We know the obvious foods that are high in fat—and evidently, we love them. In one year the average American will eat 23 lbs of pizza, 29 lbs of french fries, 24 lbs of ice cream, and 31.4 lbs of cheese! But if you read labels before you buy, you may be surprised which foods are hiding fats. For instance, salad dressings, butter, peanut butter, avocados, and even vegetarian burgers may be healthy, but high in fat. Trans fats are the worst because they raise the “bad” cholesterol in our blood and lower the “good.”
Too much sugar is another problem. The average American eats 141.6 lbs of caloric sweeteners each year and 42 lbs of corn syrup. And for those of us who think we’re doing our bodies a favor by choosing artificial sweeteners, we need to think again. The average intake is 24 lbs a year. We know the obvious foods that contain sugar: cake, candy, doughnuts, dessert, bread, and cookies are favorites of many. But once again, if you read labels, you’ll find hidden sugars in items such as catsup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, and molasses. Also, be aware that sugar may be listed under other names such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, lactose, and others.
Another hidden additive is salt, and we Americans eat 47 percent over the recommended allowance each year. Seasonings, canned soup, potato chips, crackers, and salted nuts can easily take us far above a safe amount.
When it comes to what we drink, we could really improve here, too. The average American drinks 53 gallons of soda each year. That’s about a gallon of pop per week! These beverages have taken the place of what we need to be drinking most—water.
Unless we’re proactive about reading labels, we probably are unknowingly putting our bodies at risk. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, cancer, and obesity can be the result of an unhealthy diet. You can’t go wrong when buying fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, and dried foods like legumes, oats, and whole wheat. So the next time you go to buy food that someone else has made, stop and read the label. Check the fat and caloric count. Look for hidden fat, sugar, and salt. Then decide whether you want to put that in your body, or back on the shelf.
Nancy Canwell writes from the Pacific Northwest.