Did you know that some people are eating a “SAD” diet? It’s true! While it may not bring you to tears, it’s something that may give you pause. SAD stands for: Standard American Diet. What is that you ask? It’s a diet (diet meaning the foods you consume) that is generally made up of pre-packaged foods, fast/convenience food, red meat, sugar drinks and snacks, fried food, high-fat dairy, potatoes, and candy. Whereas you might consider a HAPPY diet, to be made up of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, seeds, fish, and low-fat dairy. While at first glance you may think that the SAD diet is full of things that make you happy, in the long run we know the SAD diet can also lead to unsettling health concerns as well.

IF you recognize you are eating more of a SAD diet than a HAPPY one, you aren’t alone! The National Cancer Institute put out a report in 2010 showing three out of four Americans don’t eat even a single piece of fruit a day, while nine out of ten aren’t getting in their daily vegetables either. “In conclusion,” the researchers wrote, “nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.”

If we can all do our part to increase our own health just by eating more healthful foods, we really can make huge strides against the four most common risk factors many Americans face: heart disease/ stroke, diabetes, lung disease and cancer. In Vermont we have our own campaign called 3-4-50. You can find out more at: https://www.healthvermont.gov/3-4-50 But to summarize, right here in Vermont we have found that three behaviors: lack of physical activity, poor diet and tobacco use are the major factors for the four top diseases: heart disease/stroke, diabetes, lung disease and cancer, and these are responsible for 50% of our statewide deaths.

We know that even just increasing from a SAD diet to a HAPPY diet can help us reduce risk, disease, and death. Not to mention, people who eat well often have more motivation, stamina and a desire to move well!

There are simple ways to go from SAD eating to happier consumption, and here are some great tips:

Crowd out the SAD food. If you make it a priority to eat more fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and healthful foods, you literally may not have room (or hunger) for those SAD ones. Instead of focusing on what not to eat, focus on getting in your HAPPY foods first.

You can have it all, just not all at once. Restricting food isn’t a sustainable method for many people. Instead of saying, “I can never eat that again,” say, “I am sticking to one for today.” Choose one of your favorite SAD foods a day, if you love candy, have it once, but try to skip the fried foods, etc. If you already eat a pretty healthful diet, maybe you keep your SAD foods to once a week or a month. It’s not that you “can’t” eat them, it’s that you “can,” eat much more of the others.

Savor your SAD foods. This may sound counterproductive, but it’s not. We all know that if we are watching tv, talking or driving, we probably aren’t savoring the flavors, textures and really experiencing our food. If you love letting a chocolate melt in your mouth, or the buttery crunch of a grilled cheese, make time to savor these. Taking time to savor your SAD foods will be a much more rewarding experience and is proven time and time again to reduce portion sizes. You may also notice that if you slow down, those SAD foods you think you love, aren’t as satisfying as you thought.

If we are what we eat, do you really want to eat a SAD diet? During these times where we are still living in a global pandemic and trying to get through these cold, dark days of winter, a SAD diet could be causing you more risk than you think. Eating a healthful and HAPPY diet will ensure that you are getting all the vitamins, nutrients, and immune boosting protection you need. Together we can help ourselves feel better by eating better, we can help each other, our state and our country as well. Happiness is contagious! Everyone loves to be around happy people! Think about eating for how you want to feel! Let’s see if we can let go of eating SAD and eat a HAPPY diet!


Mary Hoadley