• Joan Rothchild Hardin

The Standard American Diet (SAD)

What a McDonald’s Commercial Should Look Like

I decided to return to the subject of the Standard American Diet after seeing this comedian’s skit “What a Chicken McNuggets commercial would look like if McDonald’s were being honest”. This is the Standard American Diet – aptly abbreviated as SAD – shown as a pie chart:

Here’s another way of looking at the Standard American Diet – as percentages of calories derived from plant, animal and processed foods:

Source: USDA Economic Research Service, 2009

And the SAD as represented in another pie chart – this one showing the number of calories we get from various sources:

No matter how the Standard American Diet is represented, it’s clearly bad news for our health.

The Standard American Diet is how the vast majority of Americans eat.  It is characterized by high intake of sweets, animal products, cooking oils, high-fat and processed foods. People living on SAD have a higher incidence of  heart disease and cancers. (Fuhrman, 2011) (Hardin, 2013 -a) It is well known that factory farmed and processed foods are more likely to cause illness than organically grown, unprocessed foods. Yet 90 percent of the American food budget is spent on processed and fast foods.  (Schlosser, 2001)

The Standard American Diet is high in refined sugars and red meat, both of which severely acidify the body, producing inflammation – the gateway to many serious ailments. An overly acidic diet is at the core of many symptoms such as fatigue, digestive imbalances, emotional imbalances and anxiety. Adding foods to our daily diet that alkalinize the blood, urine and saliva can help restore balance and health again. (Hardin, 2014 -a)

We all know that adult and childhood obesity has become a serious health issue in the US and elsewhere. Beginning in the 1950′s, when calorie-dense/nutrient poor foods and beverages started becoming standard fare in this country, the number of people consuming the Standard American Diet has steadily risen – much to the detriment of both our microbiota and our overall health. (Hardin, 2013 -c)


McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets

Chicken McNuggets, introduced by McDonald’s in 1983,  consist of small pieces of processed chicken meat that have been battered and deep fried. As of October 9, 2010, the ingredients in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets within the United States are as follows (Wikipedia, 2014): Chicken, water, salt, sodium phosphates. Battered and breaded with bleached wheat flour, water, modified food starch, salt, spices, wheat gluten, paprika, dextrose (sugar), yeast, garlic powder, rosemary, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and cottonseed oil with mono- and diglycerides, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), natural flavor (plant source) with extractives of paprika. Fried in vegetable oil (canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid). Dimethylpolysiloxane is added as an anti-foaming agent. Chicken McNuggets’ ingredients can vary outside the US.

Nutritional value in 10 pieces of Chicken McNuggets – not including sauce (McDonalds, 2014): Chicken McNuggets Nutritional value per 10 pieces (162 g) No sauce Energy 440 kcal (1,800 kJ) Carbohydrates 30 g (10%) Sugars 0 g Dietary fiber 2 g Fat 30 g (44%) Saturated 5 g (25%) Protein 22 g Vitamins Vitamin A equiv. (0%) 0 μg Vitamin C (2%) 2 mg Trace metals Calcium (2%) 20 mg Iron (8%) 1 mg Sodium (60%) 900 mg Other constituents Energy from fat 270 kcal (1,100 kJ) Cholesterol 65 mg (22%) May vary outside United States.

  • Units

  • μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams

  • IU = International units

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. This list doesn’t even include the sauce! The second-most plentiful ingredient in the McDonald’s Sweet Chili Sauce shown below is sugar. The whole ingredients list for this sauce is: Water, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Cayenne Peppers, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Garlic Puree, Dried Red Peppers, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative) (McDonald’s 2014)

McDonald’s Sweet Chili Sauce for Chicken McNuggets

And … you can be sure the ingredients in Chicken McNuggets, their various sauces and the other items on the McDonald’s menu aren’t organic so you’re getting a good dose of genetically modified organisms with each serving.

In case you’re interested in looking at what’s in other McDonald’s dishes, here’s a list of ingredients published by McDonald’s: McDonald’s USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items.