Stocking up at the supermarket for Christmas can be stressful - both in time taken and money spent.

So spending the extra time searching for products which have the most real food in them and are therefore better for your family is an extra stretch at this time of year.

I have spent an afternoon in the supermarket for you and has come up with my best selections for Christmas Day food items which will do you and your family the least harm.

Obviously the best things to put in your trolley for Christmas is loads of seasonal fresh foods such as asparagus, strawberries, new potatoes and salads and keep the processed foods to a minimum.

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Please note that as it's Christmas the Sugar Police are on holiday, so I will be unable to point out the high sugar items in this story.

Tegel Free Range Turkey Size 4 (serves 8-9 people). $57.99 for 3.75kg.

You have three choices when it comes to your Christmas turkey.

Tegel, the largest producer of turkey meat in New Zealand, offers barn-raised turkeys which SAFE (Save Animals from Exploitation) tells us are "placed into factory sheds with thousands of other birds".

They say "the conditions are dark and become intensely crowded as they grow".

Tegel tells me that "the turkeys are raised in large, modern, well equipped barns, without cages.

Tegel Free Range Turkey. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Tegel Free Range Turkey. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

They are free to express normal behaviours, move around, and have ready access to food and water.

Their barn environments are monitored and managed to provide optimal conditions for health, welfare and comfort."

These frozen turkeys are 85% turkey and also come with a lot of additives, such as mineral salts, thickeners artificial flavour, water, salt and sugar.

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Fortunately Tegel also offers this free-range turkey which is more expensive (consider it a donation towards the prevention of animal cruelty) but they are farmed in accordance with the SPCA's welfare standards.

In this offering you will find 89% turkey with water, salt, sugar pea starch, natural flavour and spice extracts added.

If you want just a turkey with nothing added then shop around at local butchers or specialty stores.

Tip: To cook a turkey which doesn't dry out try using a large roasting bag.

Cooking in oven bags is a way to ensure your meat is basted continuously while cooking but with all the warnings about chemicals leaching from plastic when it is heated, you might think twice about using this method.

The good news is that I could find no evidence that this is harmful as the bag is made out of a nylon which can withstand high heats.

Freedom Farms Free-Range Ham. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Freedom Farms Free-Range Ham. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Freedom Farms Free-Range Ham Half. $81.86 for 3.560 kg.

There really is only one choice when it comes to buying pork and that is making sure it is free farmed and not raised in crates.

At Freedom Farms the pigs are raised outdoors with shelters, so no sow crates, no farrowing crates and no concrete fattening pens.

They are also independently audited.

The bad news is that it is impossible to buy a ham without a lot of additives, because by necessity the pork is cured to make the ham.

This one has 88% pork but also water, salt, sugar, stabilisers, thickener, acidity regulators, honey, antioxidant and a preservative sodium nitrite (250).

This preservative has had a controversial past and is avoided by healthy eaters due to concerns that it reacts with stomach acid to form carcinogenic compounds.

It is used in the ham to inhibit the growth of the bacteria which cause botulism and as a colour fixative.

You'll be hard pressed to find a ham product which doesn't use this preservative, but do try your local butcher or specialty store as some independent producers use other preservatives.

Other hams on offer had less pork as well as the added filler soy protein and smoke flavour.

Tip: To keep your ham fresh soak a cotton pillowcase in 1 litre of water to which you have added 2 tbsp of any kind of vinegar then wring out so that it is till quite damp and keep your ham inside that in the fridge.

Refresh with the vinegar mixture every two days.

Other options:

If you really want something with absolutely no additives consider opting for a roast lamb on Christmas Day with mint sauce or a side of salmon.

I'm loathe to let you in on my little secret as they will disappear fast but some Countdown stores have frozen sides of Atlantic salmon in their freezers for a very good price.

The fish is a lighter pink than our local farmed salmon and tastes great if you don't mind the fact that you're not eating local food.

Pams Christmas Pudding. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Pams Christmas Pudding. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Pams Christmas Pudding. $5.29 for 400g.

No Christmas is complete without a plum pudding and this one, unlike the others on offer actually has plum as an ingredient as well as sultanas, raisins, lemon peel and cherries with natural colour (anthocyanins (163), natural flavour.

It also contains 38% fruit.

I couldn't see any other nasties in there.

The others on offer used 32% fruit which was just sultanas and raisins and artificial flavour.

Tip: Turn leftover Christmas pudding into ice cream. Whizz up some vanilla ice cream in a food processor, add in the pudding then refreeze.

Lewis Road Creamery Vanilla Custard. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Lewis Road Creamery Vanilla Custard. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Lewis Road Creamery Vanilla Custard. $5.79 for 300 ml.

This is a custard just like you would make at home using just cream, whole milk, eggs, sugar and cornflour.

It does, however have a preservative to keep it fresh on the shelf, which is nisin which is made from fermented milk.

Other custard products on offer contain thickeners, emulsifiers, artificial flavour and artificial colours.

Tip: Use leftover custard to make rice pudding.

Put the custard in a pot, stir in a little milk to loosen, add some cooked rice and a little cinnamon then heat.

Christmas lunch Aunt Betty's fruit mince tarts. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Christmas lunch Aunt Betty's fruit mince tarts. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Aunt Betty's Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts.$3.99 for 360g (six tarts).

I chose these tarts because unlike the others on offer they used no artificial colours or flavours.

And they were 46% fruit (raisins, sultanas, apple and lemon peel). Others also used only 24% fruit. Please note these do use palm oil.

Tip: If you find yourself with too many mince tarts freeze them. They make a wonderful dessert in the middle of a cold winter.

Christmas lunch Anathoth Farm traditional fruit mince. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Christmas lunch Anathoth Farm traditional fruit mince. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Anathoth Farm Traditional Fruit Mince. $5.35 for 435g.

If you want to make your own fruit tarts you can't go past this fruit mince for real food. It is 63% fruit (NZ apple, sultanas, raisins, NZ orange, NZ grapefruit, NZ lemon) plus raw and brown sugar, butter, brandy, rum, starch and spices.

Tip: Use ¾ cup of this fruit mince in your favourite scone recipe to make Christmas Morning Scones.

Christmas lunch Ernest Adams golden fruit cake. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Christmas lunch Ernest Adams golden fruit cake. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Ernest Adams Christmas Cake. $11.99 for 1kg.

The sad news is that this cake is very much the best of a bad bunch.

If you want a proper Christmas cake without artificial flavour and a host of additives and artificial colourings then you'll have to make your own.

See my recipe below for an easy quick one.

I chose this because it had one natural colouring instead of three in the others on offer but it does have artificial flavour and two preservatives. It has the most fruit at 28%.

Quick Mix Fruit Cake

125g butter melted
750g mixed dried fruit
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp raspberry jam
2 eggs lightly beaten
½ cup sweet sherry
¾ cup plain flour, sifted
3 tbsp self raising flour, sifted
125g blanched almonds

Put butter, fruit , sugar, jam, eggs, sherry and f lour in a large bowl and mix until all ingredients are combined.

Spoon mixture into a greased 20cm ring pan. Top with almonds and bake at 160 degrees C for 1 ½ hours. Cover with foil and cool in the pan.

Christmas lunch Pam's fresh pavlova. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Christmas lunch Pam's fresh pavlova. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Pams Pavlova. $6.99 for 185g.

Pavlova is very easy to make but sometimes it's just easier to pick one up at the supermarket.

I chose this one because it has all the ingredients I use at home when I make one: sugar, egg whites, white vinegar and natural vanilla essence.

It does have one added ingredient which is sodium phosphate (339) which will be in here as a preservative as the best before date on this is a month after I bought it.

Tip: Use leftover pavlova to make Eton Mess. Simply crunch it up into bite size pieces, throw some into bowls, top with strawberries and either yoghurt, ice cream, custard or whipped cream.

Roses chocolate assortment. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Roses chocolate assortment. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Cadbury Roses Chocolates. $8.29 for 225g.

You may be pleasantly surprised to find that everyone's favourite stocking filler is actually not too bad for you.

These chocolates have two natural colours cochineal (120) and anthocyanins (163) and nothing too nasty.

There is, however artificial flavouring.

Tip: For about the same price why not opt for Whittaker's Artisan Selection of chocolate bars for $16.99, twice as much chocolate as the Roses 225g. You'll get four 100g bars of really nice, real food chocolate to give to someone or simply enjoy yourself.

Condiments

The Christmas table must have some sauces so here is my pick of the best:

Ocean spray whole cranberry sauce. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Ocean spray whole cranberry sauce. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce. $4.29 for 275g.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that this UK offering was much healthier than other local offerings.

The only things in here are cranberries (34%), sugar and water. No artificial colour or flavour.

Pam's hot english mustard. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Pam's hot english mustard. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Pams Hot English Mustard. $2.49 for 200g.

Interesting to note that other more expensive and posher brands of mustard on offer contained preservatives, artificial flavour and just mustard.

This pot contains mustard flour, sugar, vinegar, salt, Worcester sauce, turmeric, white pepper, cardamom and the stabiliser xanthan gum (415) which is a natural product.

Coleman's mint sauce. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Coleman's mint sauce. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

Colemans's Mint Sauce. $4.59 for 250ml.

The thing to watch out for with mint sauce is that it actually contains some mint.

Other sauces on offer contained just 2% and 0.5% mint, requiring the addition of flavouring to make up the deficit.

This one has 25% mint, vinegar, sugar, glucose fructose syrup, water, salt, acetic acid, xanthan gum and natural colour cooper chlorophyllin.

Wilkin & Sons Ltd Tiptree Brandy Butter Hard Sauce. $8.48 for 170g.

I couldn't resist putting in this rather expensive import from England because it is so divine and means you can be very British by adding this sauce to your plum pudding.

It contains nothing but sugar, butter and brandy.

• Note: All items were bought at a New World supermarket on November 30. Stock items often differ between supermarkets and change leading up to Christmas, but on the day these were the best offerings I could find.