How nutritious and calorific is your favorite American food?

Many foreigners don’t like American food. They stereotype and make presumptions that American food is all greasy, salty, boring, and unhealthy. I was no exception.
However, after having lived in the US for several months and experienced the food tastes here myself. I must say, they taste not bad at all!
Being food-conscious, I had researched prior to coming that many of the foods here i.e. ready-made, will taste great and addictive due to their highly engineered nature. I told myself that since I am so health-wise, I could use my psychology to overcome this chemical seduction. Wrong!
Yep, I made a total fail! I wouldn’t say I gained the freshman fifteen but I was pretty close.. But, I am on the road for a brighter future with the drastic improvements in my diet.
This post act as a personal guide for making better “American food choices”. I have analyzed the most dangerous components of a few favourite American foods – the calories and nutrition content.
First, let’s start with breakfast
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Sesame bagel
One plain bagel (98 g)
Calories: 245
Nutrition:
Total Fat 1.5 g  2% DV
Cholesterol 0 mg  0%
Sodium 430 mg  17%
Potassium 162 mg  4%
Total Carbohydrate 48 g  16%
Dietary fiber 4 g  16%
Sugar 6 g
Protein 10 g  20%
Calcium  2%
Iron  15 %
Vitamin B-6  5%
Magnesium  12%
And trust me, even if you choose the whole wheat ones or fruit ones, it wouldn’t add a lot to the nutrients i.e. vitamins/minerals either.
This is because there is only so many additional ingredients they can put in to achieve ‘the bagel’ – yeast-leavened, soft interior, chewy outer shell bread. Otherwise, it would be something else.
Bagel is basically a ball of (refined white flour) dough, the plain ones, even much so. When you compare this with another popular breakfast food, oatmeal, you see the difference in nutritional quality. For example, oatmeal = less than 2/3 of the calories in one serving (1 cup, cooked), contains 20% vitamin A, 16% more calcium, 30% more vitamin B-6, 62% more iron, etc. Oatmeal is cheap too, so why not opt for this?
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Everything bagel with cream cheese
Addition: Adding one tbsp of peanut butter = 94 more calories, a bit more fiber, protein, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.
Adding one tbsp of cream cheese = 49 more calories, some fat, and not much else.
After all, these are condiments so they are not made to be nutrient-rich.
On to lunch:
Chicken tenders w/ fries
Typical meal of chicken tenders w/ fries
One serving of chicken tenders without fries
Calories: 622 which is already 33% of a typical daily value intake! And this is only one component of lunch.
Nutrition:
Total Fat 40.7 g
Cholesterol 101.8 mg  34%
Sodium 1170.9 mg  49%
Total Carbohydrate 40.7 g
Dietary fiber 2.5 g  10%
Sugar 2.5 g
Protein 30.5 g
Vitamin C  5%
Iron  10 %
I have no idea where the Vitamin C could come from? Maybe plant components of the batter? Because last time I checked, chicken isn’t vegetable..
I was surprised that chicken tenders contained more carbohydrate than protein! But when you look at the amount of batter coated around the chicken, you can see why.
Addition: French fries, who doesn’t have chicken tenders without fries? 7 ounces = 314 more calories, 10.6 g more fat, 19% of DV fiber. Sound a bit more wholesome? This would total to 936 calories or nearly 47% DV of calories. And this minus any other addition like drinks or fruits/dessert.
Speaking of dessert, this gets me to move onto the next set of foods..
Thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie
Thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie
Aren’t we all obsessed with chocolate chip cookies? The epitome of American comfort food. It’s difficult to have more than once piece, but are they worth it?
One chocolate chip cookie (about the size of your palm, without fingers)
Calories: 257
Nutrition:
Total fat 13 g
Cholesterol 20.5 mg  7%
Sodium 87.5 mg  4%
Total carbohydrate 33.8 g
Dietary fiber 0.8 g  3%
Sugar 20.9 g
Protein 2.5 g
Calcium  1%
Iron  7%
Who would have thought such a light dessert can have so many calories? Nearly 300 or 15% of your DV. Many people would probably have at least two pieces which would equate to almost 30% of your DV.
But it’s not just the calories to be aware of, it’s the nutritional content. Each cookie has no vitamins nor minerals what so ever, incredibly small amount of protein, and loaded with fat which in large amounts is bad for your health or skin. Cookies are basically empty sugars (flour and sugar) and fat (tip: a way to judge a food product’s fat content is by examining the “calories from fat”. For this particular chocolate chip cookie it is 118 calories. In other words, nearly half of this cookie is fat/butter/shortening).
When I have raspberry oat bars or white chocolate, walnuts, and cranberries cookies I always convince myself that at least I am eating whole grains and fiber.. But as I mentioned with the bagel, these variations still contain a huge amount of the original’s ingredients which makes them look and feel like what they are. And the key ingredients which makes cookies cookies are fat and sugar.
In conclusion, the ‘unhealthy’ labelled food you eat, are exactly what they have been classified as: unhealthy. Just think about the methods in cooking them, for example, chicken nugget or tenders. Anything coming out of the frier or coated in batter can never be healthy. And think back over how you make cookies and the ingredients that goes in them: sugar, flour, butter, oil, etc. You wouldn’t imagine having flour mixed with oil for lunch, would you?
So, perhaps it’s time to reach for healthier alternatives to these old favorites? I know I will be doing that.
– Izzy