What is the Standard American Diet?

S.A.D. is an acronym that stands for the Standard American Diet. The typical dishes found throughout America are known as the Standard American Diet.

Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is a bit "sad" because often, it doesn't include foods that make up a healthy lifestyle. For those living with type 2 diabetes, this way of eating is often not beneficial.

Defining the Standard American Diet

The way Americans eat now versus seventy years ago is very different. Around the 1960s, the industrial food industry took off. This led to the creation and popularity of more packaged and convenient foods. These foods contained more saturated fats, processed ingredients, and calories. Since then, the way Americans eat has contributed to widespread health concerns and chronic illnesses in the United States.1

General characteristics of the S.A.D.

But, not everyone eats the same way in America. Some people eat foods and dishes traditional of their cultures. Others prefer to follow strict diets or incorporate many cultures in their diet. And, many American dishes are actually inspired by other cultures' cuisines, such as pizza and burritos. There are also some foods considered to be American. There are several defining characteristics of how many people eat in America.2

Typical nutritional components of foods in the Standard American Diet:

  • Contain small amounts of fiber
  • Are low in fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Have large amounts of sugar and sodium
  • Are high in saturated and trans fats
  • Contain many calories

Some classic American foods that make up the S.A.D. include:

  • Hamburgers and cheeseburgers
  • Hotdogs
  • Pizza
  • Tex-Mex
  • Barbeque
  • Apple pie

Is the Standard American Diet bad for type 2 diabetes?

Unfortunately, many of the foods found in the Standard American Diet are a poor fit for a type 2 diabetes diet. Diners, chain restaurants, and fast food establishments are known to serve classic American foods. This is tough because so many of these foods are so delicious!

S.A.D. foods are most likely the main culprits that your doctor, dietician, or certified diabetes educator told you to avoid. The characteristics of S.A.D. are the opposite of what is recommended for a diabetes-friendly diet.

What makes up a diabetes-friendly diet?

A diabetes-friendly diet typically includes an abundance of fresh produce, plant-based proteins, lean meats and fish, healthy fats, and whole-grain products. Usually, a good rule of thumb is to avoid foods high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. Plant-based diets, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH diet are a few that are popular for people living with type 2 diabetes. Yet, it is possible to modify the S.A.D. foods to make them a bit healthier.

How can I make S.A.D. foods healthier?

If you grew up eating the Standard American Diet, then it can be challenging to break away from it. The way we ate growing up is often ingrained in us. Like any habit, the first step is recognizing and bringing awareness to it. Analyze what you eat and how much you eat. Take small steps to modify your meals.

Modifications and food substitutions

Foods found in the Standard American Diet can be modified to become healthier versions. Take the bun away from the hamburger, or replace the meat patty with a vegetable-based one or one made from lean meat. Make your own pizza, and try a low-carb crust recipe made from cauliflower or almond flour. Also, opt for a sugar-free barbeque sauce, and substitute roasted vegetables instead of eating a side of french fries.

Main takeaways

The Standard American Diet has evolved in the past decade, but not necessarily for the better. Our modern S.A.D. diet may be lacking important things like fiber, fresh produce, and healthy fats and proteins.

It can be challenging to pull away from this way of eating, but changing your eating habits can help you better manage your diabetes. Making changes to your diet is no easy task, but your doctor, a dietician, or a certified diabetes educator can help! There are plenty of favorite dishes and recipes that are adjusted to be more diabetes-friendly.

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