Popular holiday foods that could make for the worst meal ever

Posted by
December 18, 2012

With the bountiful eating season now in full swing, all across the land folks are cooking up (or microwaving up) lovely spreads of what might appear to be real, traditional, festive fare – that is, until you take time to examine the actual ingredients.

On a recent trip to the supermarket, we asked some helpful fellow shoppers to point out their favorite December dishes. What we ended up with was a cornucopia of fake foods that, when put together, might well qualify as the very worst holiday meal ever concocted.

Sure, these products may be quick and easy to prepare and come in appetizing enough packages, but be warned: eating all of these so-called foods will result in your ingesting so many different kinds of chemical additives, we lost count.

First, those side dishes

How is it possible, for instance, that culinary staples such as string beans and potatoes could be transformed into such ‘altered states’?

The Bob Evans brand of green bean casserole and mashed potato sides (adorned with a picture of holly and the message, “Wishing you the happiest of holidays”) may have a “farm-fresh goodness” pledge on the package, but actually delivers a new level of badness that includes such unhealthy additives as partially hydrogenated soybean oil and monosodium glutamate  (along with other “natural” flavors that most likely add more free glutamic acid), and a ‘tasteful’ touch of propylene glycol to “protect the flavor,” as well as various other ingredients you won’t find on any farm. While each starts out with its respective vegetable, it’s all downhill from there.

Another Bob Evans offering, Sour Cream & Chives Mashed Potatoes, which is said to be “America’s #1” on the packaging, also contains several preservatives, partially hydrogenated oil, artificial flavor, artificial color, carrageenan, as well as various other additives you wouldn’t normally associate with sour cream, chives or potatoes.

For step-by-step instructions on how to make real mashed or baked potatoes – with pictures, yet! —click here, or here. ( After watching mashed potato video, I so wanted mashed potatoes that I got up, peeled three russets and followed the instructions in the video. They took all of five minutes to peel 15 minutes to boil and another five to mash and whip. They were absolutely delicious and extremely easy to make.)

Not what Popeye had in mind

Another case of an adulterated vegetable is Birds Eye brand creamed spinach. Here we have a tasty and nutritious vegetable that has been zapped with two MSG associates –autolyzed yeast extract and  hydrolyzed corn gluten. If you long for the taste of real creamed spinach, check out this recipe.

From bad bread….

As I’ve noted on other occasions, there is no excuse whatsoever for bread products having a long list of chemical additives. Bread is a simple food staple that should contain familiar, recognizable ingredients.  The Pillsbury Grands! rolls that were recommended by numerous shoppers were so popular there were only two left in the display case by the time we got there. What you’ll get with these “biscuits” is a false promise of 0 grams of trans fat (as they contain hydrogenated oils, the main source of these artery cloggers), along with some propylene glycol alginate, the preservative TBHQ and artificial color. Some packaged breads have better ingredients – but you’ve got to read the label. That also holds true for the breads available from supermarket bakery departments.

…comes even worse stuffing

What happens when you take less than stellar bread, mix it with some high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, add a preservative, then dump some highly salted chicken stock containing yeast extract (more free glutamic acid) on it? Stuffing, of course!

That particular recipe comes direct from Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix, along with the package-suggested Swanson (“Natural Goodness”) Chicken Broth, which, by the way, makes a false label claim of “No MSG Added.”

Various natural and organic stuffing mixes can be found if you take a moment to check out the ingredients before you stuff them in your shopping cart.

The turkey solution – or is it turkey in a solution

We were advised by several shoppers to go for the Butterball turkey breast roast, which they described  as “easier,” “fast,” and “delicious.” What we found was a turkey breast containing “up to 20% of a solution.” The “solution” is a salted water concoction containing “natural flavor” (an unknown, unregulated, and never-disclosed ingredient), modified food starch and sodium phosphate to “enhance tenderness and juiciness.”

Most every supermarket will also offer a variety of fresh and frozen no-additive turkeys including at least one organic brand. Our advice is to avoid anything in a “solution,” or that is “deep basted.”

At least the pie is homemade!

Of all the folks who gave shopping suggestions, the most friendly and helpful was a sweet grandma who advised that “everyone loves a cook who can make a homemade pie.”  She then led us to her “special” secret, Pillsbury ready-made pie crusts. “No one will know it comes from a box,” she said, adding, “don’t forget the apple pie filling!”

Containing partially hydrogenated lard with two preservatives and two artificial colors, this pie crust is not only a hotbed of bad ingredients, but a misrepresentation of perhaps the most cherished pie in America! Add some canned  apple pie filling with high fructose corn syrup and it qualifies as a complete homemade lie.

So don’t fall prey to the “fast and easy” con artists who claim to be selling you traditional holiday foods the popularity of which merely goes to prove the validity of the P.T. Barnum adage, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”