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12 Worst Standard American Foods That Are a Health Hazard

It’s no coincidence that the Standard American Diet is often abbreviated as “SAD.” The typical American diet is loaded with processed foods, high in sugar and unhealthy fats, and lacking essential nutrients. As a result, it’s no surprise that America has one of the highest global rates of obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

This article isn’t meant to make anyone feel guilty about their food choices but rather to shed light on some of the worst foods in the standard American diet that are harming our health. By being aware of these foods, we can make more informed decisions about what we eat and take steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

That doesn’t necessarily mean cutting these foods out completely, but rather being mindful of our consumption and finding healthier alternatives when possible. So, which specific foods are particularly harmful to our health? Here are 12 of the worst standard American foods that are a health hazard. Some are obvious, while others might surprise you!

1. Snack Mixes

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Who doesn’t love a good snack mix when we’re in the mood to snack? Unfortunately, many popular snack mixes in America are loaded with unhealthy ingredients that can majorly damage our health. From high sodium and sugar levels to artificial flavors and preservatives, these snack mixes are best avoided if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Some of the worst offenders include traditional trail mix, which often contains candy-coated chocolate pieces, salted nuts, and dried fruits with added sugars. Other popular snack mixes, like Chex mix, chips and pretzel pub mixes, cheese snack mixes, and chocolate-covered pretzels, are also loaded with unhealthy ingredients that can contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain, and other health issues.

Instead, try mixing some of your flavor-free nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate chunks. Yum!

2. Processed ‘Low-fat’ and ‘Fat-free’ Foods

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Somehow “low-fat” has become synonymous with healthy, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many processed “low-fat” and “fat-free” foods are quite processed and loaded with unhealthy ingredients like added sugars, artificial flavors and preservatives, and high sodium levels.

A big issue with fat-free food is the food doesn’t taste good when the fat has been removed. That’s why a lot of sugar is often added to compensate. Plus, with the fat removed, we don’t feel satiated and often end up eating more of these processed foods than we would have if they contained healthy fats.

Instead, opt for whole foods that naturally contain healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. These will be better for your health and keep you feeling satisfied and energized.

3. French Fries

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Americans love their French Fries. They are certainly top-rated for being delicious and crunchy snacks, hands down! Unfortunately, commercial fries are unhealthy because they are cooked in processed oils. Plus, potatoes are basically pure starch (meaning they are quickly processed into absorbed sugar in the body). 

Plus, fries should simply have potatoes, salt, and the oil they’re fried in for ingredients, right? Not even close. For example, McDonald’s fries have 19 ingredients, loaded with added preservatives for their fries, loaded with added preservative and flavors specifically designed to make you crave more.

Instead, make homemade fries using healthier oils like olive or avocado. You can also season them with herbs and spices to add extra flavor without adding as much salt.

4. Other Fried Foods

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French fries aren’t the only fried food that Americans love. Fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, and even fried vegetables are all popular menu items at many restaurants nationwide. However, these foods are high in unhealthy fats and often coated in refined flour and bread crumbs, which can contribute to inflammation and other health issues.

Instead of frying your foods, try baking or grilling them for a healthier alternative. You can also experiment with different cooking methods, like air frying or using a healthy oil to shallow fry instead of deep frying.

5. Diet Drinks

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Calorie-free beverages like soda, fruit drinks, and teas may help reduce your calorie count but may not be worth gulping.

Not only are you slurping chemical replacements for sugar, but research has linked these artificial sweeteners to increased cravings for other high-sugar (and high-calorie) foods. There’s no benefit to drinking soda—diet or not.

Instead, choose healthier drink options like water, unsweetened tea or coffee, or flavored sparkling water. You can also infuse your water with fruits and herbs for a tasty and refreshing alternative to sugar-laden drinks.

6. Sandwich Bread

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Americans love white bread, burger buns, hot dog buns, sandwich bread, and more. However, white bread is highly processed and contains very little nutritional value. It’s also often high in added sugars and other unhealthy ingredients.

Instead of white bread, opt for whole-grain options like whole wheat or sprouted-grain bread. These alternatives will give your diet more fiber, vitamins, and minerals without sacrificing taste. You can also try making sandwiches with lettuce wraps for a healthier twist.

7. Burgers

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As yummy as they are, the truth is that burgers are not healthy food.

 It is mostly due to the things that people load onto their burgers. A big fluffy bun, sugary sauces (aka ketchup), and no veggies make for an unbalanced meal. Keep in mind that the source of the meat also matters. A pre-made frozen burger pattie made from the leftovers of an industrial-raised cow (typical from a restaurant) will be a lot different than a fresh ground lean cut of beef.

Instead, try making your own burger at home using quality ingredients such as grass-fed beef or plant-based alternatives like lentil or black bean patties. You can also incorporate more veggies into your burger by adding some

You can opt for bunless or half-bun burgers that are loaded to the brim with veggies—the more, the better! Add avocado, tomato, red onion, fried mushrooms, lettuce, and smoked Tabasco. Yum! It comes with veggies and a side of a burger!

8. Low-calorie Yogurts

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The lowest-calorie option isn’t always the healthiest. Yogurt may be among the worst offenders regarding junk food disguised in the standard American diet. 

Some ultra-low-cal yogurts reduce sugar and fat but replace them with artificial sweeteners and thickeners. Check the ingredient list on your favorite brand.

Go for sugar-free, full-fat yogurt to get all the benefits of yogurt without the chemical mash-up.

9. Margarine

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Butter was once considered a bad food choice because of its high saturated fat content. Various health experts started promoting margarine instead.

Margarine used to be high in trans fats. These days, it has fewer trans fats than before, but it’s still loaded with refined vegetable oils. Not surprisingly, the Framingham Heart Study showed that people who replace butter with margarine are actually more likely to die from heart disease.

If you want to improve your health, try to eat real butter (preferably grass-fed), and avoid margarine with trans fat. Trans-fat-free margarine has become more available in recent years.

Always read nutrition facts carefully and limit products that contain trans fat.

10. Sugary Snacks

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Sugary foods are some of the most dangerous to our diet. Anyone with a sweet tooth knows just how addicting processed sugary foods can be. Who doesn’t love a tasty donut, twinkie, or slice of cake? However, these foods are high in added sugars and low in nutrients, contributing to health issues like weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.

Instead of reaching for sugary snacks and desserts, satisfy your sweet cravings with healthier options like fresh fruits or dark chocolate (save the rich desserts for special treats). You can also experiment with recipes that use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of processed sugars. Keep in mind that moderation is key when it comes to consuming sugary foods.

Sugar is not a problem in and of itself. In fact, we need it for basic body functions! However, the problem is the high amounts of food it is now consumed in a typical American diet.

Consuming more sugar (especially when no vitamins or nutrients accompany it) than your body needs puts your body in a state of imbalance. The sugar requires the pancreas to work overtime to create insulin, leading to burnout and decreased sensitivity. This bodily function requires the body to store that extra sugar as fat.

11. Processed Oils

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Peanut oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil…. all of these oils are common in packaged snacks and foods. They’re also used to fry many things at fast food joints. These fats are high in omega-6 fats, which have been shown to increase cholesterol when consumed out of balance, with healthier fats, like omega-3s found in avocado, fish, and olive oil.

12. Processed Meats

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Bacon, hot dogs, deli meats, and other processed meats are popular in American diets. However, these meats are often high in sodium, nitrates, and preservatives that have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

Instead of processed meats, opt for lean cuts of fresh meat or plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, and tofu. These options are lower in unhealthy additives and provide more beneficial nutrients.

27 Ways Real People Were Able to Lose Weight Sustainably without Extreme Dieting

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Finding it challenging to lose those stubborn extra pounds, and growing more disheartened by the digits on your scale? The plethora of diets, exercise routines, and conflicting guidance can, without a doubt, feel quite bewildering. In the midst of numerous choices and contradictory information, you might naturally ponder: Where should you even commence?

27 Ways Real People Were Able to Lose Weight Sustainably without Extreme Dieting

Food Trivia: 8 Questions to Test Your Healthy Eating Knowledge

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Culinary delights are not merely sustenance; they are a wellspring of comfort and jubilation. However, amid the delectable tastes, it’s crucial to recognize that understanding a balanced and healthful diet is both engrossing and vital for our overall well-being. Whether you’re a seasoned epicurean or someone who savors a fine meal, embark on a journey of gastronomic enlightenment with these eight captivating questions designed to challenge your culinary acumen!

Food Trivia: 8 Questions to Test Your Healthy Eating Knowledge

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