These adjectives refer to a state of good physical health. Healthy stresses the absence of disease or infirmity and is used of whole organisms as well as their parts: a healthy baby; flossed daily to promote healthy gums. Wholesome suggests a state of good health associated with youthful vitality or clean living: "In truth, a wholesome, ruddy, blooming creature she was" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Usage Note: Some people insist on maintaining a distinction between the words healthy and healthful. In this view, healthful means "conducive to good health" and is applied to things that promote health, while healthy means "possessing good health," and is applied solely to people and other organisms. Accordingly, healthy people have healthful habits. However, healthy has been used to mean "healthful" since the 1500s, as in this example from John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education: "Gardening ... and working in wood, are fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business." In fact, the word healthy is far more common than healthful when modifying words like diet, exercise, and foods, and healthy may strike many readers as more natural in many contexts. Certainly, both healthy and healthful must be considered standard in describing that which promotes health.