 mg
Sauces and dressings (per tablespoon) ≤ 100 ≤ 1 g ≤ 140 mg
Combination Meals4 ≤ 600 ≤ 7 g ≤ 750mg
Complete Meals5 ≤ 750 ≤ 7 g ≤ 750 mg

1Calories: Based on 2,000 calories a day, an intake level appropriate for an average person who is trying to maintain a healthy weight.

2Saturated fat: Consistent with the daily target of 7 percent of all calories from saturated fat, the goal recommended by the American Heart Association. Note: This 7 percent target applies to an entire day’s intake and is not a limit for each individual food item.

3Sodium: Based on the 2,300 mg per day goal set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Institute of Medicine). (Note: The Recipe Index in the magazine uses the Daily Value number of 2,400 mg/day.)

4Combination Meal: An example would be a meal that includes a serving of meat/poultry/fish plus a starch side dish.

5Complete Meal: An example would be a meal that includes a serving of each of the following: meat/poultry/fish, a starch and a vegetable.

Diabetes Appropriate

Recipes that are low in calories and meet limits for Carbohydrate Servings.



Carbohydrate Servings

Entrees ≤ 350 ≤ 2½
Side dishes, muffins, breads ≤ 250 ≤ 1½
Desserts ≤ 250 ≤ 1½
Per-unit items (e.g., cookies, appetizers) ≤ 120 ≤ 1½
Sauces and dressings (per tablespoon) ≤ 40 ≤ 1
Combination Meals ≤ 420 ≤ 4
Complete Meals ≤ 500 ≤ 5

Healthy Weight

Recipe has reduced calories and saturated fat.



Saturated Fat

Entrees ≤ 350 ≤ 5 g
Side dishes, muffins, breads ≤ 250 ≤ 3 g
Desserts ≤ 250 ≤ 5 g
Dips & Salsas (1/4-1/3 cup serving) ≤ 100 ≤ 2 g
Combination meals ≤ 420 ≤ 7 g
Complete meals ≤ 500 ≤ 7 g

*Calories: Based on 1,500 calories per day, an intake level that enables most people to lose a healthy 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Heart Healthy

Recipe meets defined thresholds for saturated fat.


Saturated Fat*


Entrees ≤ 3 g Fish entrees can have ≤ 5 grams saturated fat due to the heart-healthy benefits of the omega-3 fats.
Side dishes, muffins, breads ≤ 2 g  
Desserts ≤ 2 g  
Dips & Salsas (1/4-1/3 cup serving) ≤ 1 g  
Combination Meals ≤ 5 g Fish entrees can have ≤ 7 grams.
Complete Meals ≤ 7 g Fish entrees can have ≤ 7 grams.

*The current AHA recommendation of 7% calories from saturated fat implies a 12-15 gram daily total for saturated fat. This threshold can be met with the icon limits listed here.


Our nutritionists have verified that the recipes marked as gluten-free do not contain wheat, rye, barley or oats. However, many processed foods, such as broths, soy sauce and other condiments, may contain hidden sources of gluten. If a recipe calls for a packaged (e.g., canned) ingredient, we recommend that you carefully read the label to make sure you pick a brand that does not contain a hidden source of gluten. Also, please note that while a recipe may be marked as “gluten-free,” the serving suggestions that accompany it may contain gluten.

High Calcium

Recipes that provide ≥150 mg of calcium (15 percent the DV).

High Fiber

Entrees that provide ≥ 5 grams of fiber per serving. (A food or recipe that contains 5 grams of fiber—20 percent the DV—is considered an “excellent source” of the nutrient.) Side dishes, muffins, breads, desserts and dips and sauces that provide ≥ 3 g fiber per serving.

High Potassium

Recipe that provide ≥ 525 mg potassium (15 percent the DV).

Low Calorie

Recipes that meet our Healthy Weight criteria.

Low Carbs

Any recipe with ≤ 20 grams. This level corresponds to 1 Carbohydrate Serving or less.

Low Cholesterol

Recipes with cholesterol levels that meet the FDA’s definition of “healthy”: ≤ 95 mg for Combination and Complete Meals; ≤ 60 mg for all other recipes.

Low Fat

Recipes that are low in saturated fat. See our Heart Healthy guidelines.

Low Sodium

Sodium levels based on the FDA’s definition of “healthy”: ≤ 480 mg for Entrees and Combination Meals; ≤ 600 mg for Complete Meals; ≤360 mg for Side Dishes and Desserts.

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