What are alternatives to processed foods?

In the spirit of Halloween, let’s explore a frightening phenomenon in our diets – foods that masquerade as innocent edibles while concealing a myriad of perplexing ingredients behind their benign exteriors. It’s easy to grab items off the shelf without a second thought, but taking a moment to decipher what’s in our food might lead to some much-needed reflection.

Guess that meal:

  • Whole Corn, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Canola, Soybean and/or Sunflower), Maltodextrin, Salt, Tomato Powder, Corn Starch, Lactose, Whey, Skim Milk, Corn Syrup Solids, Onion Powder, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Dextrose, Malic Acid, Buttermilk, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Acetate, Artificial Color (Including Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5), Sodium Caseinate, Spice, Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate.
  • Poultry Ingredients (Mechanically Separated Chicken, Mechanically Separated Turkey), Pork, Water, Corn Syrup, Modified Food Starch, Dextrose, Salt, Contains 2% Less of Beef, Extract of Paprika, Flavorings, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Phosphate, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
  • Milk, Water, Milk Protein Concentrate*, Whey*, Cheese Culture, Modified Food Starch*, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Skim Milk*, Lactic Acid, Potassium Citrate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Sodium Phosphate, Cream, Color Added, Tetra Sodium Pyrophosphate, Enzymes
  • Enriched Wheat Flour, Water, Sugar, Yeast, Soybean and/or Canola Oil, Salt, Soy Flour, Calcium Propionate, Vegetable Monoglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate, May contain Wheat Gluten, Sorbic Acid.
  • Pure Filtered Water, Concentrated Apple Juice, Calcium Citrate, Vitamin C, Potassium Phosphate


Can you guess? Doritos, a bologna and cheese sandwich on white sandwich bread, and apple juice. Yikes. That’s a lot of words for those three components of what seems to pass as a “normal lunch.”  So what’s all that stuff, the endless list of nitrates, phosphates and more? The number of ingredients in each of these food items is what’s alarming – preservatives, added sugars … chemicals. The longer the list, the more processed the product. Very Frankenstein — very in line with the season, right?

We want Frankenstein on our screens, for decorations, and to ring our doorbells, but not for lunch!

Always be suspicious of a food item that has a shelf-life longer than that of a tortoise. It’s just a good rule of thumb. So, what’s for lunch? How can we make sure we’re eating healthy?


  • Check the Label: Keep it simple. If you can’t pronounce it, skip it. Look for foods with just a handful of ingredients. More ingredients usually mean more processing, which isn’t ideal.
  • Sunday Chicken Roast: Swap out bologna with roasted chicken (or try shredded or roast beef, turkey, or tuna). You’ll have fewer ingredients to worry about – just chicken, salt, pepper, and spices.
  • Choose Real Cheese: Opt for genuine cheeses like mozzarella or provolone. “Real cheese” typically contains milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, and maybe some vitamin A.
  • Explore Beyond Bread: While unprocessed bread has a short shelf life, you have other options. Wraps and pita bread are less processed choices. They need refrigeration but offer filling and healthier alternatives. Consider cucumber or apple sandwiches with cheese and meats, or whip up some morning crepes.
  • Hydration Matters: Water should be the go-to for quenching thirst. Beverages can pack a lot of sugar, calories, and preservatives (when they come from the shelf).
  • Snack Wisely: Swap chips for fresh fruits, vegetables with hummus, baked apple crisps, homemade muffins, or banana bread. If you are craving chips, choose packages with minimal ingredients like potatoes, salt, and oil. It’s not the healthiest option, but it’s better than an alphabet soup of unpronounceables.


Make healthier choices for health and ditch those Frankenstein meals. Healthy eating can reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular and heart health, improve symptoms of autoimmune diseases, increase your chances of healthy fertility, and more. And it doesn’t cost a fortune to eat well. Clean up your pantry with straightforward, wholesome foods this year. A few simple changes to our routines and a heightened awareness of those cryptic food ingredients and additives can lead to healthier lunches.