According to several recent polls, American eating habits are remarkably impermeable to the health craze that's swept much of the nation. Though most Americans report that they want to live longer, healthier lives, their eating habits simply don't reflect this desire. The five most popular American meals are among the worst choices if you want to eat healthy, but a few small tweaks can get you back on track.
According to a survey by the USDA, tomatoes are Americans' favorite vegetable. This, of course, poses a problem since tomatoes aren't a vegetable at all. There's nothing inherently wrong with tomatoes, but when they form a primary source of fruits and vegetables, it's easy to miss out on important nutrients. Even worse, most Americans eat tomatoes out of a can or in the form of sauce, not in their fresher incarnations. If you love tomatoes, eat them fresh, and don't forget about real veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower, which offer more diverse nutrition than tomatoes.
Packaged dinners, including lasagna, pasta, chicken, and vegetable creations, are now the single most popular meal in the United States. Among children, the rate of consumption of packaged foods is staggering, with the overwhelming majority of children eating at least one pre-made meal or snack each day. Packaged foods are often high in preservatives, sugar, and sodium. The packaging process may remove important nutrients, and prepackaged items have been shown to encourage overeating. Instead, try fresh snacks such as dried fruit, rolled granola, or nuts. And if you eat your meals out of a package, commit to making one freshly cooked meal each week.
Chicken is the most popular meat in America, and there are dozens of ways to prepare it. Unfortunately, though, most Americans eat their chicken either fried or covered in sodium-rich sauces. This increases cardiovascular risk, and is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. If you love chicken, try it grilled in a salad instead. For even better health, replace at least one chicken meal per week with fish.
Cheese is high in fat, but is a better alternative to less healthy snacks, so long as it's used in moderation. For many Americans, though, cheese is a meal unto itself. From covering dishes in mozzarella to adding flavor to healthy meals by dousing them in cheddar, Americans add needless calories to their diet by eating excessive quantities of cheese. Even worse, many Americans buy packaged, processed flavored cheeses. For better health, stick to fresh cheese, and eat it as a snack – not as your meal.
Oranges, according to the USDA, are the most popular American fruit, and there's nothing wrong with oranges. Packed with antioxidants, these fruits make an ideal breakfast and a tasty snack. But relying on oranges as your sole source of fruit is unhealthy. Branch out to get the most benefits you can from a varied diet. Grapefruits, lemons, passion fruit, and pomegranates are all excellent substitutes for the oranges you know and love.