10 Common American Meals That Are Hurting Us

Obesity, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes — recent studies have reminded us about something we have known for awhile: the Standard American Diet isn’t doing anyone any good. It has the acronym SAD for a reason.

Certainly what we eat is paired with a lack of physical activity, and bad health can’t solely be blamed on eating poorly, but when it comes down to it, we can blame a lot of our modern day problems on our modern day diet.

So what are we eating that’s so bad for us? Here are 10 dishes and meals that symbolize everything that’s wrong with the modern diet.

1. The Burger

Let’s get one thing straight: a burger can be made with good products. At its core, it’s not that bad of a concoction, and if you eat one once in a great while it’s simply an enjoyable indulgence. Unfortunately the fast food version that so many of us eat in succession is another thing entirely. Filled with additives and sugars, it’s no wonder that we’re addicted. A McDonald’s Big Mac has 550 calories, 29 grams of fat and that secret sauce is full of tasty ingredients like Propylene Glycol Alginate and Calcium Disodium.

2. The Smoothie

Purchased smoothies, that is. When you make them at home you can ensure that you’re only adding in fresh ingredients and enough fruit that you don’t need to add in any additional sweetener. A medium Pina Colada smoothie from Orange Julius/Dairy Queen comes in at 340 calories (about two thirds of a Big Mac). It might actually be better for you to just eat the fruits themselves; a recent study showed that people who ate whole fruit were less likely to get type 2 diabetes, but those who drank fruit juice were at increased risk. Know where your sugar is coming from and how much you’re ingesting.

3. The Toast with Margarine

New flash: if you want to eat butter, eat real butter. Trans-fat loaded margarine isn’t good for your heart and you’re better off eating the real stuff.

4. The Bowl of Pasta

Refined white flour and not much else, the staple diet of a bowl of pasta is high in carbohydrates and not much else. As with everything, a balanced diet can include pasta, but opt for freshly made and cover it with good things like olive oil and fresh vegetables.

5. Anything That’s Branded as Low Fat

Want to blame the obesity epidemic on something? Blame it on the low fat craze, because around the time that low fat foods started being marketed, waistlines started growing exponentially. Of course, this could be a mere correlation, but it’s an important correlation. As people chose fat-free desserts and low-calorie snacks, they filled their diets full of added sugars and empty carbohydrates. We need fat in our diet, we just need to make sure it’s the good fat. Even saturated fat is much less harmful than we have been led to believe.

6. The Lunch Sandwich

A sandwich made with whole wheat bread and stacked with meat and cheese? Unless you baked your own bread, made your own sausage and bought your cheese from the farmer next door, chances are that lunch isn’t just a sandwich, it’s a bomb of processed foods. Not to mention all the mayonnaise spread on it. Buy bread that is made fresh, so it doesn’t have the preservatives to keep it on the shelf for ages, and opt for fresh vegetables and leafy greens as well as spreads like hummus which will make that sandwich ten times tastier and better for you.

7. The Meal That Isn’t Actually a Meal

Credit: bokeh burger via flickr

I’m talking about all those snack foods on the market that don’t constitute real meals, but have just as many calories, if not more, as eating a real meal. Not to mention all the processed ingredients that they include. Nobody should be eating Deep-Fried Doritos Stuffed With Nacho Cheese.

8. The Breakfast Cereal

Don’t be fooled for a second that most breakfast cereals are part of a complete and nutritious breakfast. Things like Reese’s Puffs and Lucky Charms (both of which are about 41% sugar) simply shouldn’t qualify as “breakfast.” In fact, one study showed that cereals marketed to children had 85% more sugar in them.

9. The Chicken Nuggets

Those McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets? Only about 50% actual chicken meat. And if you got fries with that, you might want to imagine what’s happening to your heart.

10. The Coffee and Pastry

You’re pressed for time in the morning so you figure a coffee and pastry is your quickest and easiest breakfast. Well, watch what you order. If you want to drink coffee, drink coffee, but stay clear of anything that entails turning coffee into something else entirely, like a Grande Starbucks Mocha which has 240 calories in it. And if you think going for the whole wheat scone or the bran muffin is your best bet for staying healthy, think again. They’re simply one of those things that sound too good be true. Better opt for oatmeal with a hefty dose of nuts, seeds and fresh fruit.

Top Photo Credit: wEnDaLicious


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

Will add that since I've changed my diet to exclude all of these, the result has been I have no desire for any of this stuff - in fact I actively dislike them! The body knows....

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago


Karen R.
Karen Ryan3 years ago

Guilty, guilty, guilty. I love those things I'm not supposed to be eating.

Anne K.
Anne K3 years ago

Thank you!

Kim Janik
Kim Janik3 years ago

Bad...but so hard to resist!

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez3 years ago


Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B3 years ago

Thank you.

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B3 years ago