Improving the Average Americans Diet
November 6, 2015
Improving the Average American Lifestyle
The major problem with the American way of eating is that it is flawed and inconsiderate. With the advent of media, technology, and faster forms of transport and communication, our lives may have become easier, but these developments have also been the cause for our eating habits descending into chaos. By depending on the easy way to the things, Americans have become lazier. This extends to cooking food and ultimately leads to eating dinner out, preferably from a food chain line, on most nights. The result is what kills more Americans than diabetes and cancer: obesity. Obesity does not only affect the body’s shape and metaphysical processes but also has a toll on a person’s mental health and emotions. There is, however, no way to escape this problem, except for eating healthier. There are, of course, limitations to when it comes to persuading an entire country to eat healthier, but sure-shot solutions can be achieved through an integrated approach—one that combines the right amount of facts, and the proper types of solutions.
The US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services list in their report, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dismal figures, and the vision of an unhealthy future. The report reveals that 72% percent of men and 64% of women in the country are victims of obesity. Of these, 37% have cardiovascular diseases, 34% have hypertension or high blood pressure, 11% are suffering from diabetes, and 41% have high chances of being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Furthermore, what makes these numbers even more noteworthy, and to an extent ridiculous, is the revelation that comes from the World Health Organization, saying that 80% of all cardio conditions, 90% of type 2 diabetes, and 30% of all forms of cancer can be avoided only if the person has a healthy diet, and takes in the right amount of nutrients every day. This should also be included with regular exercise and a forfeit of fast food and habits like smoking and drugs CITATION USD10 l 16393 ( U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ).
How important is a balanced diet?
The award-winning documentary, Supersize me, by Morgan Spurlock is an excellent example of the ill-effects of having a diet rich in fats and lacking in nutrients CITATION Mor07 l 16393 (Spurlock).
The documentary covers a month’s time in Morgan’s life, during which he only eats food from McDonalds, all three times of the day. This, thus, included breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Morgan was not supposed to eat or drink any other food except for that from McDonalds, which also included water. Additionally, he had to eat every item on the menu at least once over the course of a month and had to Supersize his meal whenever offered the choice CITATION Mor07 l 16393 (Spurlock).
At the start of the month, Morgan was as healthy as the average individual. He was 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighed 84 kilograms. By the end of the month, though, the effects of the food on his body were dismal. In just thirty days, Morgan gained 11.1 kilograms. Within a week to ten days of starting his supersize diet at McDonalds, Morgan started experiencing depression, headaches, and lethargy, all of which were symptoms of withdrawal, and thus indicated that he was addicted to fast food. Towards the end of the month, he collapsed due to heart palpitations and was warned by his doctor not to eat himself to death. The food also affected his sex drive and energy, and it took him a little over fourteen months to get back into the healthy state he had been before his experiment. And all of this happened only because he ate at McDonalds for a month.
Granted, Morgan’s experiment can be considered a little extreme since most people do not have the mental strength or the money to eat at fast food chain lines for a month. However, the effects of the lack of a balanced diet on his body were as real as the rampant obesity in America today.
Most Americans ignore the number of calories they intake while drinking beverages and snacking on small eatables. It is this number, hardly ever noticed, that contributes to the imbalance in the diets of people.
How should we balance our food and beverage intake?
Balancing food and beverage intake, and maintaining a healthy diet, in general, depends on what you want to do with your body: if you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. If you want to gain body mass, you calorie intake levels should be higher. Both of these goals require different approaches and levels of discipline, ranging from monitoring eating levels to exercising and abstaining.
The secret to maintaining a healthy body weight is to prevent the number of calories taken in exceeding the number of calories being burned every day. An everyone diet conscious person who wants to change his or her eating habitscan download apps on their smart phones or watches, thus making it easier for them to monitor the levels of their calorie intake and burn. Additionally, for people in need of dietary control, there exist several apps that can help calculate what their ideal calorie intake should be. Smart phones and watches can be used to track physical activity and heart rate, which can be utilized to set a calorie intake and burn goal.
Whatever one may want, one needs to discipline oneself accordingly. Once a good caloric goal has been established, it is necessary to be mindful of where the calories are coming from. Many people do not pay attention to a number of calories in the beverages they consume. This alone can eat up a lot of one’s daily calorie intake not to mention all the extra sugar they are taking in. The average adult should consume 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat. It is hard, however, for one to keep track of the percentages. That is why using an app such as My Fitness Pal is a good solution as it allows you to input food and beverages consumed and breaks down your macronutrients and also lets you see your vitamin intake.
Not only the balance, but one also needs to be mindful of where and how one’s food is cooked and prepared. It is, after all, the source of calories, and differs person to person and kitchen to kitchen. There are certain foods that are not only good for the human body physically, but also mentally. Controlling sugar intake, for example, can overall make one feel better and have more energy. This is because sugar is supposed to be one of the foods that can make you feel good. For example, people suffering from anxiety disorders are often advised to consume chocolate, as it helps improve levels of tension in the body.
Different types of foods have different levels of key nutrients, which when consumed can have a significant impact on the amount of hormones produced in our bodies. Not only this, but nutrients may also improve blood circulation by preventing inflammation, thus helping the metabolism of the body (Magee).
Having the recommended daily dose of Vitamin B12 is also important for the body’s central nervous system. The old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ too has some merit as well. Studies have supported the theory that eating more fruits and vegetables is key to having a healthy body. Omega-3’s fatty-acids is a good source of healthy fat lowers the risk of depression. Vitamin D can not only help improve one’s mood but protect bones and keep cancer away.
There are small steps that can be taken to make changes in a daily diet. Adults who eat the higher quantity of whole grains tend to have lower body weight. Increasing daily intake of whole grains, vegetables and fruits can assist in weight management. Eating the right amount of protein along with low-fat carbohydrates can help one stay fuller for longer as the carbohydrates help the body absorb the protein and the protein is slower to digest. It is also important to limit the number of sugar-sweetened beverages. These beverages are not very filling and are often full of calories.
The next thing to remember is portion control: People often eat without realizing how much they are eating. No matter what one is eating, it is a good idea to control the portion size of one’s food. Eating begins with one’s eyes. A study conducted by Brian Wansick gave people bottomless bowls and found that people ate 73% more as the bowls filled up on their own. The stomach often lies about being full, which is why it is important to eye what one eats. This is why people on diets refrain from passing by their favorite restaurants for fear of slipping. Moreover, with the abundance of fast food chains, food trucks, and restaurants on every nook and corner of the country, it has become incredibly easy for the typical American to overeat.
Another way to prevent overeating is to use smaller utensils. Wansick’s study details how people often overeat because they are given large bowls or plates to eat in. His experiment tested a 172 movie goers in the local area were given two types of extra-large free popcorn—fresh and 14 days old. When asked how much popcorn they consumed during the movie, and after weighing the remaining popcorn, Wansick found that even when the popcorn was stale, people consumed 35% more of it than they would have had they been given only large containers. Moreover, most of them did not realize that they were eating stale popcorn, and eating so much of it.
BIBLIOGRAPHY U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Research Findings . Washington, DC: Government Printing Office , 2010. Web. Document .
Alvear, Micheal. Eat it Later: Mastering Self Control and the Slimming Power of Postponement . Woodpecker Media , 2015. Print.
Andersson, Agneta and Sussane Bryngelsson. “Towards a Healthy Diet: From Nutrition Reccomendations to Dietary Advice .” Scandinavian Journal of Food and Nutrition (2007): 31-40. Web.
Magee, Elaine. Foods to Help you Feel Better . 25 Feb 2011. Web. 21 October 2015.
States News Service . Shifting out of High Calorie Habits. 6 Mar 2015. Web. 21 Oct 2015.
Supersize Me. Dir. Morgan Spurlock. Perf. Morgan Spurlock. 2007. Theater.
Wansick, Brian. Mindless Eating: Why we Eat More Than We Think. Presentation. New York: Bantam, 2006. Print.