As a grammar conscious (and health conscious) person, I know the difference between healthy and healthful. That doesn’t mean I use the words correctly.
Healthful means promoting good health, while healthy means in a state of good health. So, grammatically speaking, foods are only supposed to be healthful, not healthy.
I have been writing quite a bit about nutrition and food recently, so the debate has been on my mind. The web writer in me wants to stick with the more familiar healthy food, while my editor self raises an eyebrow. In the end, the more conversational, common usage wins. I just don’t see the point in holding out on something that is mostly obsolete.
Paul Brians agrees that the incorrect usage of healthy shouldn’t be considered an error anymore. And the Chicago Manual, in its “Good usage versus common usage” section, concedes that “gradually healthy is taking over.” Beverly of AMA Style Insider sounds as if she is willing to give in too.
Honestly, I’m so tired of both words right now. How about nourishing, nutritious, salubrious, wholesome—simply good for you?
These are the things I think about.