The Best and Worst American Classics

  • Reviewed By: Christine Mikstas, RD, LD
Reviewed on 11/16/2020

Best: Turkey Sandwich

Turkey is rich in protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc while whole-grain bread prevents a spike in blood sugar.

Start with whole-grain bread instead of white. Whole-grain bread slows down how carbs get into your blood. The meat is high in protein and low in fat. Turkey also has B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Add lettuce, tomato, and mustard to give it some pizzazz, but skip the mayo, which adds fat and calories.

Worst: Bacon Cheeseburger

Bacon, beef, and cheese are high in saturated fat and calories, which are bad for your waistline and arteries.

No surprise here. The ground beef, bacon, and cheese are all loaded with calories and fat. You can easily eat more than half of your calories for the day and go way over on your saturated fat. And that's if you don't add fries.

A typical bun made from white flour adds simple carbs that could spike your blood sugar, too

Best: Popcorn

Popcorn is rich in fiber and antioxidants.

Its fiber fills you up and keeps you regular. Antioxidants help protect against disease and cell damage, too.

A cup of popcorn has less than a quarter of the calories of the same amount of potato chips, and it satisfies you better. Go easy on the butter, salt, cheese, and other stuff. They can add fat and calories.

Worst: Flavored Potato Chips

Flavored potato chips are high in fat and sugar, which you don't need.

Potatoes are vegetables, right? So what's so bad about them? Well nothing, until you fry them up in oil and cover them in chemicals to flavor and preserve them. Then they become a calorie-dense fat and salt bomb. In the case of flavored chips like barbecue and sour cream and onion, sugar is often added, too.

Best: Steak Salad

Steak salad with lots of veggies and a light dressing is a healthy meal choice.

It's a way to get your red meat fix while keeping fat, simple carbs, and calories to a minimum. The only big variable is the dressing, which can add a lot of fat and sugar if you're not careful. But a salad with vegetables and lean filet dressed lightly with a bit of oil and vinegar or lime juice makes for a healthy and satisfying meal.

Worst: Philly Cheese Steak

Philly cheese steak is high in saturated fat and calories and you'll get extra doses of carbs and sugar if you eat it with fries and a soda.

So much fat drips from this steak and cheese sandwich that there's a special stance, the "Philly lean," that experts say you should use to keep it from dripping onto your shirt.

Add the white bread it's on and combo it with fries and a soda and you could get close to your calorie limit for the day in a single meal.

Best: Spaghetti Marinara

Pasta has a low glycemic index and marinara protects your heart health.

Pasta has a low glycemic index, which means your body absorbs it more slowly and it keeps you satisfied longer. As part of a balanced diet, it might even lower your body fat. But keep it chewy. Your body absorbs mushy, overcooked pasta more quickly. That could spike your blood sugar.

Tomatoes in your sauce can protect your heart health and help keep cancer away. Just watch for added salt and sugar in bottled sauces.

Worst: Mac And Cheese

Milk, cheese, cream, white flour, and bread crumbs may mac and cheese unhealthy to eat more often than just occasionally.

It's loaded with calories and fat, including the saturated type. That might have something to do with the fact that it often includes milk, cheese, cream, white flour, and bread crumbs.

It's not that you can't ever have it. It's just not a good idea to eat it regularly.

Best: Caesar Salad

Caesar salad made with romaine, eggs, grilled chicken, olive oil, and anchovies makes a light meal.

If the only thing that "romaines" in your fridge is some romaine lettuce and eggs, don't fret. You have almost everything you need for this satisfying and nutritious feast. Eggs have vitamin D and amino acids. The lettuce is loaded with B vitamins, iron, and potassium. You could also use some grilled chicken, croutons, olive oil, mustard, and, if you're adventurous, anchovies.

Worst: Nachos

Nachos doused in fat, salt, cheese, beef, and sour cream are not a healthy food choice.

The tortilla chips are fried in fat and covered in salt. The meat, often beef, has more fat, as does the cheese and sour cream that can go on top. Sauces and salsas can add more salt. It all adds up to a meal that could meet or exceed your calorie, sodium, and saturated fat recommendations for the day.

Best: Grilled Chicken

Seasoned, skinless grilled chicken is low in fat and is a healthy food choice.

Skinless chicken breast is low in fat. You can use a spice rub or simple marinade and throw it on the grill. It's high-protein, low-fat, and low-calorie, especially compared to the burgers or sausages that might share space on your grill.

Any extra fat from leftover skin or oil should be on the outside and will drip away during cooking. If you don't have a grill, you can broil your chicken in the oven.

Worst: Buffalo Wings

Deep fried buffalo wings are high in fat, calories, sodium, and chemical preservatives.

Take the fattiest, dark meat of a chicken -- the legs and wings -- leave the skin on so there's even more fat, dredge them in white flour, deep fry them in oil, and cover them in a sauce with lots of chemical preservatives and lots of salt. Then dip them into blue cheese or ranch sauce with more calories and fat. The result: a big nutritional price.

Best: Berry Oat Crisp

Oats, nuts, and fruit in berry oat crisp make is a healthy choice as long as it is not high in white flour, sugar, and butter.

Look for recipes with more oats, nuts, and fruit, and less white flour, sugar, and butter. Berries are low-calorie and have antioxidants that help keep your veins flexible and your blood pressure low.

Oats have soluble fiber that can lower your cholesterol and boost your immune system. They also have antioxidants to protect your cells. Nuts have "healthy fats" like omega-3s that are good for your heart health, and they fill you up.

Worst: New York Cheesecake

New York cheesecake is high in cheese, milk, cream, sugar, sour cream, and butter, which are unhealthy ingredients.

Cheese, milk, cream, sugar, sour cream, and butter are just some of the ingredients in this sugar, fat, and calorie spectacular. And if that's not enough, many recipes add a crust made from graham crackers or cookies. It might be best to have a bite of your friend's slice and leave it at that.

The Best and Worst American Classics

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