The Standard American Diet (SAD) Makes Us Fat or SAD Makes Us Sad!

I’ve written many times that a healthy diet includes every food you want to eat. I’m not taking that statement back. In fact, I’m repeating it with emphasis!

A healthy diet includes every food you want to eat!

Eating what you want is fine and it can be healthy, but that’s not to say that eating too much of this and too little of that is fine and healthy. And that pretty much describes the Standard American Diet (SAD)

SAD is a lot of processed foods, meat, dairy, flour, and sugar. None of these are bad foods, because there are no bad foods, but when they are the major source of calories they collectively become a bad diet.

Our SAD has developed into what it is because:
  • It’s fast and easy 
  • It’s portable – requires little preparation and can be eaten on the go.
  • It tastes good and it’s predictable. We like it and we know we there will be no surprises. An Oreo will taste like we expect every time.
  • It’s what everybody around us is eating.
  • Commercials convince us that it’s good for us.
  • We think it’s a less expensive way to eat, although it really isn’t.
The problem isn’t the typical SAD food, it’s the amounts consumed and what’s missing.
None of these foods are unhealthy foods but when they represent what you eat on a regular basis that is an unhealthy diet.

None of these foods are unhealthy, but when they represent what you eat on a regular basis that is an unhealthy diet.

Adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains (whole grains, not whole grain flour) are missing.

The missing foods add a lot of nutrients to our diet without a lot of calories. Many of the processed foods are enriched for extra nutrition, but getting our antioxidants  (nutrients that protect the body from cell damage) is preferable when we eat the foods in which they naturally occur. It seems they work for us better that way.

In addition to adding important nutrients to our diet, the missing foods are all low energy density foods. In other words, they are naturally low in calories per serving. That’s because they have higher water, fiber, or air content. The benefit for health and weight is we can fill up on bigger servings without getting too many calories.

To support good health and a healthy weight we need to upgrade our SAD to HAD (Healthy American Diet!)
It’s easy and tastes delicious!

Cut back a little on the meat. dairy and processed foods (that are a major source of sugar, flour, often fat and calories) and eat more vegetables, fruit, and legumes.

  • Eat fruit and vegetables as part of every meal.
  • Make your fruit and vegetables your “go to” snacking choice.
  • Enjoy brown rice, barley, and quinoa as your starchy side dishes.  Try this delicious recipe from Weight WatchersBarley with Butternut Squash, Apples and Onions)
  • Reduce meat servings to 2 or fewer daily and about the size of just the palm of your hand (that’s excluding your fingers!)
  • Reduce cheese consumption. Try using sharper, more flavorful cheeses such as blue cheese or gorgonzola to get lots of flavor with less cheese. Goat cheese adds creaminess and is naturally lower in fat.
  • Cut back by paying attention to frequency and portions of processed foods.


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.