Processed foods usually contain preservatives to stabilize their flavors and textures and extend their shelf lives. Snack foods like cookies and cakes, ready-made meals and other convenience products may include preservatives as well as added salt, sugar and trans fats to augment the foods' flavors. Whole, non-processed foods, on the other hand, rarely contain preservatives but spoil faster as a result. Avoid food additives and extra sugar or sodium by consuming fresh produce, meat, dairy and other perishable items.
Read product labels carefully. Keep an eye out for strange-sounding ingredients. As a rule of thumb, if you don't know what most of the ingredients in a product are, don't buy it.
Change your family's weekly menus to focus on freshly prepared meals made with simple, wholesome ingredients. Instead of tacos using pre-packaged sauce mixes and processed American cheese, try healthy tacos with fresh corn tortillas, homemade salsa and shredded cheddar.
Peruse old-fashioned cookbooks for interesting recipes. If your favorite recipes call for canned soups, saltine crackers or other processed ingredients, alter the recipes to include healthier ingredients. For example, replace the cracker coating on baked chicken with homemade seasoned breadcrumbs.
Shop for fresh, whole foods at farmers' markets or organic grocery stores. Organic foods rarely have preservatives. Locally grown produce needs to be shipped only short distances to reach consumers, making preservatives unnecessary.
Buy fresh cuts of meat instead of cured meats or lunch meat, which contains a lot of salt as a preservative. Make sure the cuts are lean to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Leftovers make tasty sandwiches.
Introduce more whole grains like bulghur wheat, barley and brown rice to your family's diet. Add freshly cooked legumes like chickpeas, kidney beans and pinto beans. These whole foods offer protein, fiber, iron and other crucial nutrients without preservatives.
Season foods with dried herbs and flavorful spices rather than packaged mixes, which typically contain salt, artificial flavorings and added preservatives.
- "The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook"; Diana Shaw; 1997
- "Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 15th Edition"; Better Homes and Gardens; 2010