Is the American Diet Killing You?

Note: this post has been updated in December 2018.

The American Diet Can Be Bad for You

In America, we are blessed to have access to good, quality food. Every city and small town has grocery stores that carry food, and they generally handle that food with careful safety practices. This is not true in many places in the world. We can find a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy proteins in any grocery store in any town in America. This is the good side of the American diet.

Now for the bad side. With all the availability of good food and the money to buy it, in general, Americans are not eating what is best for them. That is what we see from the studies that are being done about what Americans are eating and what our health looks like as a result. Obesity is rampant, along with diabetes, heart disease and other health issues related to poor diet. So, is the American diet killing you? Read my article on  What Is Good Nutrition.

What is the problem with the standard American diet?

Wrong Foods

  • 63% of Americans’ calories come from refined and processed foods (e.g., soft drinks, packaged snacks like potato chips, packaged desserts, etc.)
  • 25% of Americans’ calories come from animal-based foods
  • 12% of Americans’ calories come from plant-based foods

Unfortunately, half the plant-based calories (6%) come from French fries. That means only 6% of Americans’ calories are coming from health-promoting fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

There’s a good reason we abbreviate standard American diet to S.A.D. The standard American diet leads to standard American diseases that lead to standard American deaths.

– via The Standard American Diet is Even Sadder Than We Thought

Here is a look at some of the other issues with the American diet.

Portion Distortion

The Western diet is nothing new. The typical American family in the 1950s was more likely than we are to sit down to a meal of pork chops and mashed potatoes than stir-fried tofu and broccoli. So, why has the obesity epidemic exploded in the last 20 years?

It’s a Matter of Size

“Twenty years ago, the diet wasn’t as varied as it is today, and people didn’t eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables,” Gollman says. “But the portions were more in line with what people really need.” From bagel shops to family restaurants to vending machines to movie theater concession stands to the dining room table, our meals and snacks are taking on gargantuan proportions. “Everyone in the food industry decided they had to make portions larger to stay competitive, and people got used to large sizes very quickly,” Nestle says. “Today, normal sizes seem skimpy.”

The hyperinflation of our diet is especially obvious away from home. “Look through the window of any of the big chain restaurants, and you’ll see huge platters of food coming out of the kitchen,” Polk says. One of those platters could easily pack 2,000 calories, which is enough to last most people all day.

Convenience Culture

Despite our national obsession with weight loss, the obesity epidemic continues to be a national health concern. The human craving for fats and sweets will never go away, and it’s getting easier than ever to satisfy those cravings.

With 170,000 fast-food restaurants and 3 million soft-drink vending machines spread across the country, huge doses of calories are never far away, especially when those soda machines are sitting right in the middle of public schools.

In 1978, for example, the typical teenage boy in the United States drank about seven ounces of soda a day, according to Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser. Today, he drinks nearly three times that much, getting a whopping 9 percent of his daily calories from soda. Teenage girls are close behind. Perhaps not surprisingly, studies show childhood obesity has hit epidemic proportions over the last few decades. The main culprits, according to experts, are high-fat foods, sodas, and too little exercise.
– via consumer.healthday.com

Ways to Improve Your Diet

If you have fallen prey to many of the same habits other Americans have but you want to take action to improve your diet and your health, there are steps you can take.

In the excerpt below, we look at two steps you can take that will go a very long way in improving your diet and will make a real impact to improve your health over time. Take a look.

sugarandprocessed

Sugar

Sugar can be one of the things many feel they are addicted to and they have no control over. Refined or artificial sugars are very bad for you. Although you are probably aware that too much sugar can be very bad for your health, most people are not aware of how much sugar is found in certain foods.

Even salad dressings and things people do not think of as sugary foods have loads of sugar in them. Many people are stuck on the slight buzz they get when they eat sugar, similar to a caffeine high. For people who eat dessert every day, they probably think it is impossible to remove sugar from their lives because they “need” cookies, cakes, and pies.

White sugar can do terrible things to your body besides just add extra pounds. Sugar can actually build up within your body and steal nutrients away from the organs that so desperately need them. As an alternative, you can enjoy natural, healthy sugar. Often, this sugar is brown in color and will advertise that it is not refined sugar. There is also natural sugar in fruit, like strawberries, apples and peaches. This will give you natural sugar that is good for you instead of bad sugar that is harmful. Try to avoid high fructose corn syrup because of its sugar content. While at first it may be tough to kick your sugar habit, eventually you will be fine living without it and feeling better without refined sugar.

Eliminate Processed Foods

Another controversy in the United States is how many processed and pre-packaged foods we eat. There are two primary reasons this is a problem: cost and convenience. Unfortunately, these processed junk foods are significantly less expensive than healthy fruits, vegetables and proper proteins.

We need to understand the benefits well outweigh the costs in this area, and saving a few dollars here and there by buying processed foods is not the right choice. Some processed meats are made from unhealthy parts of animals combined with chemicals. This isn’t good for you and can make you sick.

There are many doctors who claim the obesity problem in this country is due to processed foods, and they are right. Many people feel as though they don’t have the time to cook a proper meal, so they resort to processed foods.

If a product has more than 5 ingredients, you should avoid it. This is not true in all cases of course, but this will get you to begin reading food labels and understanding what is in the things you are eating. Most people don’t look at labels or notice the ingredients. Try to avoid refined sugar, trans fat, and refined flour, such as white flour. Wheat breads, rice, pastas and crackers are much better than their white counterparts because the white products have been processed to remove the natural nutrients. – via IdealBite

Have you considered removing sugar and processed foods from your diet? Today could be the day to start! I have listed three great resources that will get you on the right track!

The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction
 Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction
Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar):Science Explains How to End Cravings, Lose Weight, and Get Healthy

Now I’d like to hear from you.
Do you agree or disagree that removing sugar and processed foods is a healthy step to take?
What changes — for better or for worse — have you experienced when you’ve tried eliminating sugar and processed foods?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

If I can answer any questions, or if you an opinion you would like to express, please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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  • Ann says:

    Great tips here. And we did take steps to eliminate a lot of the sugars and drinking sodas in the house. And it’s been hard for the kiddos, but overall we’ve done good. And we go out about once a month to eat, but at a real restaurant….where we can get a salad and then our meal. And surprisingly, our kids LOVE salads! 🙂 It is about moderation, which a lot of people can not, or do not, want to control. But you must make the steps yourself and decide what you want to put into YOUR body.

  • Clint says:

    Great Article Robert!

    It would seem to me that eliminating those two things alone (refined sugar and processed foods) could go a long way towards improving one’s heath!

    My family gave up soda for Lent about 15 years ago and we never went back. It almost immediately improved our health and it was one of the decisions that we made.

    I’ve bookmarked your blog and will watch for your new articles, Great Job!

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