Hope your Memorial Day was wonderful! Let's get back to our topic at hand:
There are two ways to solve the problem of chemically laden bad food: Whole foods or adapted foods. Although whole foods eating is the healthiest, sometimes you just want some good old mac & cheese, so you turn to adapted foods. Depending on your resources, you can really go either way--or both.
Health food stores have many of our old favorites done in a more nutritious way. For instance, Annie's is a popular brand that's made it's way into even our little Wal-Mart. You can buy all sorts of products under Annie's label-even macaroni & cheese. It's whole grain and organic and free of the big bad 3 (MSG, hydrogenated oil & processed sugars). It's processed food still, so it needs to hold only a limited spot in a whole foods diet.
While transitioning into a whole foods diet, altered foods may be the way to go (totally my description by the way, if you walk into Whole Foods asking for altered foods, they're going to look back at you like you have two heads).
Here are some substitutions I use-we'll start with the list of things to rid your house of and go from there:
Margarine-butter, preferably organic.
Most processed lunch meats-look for nitrite/nitrate free varieties. Our WalMart carries one brand (down from two they used to carry). I think Super Target carries some in their deli.
Hot dogs-well, this is a hard one. Again, you don't want nitrites/nitrates (they're cancerous) but really you know what hot dogs are made of, right? I've compromised and bought Oscar Meyer I think, it says no artificial bla bla bla and something indicating it's not lips & tips. If you have access to a larger selection, you could probably find kosher, nitrite/nitrate free varieties.
Colas-sorry, we drink water or unsweetened tea (well, I only drink it, no one else will touch unsweet tea. Alternatively, you could sweeten you tea with honey or experiment with other healthy sweeteners which I'll talk about later.
Processed Cheese Products (not cheese, just the fake kind, especially Velveeta)-okay, I still make "rotel" once a year or so, but in casseroles calling for Velveeta, I've been replacing it with real cheddar cheese and it's tasted great.
Sugar laden breakfast cereals-due to high milk consumption and the price of cereal for a family our size, I've heavily reduced our cereal intake. I make oatmeal with a variety of toppings including homemade whipped cream (just whip cream, add maple syrup and viola!), strawberries, blueberries when affordable, maple syrup-the real stuff, and nuts. Also, breakfast burritos, eggs, homemade biscuits, homemade muffins, homemade pancakes. The last three can be made ahead for busy mornings.
Mac & cheese (boxed, not home made) There's always Annie's, also my mom's made her own mac & cheese for years...but I do think she uses Velveeta. I recall seeing some homemade recipes on allrecipes.com, so you could probably make your own.
Frozen dinners (prepared foods, not frozen fruits & veggies). We don't really buy these because they taste good do we? No-because they usually don't! We buy them so we don't have to cook. Instead, cook ahead and freeze the meal, double a recipe for dinner then freeze half for next week, use your crock pot instead, or have a list of super simple meals for busy evenings.
Chips Steer clear of most flavored chips, that's where the MSG comes in. Stay basic-there are some corn and tortilla chips that are good, also try the natural Cheetos and other varieties you can probably find in your store. Sunchips are also MSG & hydrogenated oil free. Remember, these are still processed foods, so they shouldn't be a staple, just a treat.
Candy There are "healthy" chocolate coated candies like M&Ms in health food stores, but you could also transition into healthier sweets like fruit. Once your taste buds are not used to super sweet sodas & candy, nothing will taste better than the natural sweetness of a ripe peach or piece of watermelon. I'll include recipes for desserts later, so don't despair!
Most canned soups learn to make your own (I don't make cream of ________ yet, but my basic cookbooks have recipes for them), shop from the health food store or buy Healthy Request from Campbells, which I've found to be MSG free.
Canned meals like Spaghetti-Os Well, there's probably not a good sub, just freeze your own portion sized leftovers. Once you eat whole foods, this stuff starts to taste like the crap it is (sorry, that's the only word that fits).
Fake juices like Sunny Delight, Hawaiian Punch, Gatorade (think colored sugary chemicals). Just don't. If you must do juice (again, it's a heck of a lot of sugar--way more than you'd get actually eating the fruit whole), dilute it, or only drink in a small amount. For some fun, add lemon or lime slices to a pitcher of water (be careful not to squeeze too much juice in though, it'll taste bitter).
Here are more that didn't make the list in the earlier post:
Coffee-I still drink coffee, I just sweeten it with maple syrup and add some milk instead of cream, unless I have raw milk, then I use cream off the top (yum!).
Chocolate Chips-for a small fortune, you can get a bag of grain sweetened chocolate chips or carob (a root that tastes similar to chocolate) chips from the health food store. They cost about double what a bag of Toll House chips cost.
Jelly-Smuckers Spreadable Fruit comes in several flavors and I can't tell the difference between this kind and the regular jellies.
White Sugar-It's not a perfect substitute, but there is a minimally processed sugar cane product called Rapadura from the Rapunzel company. It seems very similar to me to Sucanut. It's not as refined as white sugar, so it retains some of it's nutrients. I'll talk about white sugar later, but this is what I use in recipes like pizza crust and corn bread when they call for white sugar.
Eggs-it's best if you can find local free range eggs, in rural areas anyway, there are often many women selling them. I have a friend who sells them for about $2 a dozen, which is a steal compared to Wal-Marts free range organic eggs. Recently my mom started getting them from a family friend who simply gives them away. Nourishing Traditions states that free range eggs have much more omega 3s and 6s than regular eggs.