The Standard American Diet (SAD) Is Killing Us…

healthy tips nutrition Dec 18, 2023

Although we are one of the most prosperous countries on earth, we die younger and have higher rates of disease than other developed nations. We use the phrase "Standard American Diet" to describe the stereotypical diet of most Americans.

The problem with the Standard American Diet (SAD) is that it consists of high amounts of processed and packaged foods, refined carbohydrates and added sugars, refined fats and oils and processed meats. Unfortunately, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and good quality protein sources are lacking.

The most commonly consumed foods as part of the Standard American Diet include:

• Fried foods
• Inflammatory oils
• Grain-based desserts
• Processed foods
• Processed meats (e.g. bacon and deli meats)
• Red meat
• Refined grains (white pasta, white flour, etc.)
• Sugar-sweetened beverages

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a major contributing factor to the development of chronic disease states in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control, six out of every 10 Americans have at least one chronic disease, and four in 10 have two or more chronic diseases. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.

Nearly 42 percent of U.S. adults are considered obese today, which contributes to chronic illnesses such as:

• Certain types of cancer
• Cardiovascular disease
• Higher fasting blood glucose
• Hypertension
• Increased LDL cholesterol
• Metabolic syndrome
• Type 2 diabetes

The Standard American Diet is also lacking in key nutrients such as calcium, potassium, fiber and vitamin D, all of which play a vital role in maintaining our body functions and health.

The good news is there are changes you can make to avoid the pitfalls of the Standard American Diet.

1. Limit your intake of ultra-processed foods, such as packaged desserts and crackers. These are loaded with sodium, sugar, inflammatory fats, preservatives and artificial flavors. If it comes in a box, check the ingredient list first to see if it contains heavily processed, unhealthy ingredients.
2. Eat the rainbow by focusing on fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of colors. Adult women need at least 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Adult men need 2 cups of fruit and 3 1/2 cups of vegetables. Most Americans fall short of these goals.
3. Eat more plant-based proteins, such as lentils, peas and beans. Not only do you get fiber, but also B vitamins and magnesium. Simply swap out a few meat-based meals for ones containing beans and legumes each week.
4. Make half your grains whole—brown rice, whole wheat flour or barley. Refined grains lose many of their nutrients, so sticking to whole grains means you keep the iron, protein, fiber and B vitamins.
5. Look out for added sugar. Added sugar is the sugar added to foods to make them taste better. You probably already know it’s in soft drinks and desserts, but you can also find it in marinara sauce, peanut butter, ketchup and salad dressing. Added sugars account for 13 percent of the average American’s total caloric intake each day. The current recommendation for added sugar for women is 5 teaspoons of sugar per day and 9 teaspoons for men per day.
6. Cook meals at home. Eating out is not only hard on your wallet—it also affects your overall health. Studies show that people who consumed dinner prepared at home at least six times a week consumed less sugar, fat and calories than individuals who ate at home once per week.
7. Make it convenient. Keep washed, fresh vegetables in clear, easily visible containers in the refrigerator so you’re more likely to grab those first.

You don’t have to become a victim of the Standard American Diet and eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard. Focus on eating whole, fresh foods that have been minimally processed and have short ingredient lists. Try new things and branch out—you might even find you like it better!


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