I'm trying to accentuate the essence of "food," and try to make it clear that nowadays people don't truly eat food, they just eat [insert debased synonym here], similar to when people say, "this isn't a car, this is just a vehicle."

Any way of saying this? Also, it should be formal. I've tried to look for lists of synonyms, but they are more like "substance," I would like something actually defined as food.

Or what other way should I switch my sentence?

  • A vehicle is not a "debased" form of a car but an overarching class. Perhaps you need to give us a different analogy? food: ? :: y : z "Nourishment" would be analogous to "vehicle" but it's really just a synonym for "food". In what ways are the foods "debased"? Processed? Not whole grains? "Pasteurized processed cheese food"?
    – TimR
    Apr 1, 2015 at 12:09
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    At home we call it 'astronaut food'; "It's food Jim, but not as we know it". Covers any aspect of... ring-pull, fry-in-the-bag, heat'n'serve, freezer-to-table, just add water/milk/food. Apr 1, 2015 at 13:09

5 Answers 5


This isn't a car, it's just a vehicle.
This isn't a home, it's just a house.
This isn't a career, it's just a job.
This isn't butter, it's just grease.
This isn't food, it's just fuel.

Depending on exactly what OP finds lacking in "debased foods", perhaps he might prefer...

This isn't food, it's just junk

...alluding of course to the idiomatic standard junk food, aka fast food, but in this exact context one could equally well be put in mind of junk = highly addictive narcotic substance, craved by the user, but bad for his health in the long run.

  • Had I answered this question junk food would have been my choice too for I'm pretty sure that's the OP's want. +1. Apr 1, 2015 at 13:21
  • 1
    @Lucian: I think you've just gone with your own preconceptions there. I can't see anything in the question text to suggest OP sees "debased food" as lacking in true nutritional value as opposed to unable to provide a truly satisfying degustatory experience, for example. Apr 1, 2015 at 13:46
  • The "try to make it clear that nowadays people don't truly eat food" made me think so, but I admit you might be right. Apr 1, 2015 at 14:02
  • @Lucian: Well, I freely admit my preconceptions initially took me down the other route, which is why I added my final paragraph immediately after posting just the five examples based on the same general construction. Incidentally, I'm sure my perspective was influenced by the ad campaign This isn't just food, this is M&S food which (that piss-take notwithstanding) is definitely about the taste experience, not the nutritional quality. Apr 1, 2015 at 14:15
  • Unsubstantiated 'factoid' - M&S doughnuts have an unrefrigerated shelf-life of 9 months, before being cooked 'fresh today'. Apr 1, 2015 at 14:51

You could say food-like substances. These have the appearance or similitude of real food, but are made largely of synthetic ingredients snd overprocessed, lifeless foods.

You could say manufactured food, factory food, or synthetc food.

You could say non-food

You also have my permission to use a word I coined: dysnutrition — The habit and result of eating non-nutritious foods when nutritious food is available.


One derogatory expression for overcooked, starch-heavy packaged food is Standard American Diet. The acronym is SAD. Unfortunately, this acronym maligns more than just the food -- it also maligns millions of Americans.

One of the problems with TV dinners, Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, and even much of the fresh produce sold in American grocery stores is that the ingredients are bought based on the price-per-pound. (Fast food is bought based on price-per-calorie; the price-per-pound of meat and grain takes into account protein content.) Much of the nutritional value of food is in micro-nutrients whose roles are still poorly understood. Thus, crops have been bred (or genetically modified) to achieve high yields per acre, with minimal labor -- regardless of whether the nutritional value is diluted. Similarly, animals have been bred for quick growth, and to put on more meat per dollar of feed.

Farm-raised fish is fed a grain-and-soy based diet, just like most American meat animals. (Animals raised on grain-and-soy have different hormone balances and contain different fats, so their nutritional value is arguably "debased".)


Brian and Jasper's answers are good for saying that food is not nutritious. If you want to say that food is not enjoyable, FumbleFingers' use of "fuel" is good. This is a bit more technical:

This isn't food. It's just nutrients.

You could also use an adjective:

This stuff is edible, but I wouldn't call it food.




sus·te·nance /ˈsəstənəns/

noun: food and drink regarded as a source of strength; nourishment.

More literally "that which sustains". This is not "substance" - stuff, material - it's a thing whose job is to "sustain". Which seems like what you need, just as a "vehicle" is a thing that moves you around, and a car is something more; "sustenance" is a thing that fulfills your biological need, food adds a level of enjoyment beyond that.

  • Please make sure to cite your sources when quoting something.
    – user230
    Apr 2, 2015 at 17:49
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    @snailboat It's from Google.
    – zeel
    Apr 2, 2015 at 19:19

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