See how your state stacks up!
aa basket full of vegetables with a map of the United States in the background
Credit: Getty Images / Janoj / RTimages

Here at EatingWell, it's probably no surprise that we love healthy food. One of the best things about a nutritious, balanced eating pattern is that it can look different for everyone, while still yielding a healthy result. That said, it can still be a struggle for some. Eating healthy is, unfortunately, not as simple as personal choices or motivation. There are several factors that influence one's ability to eat healthy, such as environment, resources, skills, knowledge and preferences. 

How people think about their health and the health of their peers can play a role in food choices, too. A recent survey conducted by Gurney's Seed & Nursery Company took a deep dive into how healthy people across America thought they (and their neighbors) were. They surveyed over 3,000 Americans across all 50 states to see how they perceived the healthy eating in their state. They first asked people to rate their own diet from 1 to 5, 1 being "very unhealthy" to 5 being "very healthy." They then asked people to rate their in-state peers' diets from 1 to 5 based on the same criteria. They added these scores together for a new rating, from 2 to 10, and averaged all responses for each state's "healthy-eating score."

Obviously, since this survey is based on perception, it might not be totally scientifically accurate when it comes to how "healthy" a state's diet is compared to another. But it was an interesting way to quantify how healthy people feel like their state is and how they feel like they fare compared to others around them. It's also important to note that this survey ran in the last two weeks of December, around the holidays, which might have influenced people's responses. Let's see what they found. 

The 10 States with the Healthiest Eaters 

There are the 10 states with the highest healthy-eating scores. This means that residents here felt like they followed a healthy eating pattern, and that their neighbors did, too (for the most part). It's important to note that the highest ranking state, Colorado, only scored a 6.86 out of 10. This could be a reflection that even residents here think there's some room for improvement. 

  1. Colorado (6.86) 
  2. Vermont (6.62)
  3. Washington (6.45)
  4. Massachusetts/Oregon (6.44)
  5. Minnesota (6.32)
  6. Utah (6.20)
  7. California (6.16)
  8. Arizona (6.14)
  9. Connecticut (6.10)
  10. Michigan (6.08) 

All of the states on this list were within 0.80 points for their healthy eating score, and Massachusetts and Oregon tied for the fourth place rank. 

The 10 States with the Least Healthy Eaters 

People in these states perceived themselves and their neighbors to have the least healthy eating patterns in the U.S. This was not based on any physiological measures, and it does not mean you have an "unhealthy" diet if you live in these places. All of these states scored between 5 and 6 points, meaning they ranked themselves to be in the middle of the healthy eating score range. 

  1. Oklahoma (5.02)
  2. Louisiana (5.10)
  3. Arkansas/West Virginia (5.18)
  4. Alabama (5.20)
  5. Mississippi (5.27)
  6. Kentucky (5.28)
  7. Indiana (5.34)
  8. Tennessee (5.36)
  9. Delaware (5.48)
  10. Missouri (5.52)

All of these states were within 0.5 points for their healthy eating score, and Arkansas and West Virginia tied for third least-healthy state. It is also important to note that the perceived least-healthy state on this list (Oklahoma) was only 1.84 points behind the healthiest state on the list (Colorado). This means responses only differed by around one to two points between states. 

Other Findings 

This survey found some other interesting things about Americans' eating habits as well. Broccoli was the most popular vegetable, being called a favorite by 24.5% of respondents. Strawberries were deemed the most popular fruit, reported by 18.7% of respondents. Over 80% of people said they include vegetables in their diet because they actually like them, and not just because they're healthy. Music to our ears!

The report also found that 79% of people plan on eating healthier this year than last, which could explain why scores were all in the middle of the healthy eating score range. People also find it most challenging to eat healthy when they are out with friends. For more information on the full report, check out Gurney's website.  

Bottom Line 

Especially with how health-focused Americans have become recently, it makes sense that no one rated their diet (or their state's diet) as being perfectly healthy, or a 10 out of 10. But it is eye-opening to see what state's residents thought about the eating habits where they live. This survey did not take any physiological measures or food frequency questionnaires, so it shouldn't be seen as a report on actual eating habits or physical health statuses. But it did provide insights into how Americans think about food, eating and where they live.