Lately I’ve heard a lot of people saying things like “He’s a real phony.” Or “She’s a fake.” Or “He’s not the real deal.” Or “What a fraud.” I’m not a conspiracy theory type of guy, but there is something going on here.

Some say we are the products of what we consume. If that’s true, can eating fake foods disconnect us from reality? Do we even know what we are consuming anymore? Let’s see if you can identify some of the faux foods popular in today’s American diet based on the first dozen or so ingredients on their labels:

#1: Can You Guess This Faux Food?

Mechanically Separated Chicken, Pork, Water, Pasteurized Cheese Product, Water, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Salt and Sodium Alginate. Is this:
A) Alpo dog food
B) Oscar Mayer cheese hot dogs
C) Chef Boyardee Beefaroni
D) McDonald’s Breakfast Barito

The answer is B. Each dog contains nearly 20% of your daily value for saturated fat and salt. Beyond the lack of quality nutrition, the term “mechanically separated” sends a chill through my bones. It reminds me of the 1972 movie Prime Cut, in which Gene Hackman and Lee Marvin had starring roles. There is a terrifying scene in which a cattle rancher throws a man into a wood chipper food type of industrial food processor and grinds him into sausage.

#2: Can You Guess This Faux Food?

Corn Syrup Solids, Vegetable Oil (Partially Hydrogenated Coconut or Palm Kernel, Hydrogenated Soybean), Sodium Caseinate, and less than 2% of Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- and Diglycerides (prevents Oil Separation), Sodium Aluminosilicate, Artificial Flavor and Annatto Color. Is this:
A) Craft Marshmallows
B) Twinkies
C) Coffee Mate
D) Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

The answer is C. Ahh, there is nothing like waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and dipotassium phosphate in the morning!

#3: Can You Guess This Faux Food?

Whey, Canola Oil, Milk, Milk Protein Concentrate, Maltodextrin, Sodium Phosphate, contains less than 2% of Whey Protein Concentrate, Salt, Lactic Acid, Sodium Alginate and Mustard Flour. Is this:
A) Cheese Wiz
B) Hellmann’s non-fat mayonnaise
C) Cheese Doodles
D) Frito Lay French Onion Dip

The answer is A, Cheese Wiz. I found this fascinating because nowhere in the first dozen ingredients does the word “cheese” appear. Perhaps this product should be called “Science Wiz.”

#4: Can You Guess This Faux Food?

Light Bologna made with Mechanically Separated Chicken, Water, Pork, Corn Syrup, Modified Food Starch, contains less than 2% of Salt, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Propionate, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Ascorbate, Flavor, and Sodium Nitrite. Is this:
A) Hormel Spam Lite
B) Hamburger Helper
C) Taco Bell Firecracker Stuffed Jalapenos with Chili Con Queso
D) Oscar Mayer Lunchable Cracker Stackers with Light Bologna and American Cheese

The answer is D. This was an easy one…the first ingredient is a dead giveaway. When you send your children off to school, nothing says, “I love you and have a great day,” more than sodium phosphates, sodium propionate, sodium diacecate, sodium ascorbate and sodium nitrite.

Our immune systems constantly run in a battle stations mode when these chemical weapons appear on our radar. This is why many scientists say cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders and obesity can be traced to our bodies not being designed to digest such highly processed ingredients.

The best bet is to prepare your own food, using ingredients as close to the natural source as possible. If you have to buy prepared foods, read the ingredients label carefully. If the first few words would be unfamiliar to your mother or grandmother, don’t buy it. Your body will thank you for eating foods prepared by chefs rather than chemical engineers. After all, you are what you eat.

What are some of your favorite faux foods? And what substitutions can you make to avoid them.