Nutrition Education: Glossary

The glossary helps to define and explain common themes and words used in nutrition education.

Body Mass Index (BMI) A tool for indicating weight status in adults. For adults, it is a measure of weight for height; for children, age and gender factor in as well. It is a formula used to estimate body fat and gauge health risks. BMI is only one factor in determining a person’s health risk. (Centers for Disease Control)

Community Food Security – Is defined as a situation in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice.

Diabetes – A disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert carbohydrates (sugar and starches) and other food into energy needed for daily life. Genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

Dietary Calorie- The amount of energy reserved in food; the amount of dietary calories varies for gender and age.

Dietary Guidelines – Published jointly every five years by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. The Guidelines outline the USDA’s advice for a diet that promotes health and reduces risk for major chronic diseases. They serve as the basis for federal food and nutrition education programs and national nutrition policy.

Eating Disorders – Impacting both physical and mental health, people develop eating disorders as a way of dealing with the conflicts, pressures and stresses of life. Left untreated, they can be fatal. An eating disorder may be used as a way to express control when the rest of life seems chaotic. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge eating and bulimia. (Renfrew Center Foundation)

Food Bank – A large, centralized site of food collection and distribution. Food collected by food banks is generally distributed to food pantries, soups kitchens and other community organizations that provide food to those in need. Some food banks also provide food directly to those in need and offer additional services.

Food Desert – An area where food is non-existent, not healthy or too expensive. It is an issue of access and can be defined by distance and/or transportation being obstacles in obtaining adequate amounts of healthy food. Fresh food deserts refer to a community with limited or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. (Univ. of Leeds/School of Geography)

Food Insecurity – Limited or uncertain access to nutritious, safe foods necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle; households that experience food insecurity have reduced quality or variety of meals and may have irregular food intake. (USDA / Life Research Office)

Food Label- A panel found on a package of food which contains information about the nutritional value. There are many pieces of information including serving size, number of calories, grams of fat, nutrients and ingredients. For assistance on how to read food labels visit the FDA and if you want to get your child (ren) involved in the process visit Kids Health

Food Pantry – A site where food is distributed to low-income and unemployed households to relieve situations of emergency and distress. Food pantries are often located in community centers or faith-based organizations. (Food Bank for New York City)

Food Security – Access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum: 1) ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and 2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

Hunger – The uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food. The recurrent and involuntary lack of access to sufficient food due to poverty or constrained resources can lead to malnutrition over time.

Hypertension – Is high blood pressure, which can be caused either by too much fluid in the blood vessels or by narrowing of the blood vessels. People with blood pressure readings of 140/90 or above are said to have hypertension. Hypertension may be associated with the need to reduce sodium intake.

Macronutrient- Nutrients that the body uses in large amounts this includes: protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Malnutrition – A failure to achieve proper nutrient requirements, which can impair physical and/or mental health. It may result from consuming too little food or a shortage of food or an imbalance of key nutrients (e.g., micronutrient deficiencies or excess consumption of refined sugar and fat). (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Micronutrient- Substances that are required to maintain growth and development in the body. These nutrients are usually needed in small amounts and include Vitamin A, zinc and iron.

Micronutrient Deficiency- Lack of essential vitamins or minerals, that is essential for proper growth and metabolism

Nutrition – Is interpreted as the study of the organic process by which an organism assimilates and uses food and liquids for normal functioning, growth and maintenance and to maintain the balance between health and disease. Also included is the idea of an optimal balance of nutrients and whole foods, to enable the optimal performance of the body.

Nutrition Security – The provision of an environment that encourages and motivates society to make food choices consistent with short- and long-term good health.

Obesity – Is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass. BMI over 30.0 kg/m2 is considered obese. A further threshold at 40.0 kg/m2 is identified as urgent morbidity risk. The American Institute for Cancer Research considers a BMI between 18.5 and 25 to be an ideal target for a healthy individual.

Overweight – Is also defined as an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass. However, the range for an overweight person is a Body Mass Index (BMI) from 25 to 30 kg/m2.

Organic Food – Is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled organic, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

Soup Kitchen – A community food service and resource where meals are prepared and distributed on site.

Stunting- Children who fall beneath the bottom five percentile for height in comparison to weight. Growth Chart.

Undernourishment- Individuals who do not have enough food to develop or function normally. (Princeton University)  

Underweight- Those who are underweight have a BMI that is under 18.5. Being underweight has mortality rates equal to those who are obese.

Wasting- Children who fall beneath the bottom five percentile for weight in comparison to height. Growth Chart.