The SAD diet is exactly how it sounds, sad. This diet has been proven to directly increase your chances of coronary heart disease, risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and has an overwhelmingly negative impact on our health. The SAD diet, also known as the ‘Standard American Diet’, is simply a representation of how the average American citizen eats.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in unhealthy saturated and hydrogenated fats, low in fiber, high in calories, high in processed foods, high in sugar, and low in plant-based foods.[i] Americans eat grossly too few vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, while refined grains, sugary beverages, frozen entrees, and sugar/candies are off the charts with consumption rates that are thousands of percentage points above the recommended USDA amount.[ii]
How did America get to the point where SAD is the norm? There are several theories behind why our diets have become so poor over the years, one being fast food prominence and marketing. In 2012, McDonalds alone spent 2.7 times as much on marketing than all fruit, vegetable, bottled water, and milk advertisers combined.[iii] Meanwhile, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion which is the USDA’s sub-agency to the American that promotes dietary guidelines to the public has a total budget of only 1% of McDonald’s advertising budget.[iv] This fast food culture also brings us convenience that we otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s easier to grab a quick unhealthy meal than it is to take the time to plan and cool healthy foods. Some will also claim that unhealthier foods such as the $1 menu at many restaurants are cheaper than healthier alternatives which makes it a better option for less wealthy families.[v] While there is some truth to this, I believe this comes back to education considering I know how to make plenty of healthy meals on a very low budget.
Regardless of how it happened, the Standard American Diet is now roughly 63% processed foods, 25% animal foods, and 12% plant based foods, and sodium intakes are more than double the recommended daily value.[vi] The American diet has taken a complete 180 from the diet our body thrives on. How do we fix this? Fixing this starts with you choosing to eat real foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. We can learn to eat healthy ourselves and then inspire others to do the same.
For the skeptics
I often enjoy answering questions on Quora, and when a question about the SAD diet was asked, one of the responses by a reputable source was that the SAD diet is “a straw man fantasy used by orthorexics to criticize the eating habits of those they deem to be inferior.” I wanted to talk about this a little bit. The definition of ‘orthorexia’ is the obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy, and this is often considered as a mental health disorder. If you take a straight macronutrients approach to health, then I can see this argument. Basically if you want to maintain your weight you can eat anything in moderation, and thus stay relatively healthy. The same person that posted this answer to the Quora question claimed to have lost 35 pounds while eating dessert everyday, which is possible but not recommended. His stance is simply the calories in calories out approach to health, which is great for weight control, but doesn’t account for the concerns my article discussed. He believes that no matter how you eat you can control your weight, which is true to an extent but still neglects to take into account health concerns outside of your weight. The Standard American Diet is what is used to explain the increase in medical conditions such as obesity and hypertension in the U.S., and has nothing to do with an obsession with healthy eating or inferiority. It is a causal relationship between societal health observations and nutritional studies, not us nutritionists looking at people who eat relatively poorly as inferior.
Author: Scott Van Hoy – Click Here to view the author’s profile
- [i] http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/standard-american-diet-sad
- [ii] http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/01/standard-american-diet-sad-charts
- [iii] Ibid
- [iv] Ibid
- [v] http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/why-do-americans-eat-so-poorly
- [vi] https://draxe.com/charts-american-diet/