NEW YORK — Pizza bagels, chewing gum and bottled water want to play a starring new role in our diets: Foods that can be called healthy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is revamping its definition of healthy to reflect our changing understanding of nutrition science. The push is fueling debate about eating habits and what the new standard should say.

Frozen food-makers are seeking special rules for “mini meals,” citing little pizza bagels and dumplings as examples that might qualify. Chewing gum and bottled water companies say they should no longer be shut out from using the term just because their products don’t provide nutrients. Advocacy groups and health professionals are also weighing in, raising concerns about ingredients like sugar.

Some say the word healthy is inherently misleading when applied to a single product instead of an overall diet.

“The problem is that healthy is relative,” said Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of international health at Johns Hopkins. Subsisting on broccoli alone, for instance, wouldn’t be healthy.

The federal standards for use of the word “healthy” on labels was established in 1994 and set limits on total fat and cholesterol.

Susan Mayne, who heads the FDA’s food labeling division, said the definition reflects decades-old understanding of nutrition and needs to be updated.

With the revamp, she said people will be able to trust the word “healthy” is based in science, unlike many other terms on packages.

“This is one that the federal agencies will stand behind,” she said.

The next step is for the FDA to propose a new definition. The agency won’t say when it expects to establish a final rule with the new definition.

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