SAD Truth: More than 60% of Calories from Highly Processed Foods

bag-of-chipsIn light of a new study from the University of North Carolina, the nickname given to the standard American diet—SAD—seems more fitting than ever. That’s because study author Jennifer Poti and her team determined that more than 60% of our total daily calories come from heavily processed foods loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt.

Researchers looked at grocery purchasing data from more than 157,000 American households, which included over 1 million different products. What they found was that the biggest chunk of calories came from highly processed foods such as pre-packaged meals, refined breads, chips, snacks, desserts, candy, and sugary drinks—all of which have been linked to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and more.

These findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, point out that not all processed foods are bad, since pasteurized milk as well as frozen fruits and veggies undergo minimal processing, but that Americans clearly seem to prefer their highly processed foods—those defined as “multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source.”

The bottom line is this: we are consuming nearly 1,000 calories a day from foods that barely even resemble real food, but it is never too late to make smarter choices. Experts suggest cooking more meals at home with simple, fresh ingredients such as poultry, seafood, and non-starchy veggies; swapping unhealthy snacks for low-sugar fruits, plain Greek yogurt, and nuts; and replacing sugary drinks and soda with purified water.

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Get Grilling! 3 Delicious Father’s Day Recipes

grilled_fishPlanning on grilling out this weekend? Instead of the same ol’ burgers and brats, show dad the love with healthier choices like chicken and seafood, along with fresh veggies and seasonal fruits. Here are three quick and easy recipes to help you get started!

Zesty Chicken Burgers
Serves 2, double as necessary

½ pound ground chicken
2 shallots, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. cayenne
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, halved

Directions: Mix all ingredients except lemon in a large bowl. Shape into patties and chill for 30 minutes to set. Place patties on a gas or charcoal grill and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. Squeeze lemon over cooked burgers and serve with salad greens or grilled veggies.

Grilled Salmon with Mango Relish
Serves 2, double as necessary

½ small mango, pulp removed, diced
2 tbsp. diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp. diced red onion
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. grated lime zest
½ tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
Two 4-oz. fillets wild salmon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions: To prepare the relish, combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl; chill 1 hour. Before grilling, season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Grill until fish begins to flake, about 4 minutes per side. Top with relish and serve.

Grilled Shrimp & Veggie Kebabs
Serves 2, double as necessary

Ingredients (kebabs):
½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large onion, quartered and cut into thick slices
1 large red bell pepper, cut into large slices
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into large slices
10 cherry tomatoes

Ingredients (dressing):
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Soak wooden skewers in water for 10 minutes (to prevent burning during cooking). Thread shrimp and veggies onto skewers. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, parsley and black pepper; drizzle over kebabs. Grill over medium heat approximately 3 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

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