In an era marked by increasing health consciousness and an emphasis on well-being, the United States is seeing a remarkable trend emerge—the rise of the healthiest and happiest states. This trend isn’t merely about longer lifespans; it’s about a comprehensive approach to health, which includes a diet rich in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

According to the 2023 Nutritional Well-Being Index, which estimates how harmoniously people balance nutritional choices and holistic well-being practices in 50 US states, some states have taken the lead in fostering healthier lifestyles, and their residents are not just living longer but living better. 

This comprehensive index consists of four fundamental pillars: nutrition, mental health, physical health, social connections, and lifestyle. These pillars consist of 20 smaller elements, which together form the score for each state.


Among all states, the three highest ranking states for nutritional well-being are Massachusetts, Utah, and Vermont, respectively. 

Conversely, the lowest ranking states are Alabama, Louisiana, and West Virginia. 

Healthy lifestyle indicators

Certain key factors emerge from this study, highlighting what sets the highest-ranking states apart. One consistent theme is the emphasis on incorporating nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables into daily diets.

Nutrition experts across the country stress the importance of consuming a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, and it seems that the healthiest and happiest states have embraced this idea. The residents in these states are not only eating fruits and vegetables; they’re making an effort to ensure they’re getting the most nutrition out of their meals.

“Disease prevention and healthy living start with simple swaps of ingredients at home,” Dima Salhoobi, RD, CDN, MS, of Fresh Nutrition Counseling, previously told VegNews.

“It is the simple decisions that we make every day in our life, with regards to what goes in our body, that can be either detrimental to our health or in favor of our health.”

Beyond a healthy diet, the highest-ranking states have initiated policies and programs aimed at promoting healthy eating and making nutritious food more accessible. This includes programs to support local farmers’ markets, school lunch initiatives that prioritize fresh produce, and community gardens that encourage residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Furthermore, these states are actively engaging with their communities to raise awareness about the benefits of nutrient-dense, plant-based foods. From nutrition workshops to cooking classes, the healthiest and happiest states are taking a proactive approach to educate and inspire their residents to make healthier choices.


One key aspect that sets these states apart is their commitment to sustainability and locally-sourced produce. This not only ensures that the food is fresh and nutritious but also supports local economies and reduces the environmental footprint.

Focus on mental and physical health

Promoting physical activity and a balanced lifestyle is another factor contributing to the well-being of these states. Their residents often enjoy a blend of physical exercise, mental health support, and, of course, nutrient-dense diets. Parks and recreational areas are plentiful, and wellness programs are easily accessible.

In addition to the physical health benefits, these states are making efforts to improve their residents’ mental health. Communities are prioritizing access to mental health services, reducing stress factors, and promoting a sense of belonging and support. 

As these states embrace the nutrient-dense lifestyle, it’s no surprise that their residents report high levels of satisfaction and happiness. The strong correlation between healthy eating and mental well-being is a driving force behind this trend.


Residents of the healthiest and happiest states are also proving that healthy eating can be delicious and satisfying. Local restaurants and chefs have joined the movement, creating menus that are not only nutritious but also delightful to the palate. This approach makes it easier for people to adopt and maintain a nutrient-dense diet.

Additionally, the highest-ranking states tend to have fewer fast-food restaurants and its residents prioritize home cooking and search for more healthy eating tips online. 

While these states have much to celebrate, the journey to health and happiness is ongoing. It requires a collective effort from individuals, communities, and policymakers. But these states offer a compelling blueprint for the rest of the nation, demonstrating that health and happiness are attainable goals.


The 2023 Nutritional Well-Being Index highlights that a comprehensive approach to health, which includes a nutrient-dense diet, is the path to a longer, healthier, and happier life. The healthiest and happiest states in the United States have paved the way for a brighter future through a focus on nutrient-dense foods, physical activity, mental health support, and community engagement. 

As the nation strives for improved well-being, these states serve as an inspiration, showcasing that a combination of nutritious eating and holistic wellness can lead to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.

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