Nutritionism reduces dietary advice to statements about a few nutrients, with sometimes unintended implications for science, industry, and the public. Although reductionist questions about nutrition are legitimate scientifically, a nutrient focus in the public arena forces the food industry to compete with the use of nutrient statements. Consumers must interpret information that may not be correct or relevant. The theory of food synergy, which postulates that the many constituents of individual foods and dietary patterns act together on health, leads to the idea that dietary policy would be clearer if it focused on foods. To illustrate this method, the food-based A Priori Diet Quality Score was described in the IowaWomen's Health Study; a substantial total mortality reduction for increasing quartiles of the score was found. The simple food-based rules implied in this a priori score support minimizing meat, salt, added sugar, and heavily processed foods while emphasizing phytochemical-rich foods. These principles could help improve nutrition policy, help industry to supply better food, and help to focus future scientific research. Although an understanding of what foods are best for health is a step forward in nutrition, other major challenges remain, including getting high-quality food to the masses and food sustainability.