15 Regional Eating Habits in the U.S.
Time to ‘fess up: Do you dip everything in ranch dressing? Or do you hit the drive-thru at least once a week? Whether you answer yes or no to these questions could depend on where you live. Yes, regional eating habits are very real.
Just like fashion and accents, eating habits can vary from region to region. There are some distinct differences in the healthy (and not-so-healthy!) habits we keep, based almost entirely on our location on the planet. This list is all in good fun, so chuckle along with us—and shake your head—at some of the most common food habits we have around the United States.
Ranch on Everything
“Can I get a side of ranch?”
Go to any bar and grill in the Midwestern states and you’ll probably hear a customer ask that question if you wait long enough. Ranch—especially buttermilk ranch—is a staple in the middle states, serving as a creamy dip for salad, french fries, buffalo wings, chicken nuggets, and much more.
There’s even an all-ranch restaurant in St. Louis. Twisted Ranch offers ranch as its dip of choice in its one-of-a-kind location, offering 18 varieties including Tzatziki, Chipotle, and Thai.
Our recommendation? Just make sure your favorite ranch dressing isn’t on this list of 16 Salad Dressings Worse Than Chocolate Syrup!
Melt On Some Velveeta
For the uninformed, Kraft Velveeta Cheese is a “cheese-like” product that melts easily and is used frequently in grilled cheese or mac and cheese. Or even drizzled over cooked vegetables, like broccoli. As a Midwesterner, I grew up eating Velveeta slices in the sandwiches my mom made. Should you follow suit? Nope! Velveeta is a highly-processed product. Just eat the real thing; it’s so much better.
Beef and Corn Forever
The Midwest has a reputation for eating a lot of beef and corn—and it’s absolutely true! Three of the top five beef-producing states—Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma—are in the Midwest. And all 10 of the top corn-producing states are located in the Midwest, with #1 being Iowa. It may be one of the vegetables that are high in starchy carbs, but enjoying some corn-on-the-cob is a summer must in the Midwest.
All the Veggies
The Midwest might be known for producing vegetables, but the west coast eats the most of them. According to the CDC, adults in California and Oregon eat the most vegetables and fruits. The west is also home to more healthy food retailers and farmers’ markets. This area of the country actually has more farmers’ markets that accept nutritional assistance programs, meaning more people have access to healthy produce. Speaking of farmers’ markets, find out the 15 Things You Should Only Buy at the Farmer’s Market!
Seafood is Life
Seafood—especially when it’s in sushi form—is another staple on the west coast, thanks to the region’s proximity to the ocean. Fresh, just-caught fish is plentiful around the many seaports along the coast. The world’s most famous fresh fish market—Pike Place Fish Market—is located in Seattle.
Luckily, the market ships to several locations, making it easier for anyone in the United States to get the heart-friendly omega-3s found in many different types of fish.
Too Much Juicing
Juicing might be a more recent trend in the rest of the country, but people on the west coast have been on the juice train for years. The effects of a juice cleanse can range from appetite suppression to sugar overload, and most experts say you’re better off eating the full fruits and veggies for their body-friendly fiber.
“People can feel increased energy due to the quick-absorbing carbohydrates and hydration,” says lalifechef.com’s Seth Santoro. “However, in the long term, cleanses with low fiber and protein could hurt your body.”
The West is synonymous with In-and-Out Burger, mostly because it’s the only place in the country you can get it. The simple burger and fry joint can pack in a lot of unhealthy calories—a cheeseburger with onion and fries can cost you upwards of 900 calories. But many people will agree it’s worth the splurge!
Fast Food Overload
KFC, Popeyes, McDonald’s…these are just a few of the dozens of fast food restaurants that take up a ton of real estate in the South. Kentucky has the most fast food joints per capita in the U.S.—four restaurants for every 10,000 people—and Alabama consumes the most fast food, followed by Kentucky and Louisiana. The in-your-face availability of fast food is undoubtedly a huge contributor to the number of southern states that top obesity lists. If you find yourself stuck at a fast food joint, be prepared with these 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Fast Food!
Some of the best food in the South—chicken, potatoes, beignets—are fried, meaning they’re full of fat and calories. Many traditional southern meals are cooked in high-fat, high-calorie lard and oils, making it pretty unfriendly to your heart. That’s not good, especially since southern states also top the list of states with the most heart disease, according to CDC data.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
A Family Focus
Sunday dinner—where families come together to eat a large meal to end the week—is a regular occurrence in the south. It’s a great way for families to bond and see extended families, and it provides some notable health benefits, too. According to Cornell University, children who regularly eat with their families are 35 percent less likely to have an eating disorder, are 24 percent more likely to eat healthier, and 12 percent less likely to be overweight.
Keepin’ It Spicy
Another staple in southern kitchens is hot sauce. Whether it’s Frank’s Red Hot or just plain peppers, adding spice to foods amps up the flavor without adding a ton of extra calories. Plus, several different types of spices have been shown to actually help burn belly fat. Pass the Tabasco, please!
Bagels, donuts, hot dogs, $1 pizza slices, falafels! You can walk on almost any street of a large eastern city and find vendors offering various street eats for people on-the-go. It’s a convenient option, but a lot of the food offered is greasy and lacking nutrition. Food trucks are regulated just like brick-and-mortar restaurants, but cross-contamination in such a confined space is easy to imagine; be on the lookout for any sketchy practices before you place your order.
Brunch on the Regular
Planning a boozy Sunday brunch is a must-do in the East, especially in New York City. It’s a great way to reconnect with friends after a long week. But all the eating—and the boozy brunch cocktails!—can pack in the calories pretty quickly. There are plenty of ways for brunch enthusiasts to pare down brunch and avoid bad breakfast habits without ruining the fun—which is a good thing since skipping brunch would be unheard of!
Pretzels, Pretzels Everywhere
A day at the ballpark isn’t complete without a big, salty pretzel—and there’s a pretty good chance that it came from the east. In fact, Pennsylvania is the place where 80 percent of the pretzels in the United States are baked!
Soup and Seafood Are Tops
You can’t deny that the northeast does the best chowder—especially clam chowder. And Cape Cod gives the west a serious run for its money when it comes to seafood; the area’s specialties include crab, shrimp, and, of course, clams. The big difference between east and west? The seafood in the east is routinely buttered (hello, lobster rolls) and fried up (hiya, fried clams), compared to the west’s focus on fresh sushi.