The news that hot dogs, bacon, and other processed foods could be causing colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers, hit me like a punch to the gut. In fact, it made me feel like how I might feel after consuming one too many hot dogs at a backyard barbeque — sick and deeply uncomfortable. 

I felt angry that I’d not only eaten my weight in hot dogs — many, many times over in my lifetime — but also that I’ve fed hot dogs to my children on more occasions than I can count. Have I been reckless with my health and theirs?

Have I shaved years off my life or put myself at risk of a painful, deadly disease simply by eating food that tastes good and is as universal and all-American as a Sunday family get-together?

After worrying about these new findings, I resolved to eat healthier. But that opens a Pandora’s Box of other questions:

  • Can we truly trust anything we buy at the grocery store?
  • What is the best way to prepare these foods?
  • How much more will it cost me to buy meat that is supposedly healthier?
  • Will my kids, or I, even like it?
  • Should we all just become vegetarians?

We eat hot dogs, bacon, pork chops, ham, and red meat on a fairly consistent basis and I’m sure that we’re not alone in doing so, because these meats are tasty, easy to use in a multitude of recipes, and cost-effective. Chicken rules the roost (no pun intended) in our house and will occupy an even more lofty spot in our family’s food pyramid in the future. My wife and I enjoy cooking and we pride ourselves on making homemade meals for ourselves and our children. We try to vary our meals and eat a balanced diet. When we learn of studies like these, it not only reminds us how little control we have over the food we purchase and prepare, but also the long term ramifications of eating them.

What are we to do?

1. Digest the News and Discover What It Means For Us

What exactly is the risk? How prevalent are these cancers and what additional research is being done? At times like these, it seems more comforting to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the news, but we can’t. This is simply too important, and by gaining knowledge on the issue, we might find alternatives and new details that make the issue less scary.

2. Alter Our Diets

There are so many foods to choose from and more ways to cook delicious foods than we can possibly imagine. We need to get creative.

3. Find Ways to Eat Meals Without Meat

Sacrilege, I know. I grew up with meat at every dinner, but it’s not necessary. Salads and soups are dinner options. So are many, many other foods.

4. Manage and Limit Our Consumption

And this is not something many in this country are good at. However, if we can learn this skill, it might be a blessing in disguise and a boon for the health and well-being of millions of Americans.

True, it will be sad to turn down a hot dog and downright grief-worthy to scale back our bacon eating, but there is no piece of food worth eating if it means our health is at risk.