Background: The level of detail regarding the dietary intake necessary to characterize associations between diet and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk is uncertain. Objective: We evaluated a unique a priori-defined dietary pattern in relation to several traditional and novel CVD risk factors. Design: At the baseline examination, diet (by food-frequency questionnaire), markers of inflammation, subclinical atherosclerosis, renal disease, vascular compliance, and other traditional risk factors were measured in 5089 men and women aged 45-84 y without clinical CVD or diabetes from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). We defined a Comprehensive Healthy Dietary Pattern by summing weighted categorical ranks of 36 narrowly defined food groups (21 rated favorably with categorical ranks x + 1.0 and 15 rated unfavorably with categorical ranks x -1.0). We also defined a Simplified Healthy Dietary Pattern composed of 3 favorable (whole grains, fruit, and seeds and nuts) and 3 unfavorable (added fats and oils, processed meats, and fried potatoes) food groups using similar scoring techniques and determined the difference between the comprehensive and simplified scores. Results: The Comprehensive Healthy Dietary Pattern was associated with lower urinary albumin:creatinine ratios, common carotid intima-media thickness, measures of adiposity, and inflammatory marker, triacylglycerol, and insulin concentrations. The magnitudes of most of the associations were similar between the 2 dietary patterns, but some differences were observed between scores. Dietary patterns were not associated with blood pressure, coronary artery calcification, internal carotid intima-media thickness, or the ankle brachial index. Conclusions: Many food groups contribute to the characterization of relations with a variety of CVD risk markers, although only 6 food groups contribute much of the information in MESA.