Nutritional and Nutritious

Commonly Confused Words

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Almonds are a highly nutritious food. (Daniel Grill/Getty Images)

The adjectives nutritional and nutritious are both related to the noun nutrition (the process of eating the right kinds of food so you can be healthy and grow properly), but their meanings are slightly different.

Definitions

Nutritional means related to the process of nutrition—that is, using food to support life and maintain health.

Nutritious means nourishing or healthy to eat.

In the Good Word Guide (2009), Martin Manser notes that the "more formal adjective nutritive may be used in place of nutritional or nutritious, but it more frequently replaces the former." Also see the usage notes below.

Examples

  • "In a growing trend, there is more and more demand that chain restaurants, at least, should be required to give nutritional information in the restaurants, either on the menu or on or near a posted menu."
    (The A-Z Encyclopedia of Food Controversies and the Law, 2011)
     
  • "Nutritional advice is notoriously nebulous, and food groups regularly alternate between demonisation and deification. Fat makes you fat; fat makes you thin; carbs are basically crack; carbs are back. Corporate agendas are behind much of this confusion."
    (Arwa Mahdawi, "Take It With a Pinch of Salt: The Food Marketing Myths We've Swallowed Whole." The Guardian [UK], June 7, 2016)
  • While growing teens need extra calories, they should get them from nutritious sources--not from high-fat, high-calorie, high-sugar foods.
     
  • "Agriculture’s practitioners have often believed their main task to be the production of ever-increasing yields; concerns about the nutritious quality of the food have been dismissed as a nuisance that could only interfere with quantity."
    (Roger Thurow, "Why the First 1,000 Days Matter Most." The New York Times, June 20, 2016)


    Usage Notes

    • "Nutritional means related to the nutrition process (using food to support life).
      This chart contains nutritional information for certain menu items.

      "Nutritious means healthy to eat or nourishing.
      To increase energy, eat nutritious foods like eggs, fruit, or whole-grain breads."
      (Dave Dowling, The Wrong Word Dictionary, 2nd ed. Marion Street Press, 2011)
       
    • "[N]utrition is the discipline concerned with desirable foodstuffs and feeding, also desirable feeding itself; nutritional means having to do with nutrition; nutritious means having the character associated with desirable nutrition."
      (Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 6th ed. Cambridge University Press, 2002)


    Practice

    (a) The papaya is a wondrous fruit--abundant, tasty, and _____.

    (b) "Every junk food manufacturer is expending large amounts of money on research to improve the _____ content of their foods."
    (Andrew F. Smith, Fast Food and Junk Food. Greenwood, 2011)
     

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Nutritional and Nutritious

    (a) The papaya is a wondrous fruit--abundant, tasty, and nutritious.

    (b) "Every junk food manufacturer is expending large amounts of money on research to improve the nutritional content of their foods."
    (Andrew F. Smith, Fast Food and Junk Food. Greenwood, 2011)