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5 American Foods That Are Made Healthier in Europe

These ingredient lists differ between the U.S. and the U.K.

Trying new local cuisines at the source is one of the best things about traveling. But it can also be fun to try foods that you normally eat at home and compare how they're different from what you're used to. For instance, while some portions might be smaller and other dishes might include slightly different variations to suit regional preferences, there are a few American foods that are simply made healthier in other countries.

"Big food industry would say that European countries take a more precautionary approach," says dietitan Johna Burdeos. "My question is: Why? Why do they need to be more precautious?"

Burdeos adds, "What (or who) would it hurt to make the [American] food the same way it's made in other countries? What is the risk or harm of removing ingredients that aren't in the foods in other countries?"

As Dr. Heather Rayle, The Paleo Diet Coach, explains, "These foods demonstrate why consumers need to read nutrition labels! Between multiple sweeteners listed (often several sweeteners are used to avoid listing one sweetener as a major component of the foods), the artificial food dyes, and the synthetic chemicals used as stabilizers and preservatives, consumers need to understand what they are consuming when they eat processed foods like these."

The following are examples of American foods that come in healthier versions in Europe.

And don't miss 5 American Food Ingredients That Are Banned in Other Countries.

Heinz Ketchup

heinz ketchup
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Dr. Rayle says that when it comes to Heinz Ketchup, "the U.S. version contains both high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and corn syrup as the main ingredients after tomatoes." The FDA explains that while "HFCS is derived from corn starch," it "is 'high' in fructose compared to the pure glucose that is in corn syrup." According to Dr. Rayle, "HFCS poses a health risk when consumed in large amounts."

The U.K. version of Heinz Ketchup, on the other hand, "uses cane sugar," as Dr. Rayle notes, adding that "while sugar isn't the best choice in a diet it does not contain fructose so it is a better choice as a sweetener."

Quaker Instant Oatmeal Packets

quaker instant oatmeal packs
Zety Akhzar / Shutterstock

According to Dr. Rayle, there is more than one reason why the U.K. version of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Packets is healthier than the one that you can buy in American grocery stores. "The U.S. version contains artificial strawberry flavor (made in a lab) while the U.K. version has freeze-dried pieces of fruit," Dr. Rayle points out, adding that the U.S. version also contains synthetic food dye.

Mountain Dew

plastic bottles of mountain dew
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It's no secret that certain beverages aren't great for your body. In fact, soda might be even worse for your health than you thought. That goes for various kinds of soda, including Mountain Dew. Dr. Rayle notes that "the U.S. version contains both HFCS and orange juice concentrate sweeteners while the U.K. version uses cane sugar." Additionally, the coloring agent used in the American version is a synthetic chemical, Yellow 5, while the U.K. version uses coloring derived from beta carotene, found in carrots.

McDonald's French Fries

Mcdonald's french fries on red tray

Just like soda, fast food doesn't tend to be the healthiest option and it turns out it's even unhealthier in the U.S. as opposed to what diners are eating in the U.K. That's due to the fact that the U.S. version contains dimethylpolysiloxane, a chemical used to defoam the cooking oil, which is something that the fast-food chain leaves out over in the U.K.

According to food ingredient investigator Vani Hari, aka Food Babe, "The FDA allows dimethylpolysiloxane to be preserved by several different chemicals that don't have to be listed on the label either, including formaldehyde! Formaldehyde is one of the most toxic substances on earth. It is linked to allergies, brain damage, cancer, and auto-immune disorders."


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"This 'food' is a great example of artificial flavorings being used to enhance the palatability of a food," according to Dr. Rayle. "The U.S. version uses corn syrup solids, sugar, and dextrose as sweeteners while the U.K. version uses sugar and glucose syrup (sugar solution)."

That's not all. When it comes to Doritos, "the U.S. version utilizes three synthetic coloring agents while the U.K. version uses annatto, which is derived from a seed and is a more natural product."

Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy snack options that you'll surely find just as tasty.

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée