Some diets such as the Mediterranean Diet and Okinawa diets are a renowned for supporting a long healthy life. These diets feature vegetables, fruits nuts and other fresh ingredients. The American Diet on the other hand is an infamous contributor to obesity and chronic illness.
The American Diet is unhealthy. A diet low in fruits and vegetables but heavy in processed foods have contributed to more than 70% of the American adult population being Overweight or Obese .
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 73.6% of Americans are overweight or Obese. This is sometimes attributed to a sedentary lifestyle.
Why is the American Diet Unhealthy?
To be completely honest…Greed. Corporate Greed not consumer greed. Let’s dig a little deeper…
Other countries have more strict guidelines when it comes to food additives and preservatives. There is a great article on Eat this Not That, that gives a list of foods allowed in the US that are banned in other countries. Other countries banned these foods due to potential health implications. Why didn’t the US ban these ingredients?
These additives make food more appealing to the consumer and have a longer shelf life. This allows food to be mass-produced and sold relatively inexpensively…but at the cost of the consumer. Consumers could opt out, but processed foods, are marketed with whatever is the health trend of the day…low fat, low carb etc. Consumers are led to believe that these are the healthiest options.
The USDA and America’s Diet
The United States Department of Agriculture created the food pyramid and now my plate as Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Below is a section from the USDA’s website. No where in their vision does it state they are invested in improving the health of Americans. Why is this organization tasked with setting dietary guidelines for Americans? Can an organization tasked with promoting agricultural development independently set forth dietary guidelines for Americans?
We have a vision to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation’s natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.USDA Website
Typical American Foods
The top 10 of a list of the 50 Most American foods, there is not a fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. The Top 10 most American foods according to thrillist are:
- Buffalo Wings
- Apple Pie
- Buttermilk Biscuit
- PB & J Sandwich
- Fried Chicken
- Pastrami on Rye
Then only identifiable fruit on this list is Apples, and that is buried in butter and sugar and a flakey crust. No wonder most American’s struggle with weight.
Fast Food and the American Diet
Americans spend $50 billion per year on Fast Food. Long work hours and busy social calendars make Fast Food an easy option for many Americans. In America, most families have two parents working outside of the home. After a long day at work, children’s extracurricular activities, and homework there is not much time for meal prep.
According to Healthline:
people who cook more often, rather than get take-out, have an overall healthier diet. These studies also show that restaurant meals typically contain higher amounts of sodium, saturated fat, total fat, and overall calories than home-cooked meals.
Fad Diets and Americans
Every few years some fad diet pops up. When I was a kid fat was out which meant ramen noodles, toaster pastries, and sugary cereals were perfectly acceptable. As a teenager Atkins was all the rage…good bye carbs and hello steak. Today Keto and Paleo are all the rage.
Processed food can be engineered to reduce one nutrient and increase another while keeping the consumer’s taste buds satisfied. All of these diets end the same way pre-packaged food on the shelves of grocery store labeled as the new healthy.
Seems everything is promoted as healthy except for sitting down and having a home-cooked meal (without processed foods) with family and friends. Even plant-based diets have their faults. Sugar and Salt are perfectly acceptable parts of a “plant-based” diet. Even the notion of eating real foods has been packaged and labeled Paleo.
The Health of the American people is up for sale. Some Macro Nutrient is the Hero, while another Macro Nutrient is public enemy number one. The American Diet lacks balance.
How to Make the American Diet more Healthy
Prioritize Preparing Meals at Home
As I mentioned above, the busy American lifestyle makes it difficult to prepare meals at home. After a long day at work, and then shopping for groceries I would not want to spend time in the kitchen preparing a meal and washing dishes. I started having groceries delivered, at the end of the work day I ordered groceries from my phone and they were delivered and waiting for me when I got home.
Not having to shop for groceries frees up about an hour for me to prepare healthy meals at home. Ultimately at the end of the day, I’d rather spend time in my kitchen preparing meals rather than having frequent doctor visits to treat chronic illness. I rather pay a fee for grocery delivery service than have to pay for prescriptions or copays. I view the extra time and money spent on groceries and preparing meals as an investment into my health. Investing in my health now in hopes of avoiding chronic illness later.
Add Fresh Ingredients
I always start a diet highly motivated determined to completely change the way I eat…it works for a period of time. Then I start sliding into meals that I can prepare on auto pilot. I have determined that I can’t change over 30 years of poor eating habits over the course of a few days or week. Instead I focus on adding fresh foods into my diet.
For example, if I am having eggs for breakfast I add spinach or tomatoes. If I am having oatmeal for breakfast I add fresh fruits and nuts. My goal is to make better food decisions daily. My eating habits did not develop overnight and they will not change overnight.
The State of U.S. Health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors.