Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

The development of a healthy eating indicator shopping basket tool (HEISB) for use in food access studies—identification of key food items

AS Andersona1 c1, J Dewara1, D Marshalla2, S Cumminsa3, M Taylora2, J Dawsona2a4a5 and L Sparksa4

a1 Centre for Public Health Nutrition Research, Ninewells Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK

a2 Management School and Economics, University of Edinburgh, William Robertson Building, 50 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JY, UK

a3 Department of Geography, Queen Mary College, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK

a4 Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK

a5 ESADE, Av. Pedralbes 60, 08034 Barcelona, Spain


Objectives To develop an objective, nutrient-based, healthy eating indicator shopping basket (HEISB) tool for use in studies of access to healthy food.

Design Tool development used a literature search to identify previous practice, web information on current definition of healthy foods by the UK Food Standards Agency, and population-based dietary surveys to identify culturally acceptable foods. These findings were then appraised with respect to practical fieldwork considerations.

Setting The review took account of surveys undertaken in a range of geographical areas.

Results Previous tools have varied in the foods selected and the rationale for inclusion. Most have considered nutritional composition but no systematic definition has been used and foods have been subjectively classified as ‘less healthy’ or ‘more healthy’. Recent UK work on nutrient profiling enabled individual food items to be objectively assessed for inclusion. Data from national food surveys enabled commonly consumed and culturally acceptable foods to be identified. Practical considerations included item use in meals, convenience, price, and fieldwork constraints. Other issues including health and price discriminators as well as regional preferences were considered. The final HEISB tool comprised 35 items within the following categories – 17 from fruit and vegetables, nine from potatoes, bread and cereal, five from fish/meats, three from dairy, and one from fatty and sugary foods.

Conclusions The tool provides a rational basis for examining access and availability of healthy foods in cross-sectional and longitudinal retail and consumer studies.

(Received May 31 2006)

(Accepted February 15 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Email