News Flash – No One Can Eat Healthy!

July 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

A couple of months ago, my brother brought up the question as to the difference between healthy and healthful.  I was on vacation visiting at the time and put it in the back of my mind to think about later.  Writing my most recent post about my favorite snack made me recall that question.  I’m always up for a healthful debate, so here goes:

Are these foods healthy or healthful?!?

Are these foods healthy or healthful?!?

Healthful vs. Healthy

According to the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the word healthful means “beneficial to health of body or mind” or contributing to good health.  Healthy means “enjoying the state of good health” or being free of disease.

If we go by these definitions, it makes sense that things are healthful and people are healthy.  Right?  That would mean that all those eat clean diets out there are not healthy.  That would also mean that we can’t eat healthy.  Before you go digging into that ice cream, know this.  We can eat healthful diets.  And, yes, we can engage in healthful eating.  We will be more healthy because of it.   As with many words in our English language, there’s a tricky little inconsistency to keep in mind:  if we are describing food as free of disease, we can refer to it as healthy.  Otherwise, food that is conducive to health is healthful food.

Some have written off the use of the word healthful as trendy; they say just use healthy instead.  Why bother with this?  I say why not use our words correctly?

GG’s examples to help you remember the difference:

I ate a healthy breakfast. (wrongo)

I ate a healthful breakfast.  (correctomundo)

I look healthy today after eating breakfast.  (okey dokey)

I can eat healthy fruits to keep me free from illness. (right on)

Those healthful protein bars look good to me.  (yes sirree)

Confused yet? If so, you’re in good company. I’ve seen these two words used interchangeably all the time. In GG’s opinion, though, it is unhealthful to mix the two.

  • Winsor Pilates

Comments

2 Responses to “News Flash – No One Can Eat Healthy!”
  1. Alex says:

    Even if ‘healthy’ was the right word to use, ‘eating healthy’ would still be incorrect usage, no? I mean, as it is, it sounds like we’re eating all the ‘healthy’ right out of the food :). Wouldn’t it be better to say ‘eating healthiLY’ (or, more properly, ‘healthfulLY’). On another topic entirely, I know that if a word or sentence SOUNDS grammatically correct, it generally is. Do you think this intuitive grasp of grammar comes first, or do we study grammar at school first and then teach our ears something like: This is the way a word or sentence SHOULD sound. I’m thinking that for the first sentence in this comment ‘were’ sounds better than ‘was’, and I’m puzzled as to which is the correct word to use.

    • GradingGirl says:

      You are correct, Alex. Eating healthfully would be more proper; healthfully is modifying the verb ‘eat’ so it needs to be in adverbial form. I believe we study grammar first and train ourselves to use the correct conventions because there are many rules to our crazy language in which the opposite sound fine. Case in point, “Neither him nor her is going to the party.” Neither is a singular word and should be followed by a singular verb form; however, “Neither him nor her are going to the party” sounds perfectly fine even though it is incorrect. Btw, your first sentence in the comment is written correctly – ‘was’ is correct because you are talking about one singular word to use. You would use ‘were’ if you said: “Even if ‘healthy’ and ‘healthful’ were the right words to use . . .”
      Thank you for your comments, Alex. Grammar is fun!

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

`