Let’s face it, America is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Over a third of the American population is overweight or obese and this amount is still rising. Numerous federal departments have been dedicated to informing us about what foods to eat and what foods to not eat on a regular basis, like the USDA, FDA, and the HHS at the very least.
They have good intentions, but unfortunately we’re not listening. Adults are still eating unhealthy food for at least two meals a day, consuming an excess of processed sugars, harmful chemicals, and dietary fat. This country is home to some of the most calorific foods in the world, so what are the worst foods to eat in America and where do they come from?
One of the main culprits? Fast-food restaurants that continue to promote a diet full of processed meat, carbs, and sugary sodas. While there are always differing opinions and unhealthy foods are not the only reason for so much obesity and diabetes in America, nobody can deny its huge contribution to the problem.
Luckily these restaurants are working to include the calorie content of their foods on menu items in store and on websites as well as offer healthier options, meaning there is still hope to turn this overweight trend around. In moderation, unhealthy fast-foods are fine as a treat, but when the worst foods in America make up the majority of your daily calories, something should probably change. Here are a few that you should be concerned about.
The Worst Foods to Eat in America
Not really a surprise to anybody, the absolute worst foods to eat in America are burgers. This wasn’t the case decades ago, when fast-food menus consisted of plain hamburgers and maybe cheeseburgers, but all that has changed in recent decades. Burgers contain stacks of bacon, cheese, fatty meat, onion rings, and fatty sauces, along with anything else you can stick in a bun. Cheating on a diet occasionally will never cause lasting harm and might even provide some benefits (increasing metabolism, suppressing urges to binge, etc.), but on a normal basis, burgers will add inches to your waistline. Looking at nothing more than calories, it’s hard to find a more calorie-dense food.
A normal one patty cheeseburger with all the fixings contains around 350-400 calories, 10 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, 10 grams of protein and 500 mgs of sodium. These numbers are not that bad by themselves, but since over two grams of the fat comes from trans-fats, which should be limited as much as possible, this immediately decreases the healthiness of the food. When double or triple patty cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers come into question, the calorie count will easily jump to over 1000 calories, around 65 grams of fat (five of which are trans-fats), 60 grams of carbs, and over 2,000 mgs of sodium (more than the daily recommended amount for most).
These burgers alone make up about half of the daily recommended calories needed to maintain a normal weight, more fat and sodium we should consume on a daily basis, and are not very satiating due to their density — no wonder they’re one of the worst foods to eat in the USA. Swapping out a beef burger for a grilled chicken breast burger or turkey burger will save you a lot of calories, and increase the protein to fat ratio of your meal back to a healthy level. Occasionally fitting a bacon cheeseburger into your diet, along with other daily meals that consist of healthy and nutritious ingredients can be done without impacting your health negatively — treat yourself.
Take a look at our mouthwatering chickpea burger recipe for all the crave-busting without the calories.
2. Fried Chicken
In a close second for the worst foods to eat in America, we have one of the most beloved foods by all: chicken. Not just any kind of chicken though, deep fried chicken. A staple of any American household over the past century, a bucket of chicken is an inexpensive and easy way to feed a large family.
These wings and tenders are very high in fat, sodium, and overall calories that will lead to weight gain and other health problems. On average, one single wing will contain anywhere between 100-200 calories, depending on its batter and sauce. For a macro breakdown, they contain 5-10 grams of fat, 8-16 grams of carbs, and 5-10 grams of protein per tender, which doesn’t seem like much until you consider how much fried chicken one person can consume in a single sitting. In a 10 piece meal, this would translate to 1,000-2,000 calories, 50-100 grams of fat, 80-160 grams of carbs and 50-100 grams of protein.
Much like hamburgers, fried chicken is on the list for worst foods to eat for a reason. It has multiple grams of trans-fat per meal, thousands of milligrams of sodium, and almost an entire days’ worth of calories in an extremely dense portion that can be eaten without much effort. In moderation, it’s okay to go over your calories once in a while to reward a week of weight loss. On a normal basis though, fried chicken will not do you any favors in the body fat department or for your cardiovascular health. Instead, try cooking your own chicken at home in the oven or in a crock pot, which will be much cheaper and healthier for you in the long run.
Take a look at this tasty chipotle chicken recipe without the killer calories.
3. The Sides
One thing that is true about all fast-food restaurants is that more than likely the main course isn’t all that’ll be ordered. In addition to a burger or chicken tenders that can cost over half your daily intake of calories, the meal now includes a large order of fries, a large soda, and an ice cream shake. Separately, all of these foods can potentially be part of a balanced diet if included strategically. When all combined into one meal though, they become a combination of the worst foods to eat in America in terms of nutrition and calorie count.
For reference, one meal including a bacon cheeseburger or ten piece fried chicken, as well as a large side of fries, large soda, and ice cream shake, would on average contain: 1,500-2,000 calories, 75-100 grams of fat (at least 5-10 of which are trans-fats), 250-300 grams of carbohydrates, 50-75 grams of protein, and 2,000-3,000 mg of salt.
Of course these numbers will vary depending on where you go to eat, but these foods are hazardous to your health when consumed in excess on a regular basis. This one meal by itself would supply all of the daily recommended intake amounts for fat, carbs, and sodium for an average person – most deservedly fitting the name for some of the worst foods to eat.
When going out and the main course is non-negotiable, there are a few alternatives that can be made at most restaurants to hopefully balance out the healthiness of the meal. Fries and appetizers can be swapped out for a salad, soda can be replaced with zero calorie diet soda or water, and while the dessert menu doesn’t usually have healthy options, it would be wise to split it between the whole table.
Take Home Message
Unhealthy and highly calorific foods will always be part of American culture. Finding the balance between them and nutritious options will be the key to staying healthy and fit. On a daily basis it’s a bad idea to get a breakfast burrito, a burger with fries for lunch, and finally a bucket of colonel’s chicken for dinner. Try to choose a healthier option the majority of the time when you eat out. After some time of making these changes and cutting out a few of the worst foods in America, you’ll notice you have more energy, as well as looser jeans.