Everyone should consume probiotics to maintain good digestion and gut health. You may think that this means taking a pill or supplement, but my preferred method of ingesting these "good" bacteria is through the food that you eat! In fact, probiotics were part of the regular diet in previous generations.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria contained in fermented foods. Before refrigerators and modern food storage, fermenting was used to preserve food. During fermentation, natural bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in the food creating lactic acid. Lactic acid not only preserves the food, it also makes it more digestible and preserves and increases beneficial enzymes, nutrients, and beneficial bacteria (probiotics). As convenience and processed foods have overtaken our pantries, we have stopped eating these healthful and traditional fermented foods, and our probiotic consumption has declined, as well.
Why Make and Eat Your Own Fermented Foods
- Increase probiotics. Probiotics provide your digestive system with bacteria that has been known to have tremendous benefits including improving your immune system, helping digestion, balancing hormones, and even slowing or eliminating disease.
- Makes food more digestible and easily absorbed. The process of fermentation begins to breakdown food naturally, making it easier to digest. The fermented food also provides the bacteria and digestive enzymes to help your body absorb all the good nutrients packed other real food that you eat.
- Save money. Finding a good brand of fermented foods that does not contain added ingredients is often difficult, and usually these products are expensive. However, it is budget friendly to make your own fermented foods, using a few simple ingredients. You would no longer purchase probiotic supplements, and the health benefits of probiotics could save you future medical expenses.
What fermented food to make?
It is easy to ferment most fruits and vegetables by cutting them up, mixing them with salt and spices, pounding them to release juices, and then storing them in an air tight container. You can find hundreds of recipes for doing this by searching "lactofermented" with the name of the food you would like to ferment.
Two super simple fermented foods that are a part of our regular diet are homemade yogurt and sauerkraut.
Homemade Crockpot Yogurt
- ½ gallon of whole fat organic milk
- ½ cup of PLAIN yogurt (only ingredients are milk and cultures) Read the ingredients, and you will see the cultures listed.
Note: Typical flavored yogurt, including vanilla yogurt, does not have these cultures. Learn more about yogurt here.
- Pour ½ gallon of milk into crockpot and cook on LOW.
- After 2.5 hours turn crockpot off and let sit for 3 hours without removing the lid.
- Once the additional 3 hours has passed, quickly remove lid and stir in ½ cup of plain yogurt into the warm milk.
- Set lid back on and wrap crockpot in two large bath towels.
- Let sit on counter for around 12 hours, or overnight.
- Store yogurt in glass quart size mason jars. The yogurt will continue to thicken to desired texture after being refrigerated for 4-6 hours.
Add your favorite fresh fruits and nuts. Enjoy!
Don't forget to reserve 1/2 cup to start your next batch.
- 1 head of cabbage
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- Core and shred cabbage.
- In a large bowl mix cabbage with salt.
- Pound with meat hammer or use your hands to massage juices from cabbage. This can take 10-20 minutes, be patient!
- Place cabbage in juices into a wide mouth mason jar making sure that the juices cover the cabbage and that you leave at least one inch of head space at the top of the jar.
- Cover tightly and store counter for three days then move to refrigerator.
What other fermented foods do you eat? Kimchi? Pickle your own cucumbers? Beets? Talk to us about it on our facebook page, and good luck with this week's challenge.
Weekly Wellness Challenge #2 - Keep reading to roast a whole chicken, make your own chicken broth, and use it in a creamy chicken and vegetable soup recipe!
We roast a whole chicken about every other week. It’s easy, nourishing, and can be stretched into several meals in our weekly meal plan.
Typically, we cook the chicken in the crock pot, and eat the leg and thigh for dinner that night. Then, I remove the rest of the chicken from the bones to use throughout the week (including the soup recipe below). The bones and skin are used to make chicken broth. Making broth may sound complicated but don’t let it intimidate you; it’s simple!
Cook the Whole Chicken:
- Pat thawed chicken dry with a paper towel. Remove the bag of giblets that may be inside and refrigerate for use in the broth.
- Rub desired seasonings over the outside of the chicken. Lately, I use basil, thyme, salt and pepper.
- Place chicken in the crock pot, breast side down, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Feel free to add extra veggies in with the chicken or just cook it by itself. No need to add water; the chicken comes out very moist.
Make the Broth
Why make your own chicken bone broth:
Homemade bone broth is extremely nutrient rich and healthful. The apple cider vinegar helps to leach the nutrients from the bones into the water. As an added bonus, it tastes better then chicken broth you buy at the store, does not have MSG or other additives, and can be less expensive.
Chicken (Bone) Broth Instructions:
- Remove the meat from your chicken carcass and set aside for use in a different recipe.
- Put bones and skin in the crock pot along with the contents of bag from inside your chicken (if applicable).
- Fill the crock pot about 2/3 full of water, covering the bones.
- Pour a splash (1-2 tbsp) of apple cider vinegar into the water.
- Turn crockpot on low and let the broth simmer for 12-48 hours (I usually aim for 24 hours).
- Strain the broth from the chicken bones.
Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup Recipe
- Two heads of Cauliflower
- 8 Carrots
- 2 Sweet Potatoes
- 2 Onions
- 4 Tbsp Coconut oil melted
- 4 Tbsp Butter
- 10 Cups of Chicken Broth
- Leftover Shredded Chicken
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Chop cauliflower into florets and dice one onion. Toss cauliflower and onion on baking sheet with 2 tbsp of coconut oil.
- Chop carrots, sweet potato and remaining onion into small pieces. Toss on another baking sheet with 2 tbsp of coconut oil.
- Roast both pans of veggies for about 40 min, until veggies are cooked.
- Blend cauliflower/onion mixture with 8 cups of broth with a high speed blender, food processor or immersion blender. Pour into stock pot. You may need to do this in batches..
- Add last 2 cups of broth, roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, shredded chicken, butter, and salt and pepper to the creamy cauliflower base.
- Cook on low to medium heat until heated thoroughly and enjoy. It makes great leftovers and tastes even better on the second or third day.
Follow these directions, and you'll get 6-10 nutritious servings from one chicken.
Let us know how it went, and post your ideas to our facebook page.
Joelle Kurczodyna, NTP
We’ve all been there.
Five o’clock rolls around, it has been a crazy day running around without a thought about dinner. Now, you are hungry and your family is starting to ask …hmm…take out sounds good, maybe grab some fast food on the way to evening activities, or I think there’s a frozen pizza in the freezer.
In spite of our best intentions, this scenario happens more than we want to admit. So, how do we avoid it?
Planning ahead has been a lifesaver for me to get around the 5 o’clock and nothing to eat problem. In fact, it’s been so effective; I plan all of our meals now.
How does it work? Follow these three easy steps: plan, shop, and cook!
- Think through your week: Which days do you have more time to prepare food, and which days will you be crunched for time? Those time crunch days are great for crock meals, throwing together a salad, or simply reheating an already prepared dish.
- Involve the whole family: When I was a kid, our family did weekly “dinner nights”. Each member of the family chose a meal that our family would have that week. When it was your dinner night, you were in charge of cooking or at least helping to cook your meal of choice.
- Cook a big batch of something: Use extra meat for several meals throughout the week. You will see this strategy in my meal plan for this week below.
- Remember to use simple whole food ingredients: Avoid canned, bottled, and other packaged foods with a long list of ingredients. Think about easy, healthy snacks to have on hand; fruits, nut butters, veggies, guacamole, and hard boiled eggs are some of our favorites.
Once you have your plan for the week, it’s time to shop!
Based on your meal plan, make a list of ingredients that you need to buy to execute your plan. Having a plan and all of the ingredients on hand takes away excuses. You don’t have to think when dinner time comes; you know what you will be having and have the ingredients to make it.
Here’s where it comes together. Take your plan, your ingredients and cook a wonderful dinner. With my current unpredictable schedule, I choose meals that I can prepare in advance because I often don’t know whether cooking at dinner time will be an option with a new baby. Often, I whip up dinner while the baby is sleeping or before my husband leaves for work in the morning and I have extra help. Later, I cook it. Figure out what works best for you and your family and do that!
What does this actually look like? Here is my meal plan this week!
||Butternut squash and spinach hash topped with 2 eggs.
||Pork shoulder roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions in crock pot with roasted asparagus.
||Butternut squash and spinach hash topped with 2 eggs.
||Italian Stuffed Peppers
||Egg Casserole (we used sausage, sweet potatoes, spinach, onions, and eggs)
||Leftover Pork Roast and asparagus.
||Leftover Pork Roast
||Italian Stuffed Peppers
||Roasted salmon, broccoli, and sweet potatoes
||Sweet potato topped with 2 eggs and avocado
||Salmon, broccoli and sweet potatoes
||Brown rice sourdough pizza (a Friday night tradition)
||Sweet potato topped with 2 eggs and avocado
Dr. Jamie's meal plan for the week.
Eggs with vegetables - each day choose several from sweet potato, green pepper, onion, zucchini, and leftover veggies from dinner that are not needed for lunch (e.g. spaghetti squash)
|Lunch at a friend’s house
Grilled Lots of Chicken to use all week
Chicken in a salad with homemade honey mustard, avocado, and tomato.
||Most lunches are leftovers from last night's dinner - Pack the lunch right after dinner.
||Salad with grilled chicken, onion, red pepper, carrots, and homemade Asian dressing.
||Grilled chicken with Spaghetti squash, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, and onions cooked in a coconut milk curry sauce
||Pork steaks with roasted broccoli and coleslaw.
||Jamie- sweet potato with avocado. Jared out
||Salad with pork steak
||Butternut squash soup and salad.
Some notes on how I create our meal plan:
- As you can see, we LOVE leftovers. I will often cook big batches of things that we will eat it several times throughout the week (egg casserole, plantain lasagna, roast, and stuffed peppers)
- Every day, I aim to eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and make sure to eat fruits and vegetables from a variety of different colors (Eat the rainbow!)
- I usually leave a few meals at the end of the week “to be determined”. This gives us room for flexibility to shift things around if something comes up. and if not; we get creative and throw something together! I make sure we eat EVERYTHING that I bought for the week. I plan to use it before buying more food for the next week so that nothing is wasted.
So there you have the first weekly wellness challenge. Go forth and plan your meals for the coming week! What tips and tricks do you use to create a meal plan? Let us know on our facebook page.
Author: Joelle Kurczodyna, NTP
Our newest little Illini Fans!After a much needed break and two babies later – we are back! If you’ve followed the DuPage Family Wellness blog, you know that we are passionate about eating real food. However, over the last several weeks of welcoming newborns into our homes, we have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to actually shop and prepare real food for your family. We’ve found that planning ahead and being organized are crucial to getting a real food meal on the table and not succumbing to the ease of convenience, processed, and fast foods.
If you are trying to be healthier and interested in removing processed foods from your diet and incorporating more real foods or if you are a seasoned veteran, there are several, simple things that we have found to make eating real food possible in the midst of the busyness of life. In light of that reality, we will be posting “real food weekly challenges” over the next several weeks. These will be basic weekly cooking challenges that you can do to help make your life easier and provide real food for your family for that week. Overtime, by implementing a few of these things every week, you will find that preparing real food meals for your family will be much more doable and hopefully even enjoyable. We may also throw in some movement challenges to help incorporate more movement in your day. Time after time, we have seen how the combination of eating real, unprocessed food and moving the body have allowed people (including ourselves!) to reach their health goals! We are excited for you to do these challenges along with us and see what happens!
Also, Dr. Thomure is back in the office seeing patients with the following hours:
Monday: 2:00 – 6:00
Wednesday: 2:00 – 6:00
Friday: 10:00 – 1:00
Let me just start by saying that eating out can be very tough! You don't always know how your food is being prepared. It seems like 90% of the options come with some sort of bread/tortilla/french fry, etc. Sauces are almost always thickened with flour or corn starch. One of my favorite ways to keep things in check is to sub OUT items on the menu for more veggies or other healthier options!! While this isn't always possible, you never know if you don't ask!
Top 5 restaurant substitutions I have managed to get- just by asking!
1) Veggies instead of Tortilla Chips at a Mexican restaurant (Changarro in West Chicago did this- see picture!) This was one I never thought I'd get, but I just asked if there was something else besides chips to dip in the delicious salsa (like veggies), and this is what they brought me!
2) Veggies instead of fries (very common- occasionally there will be a small up charge, but well worth it!)
3) A Stir Fry with extra vegetables instead of rice or noodles
4) A lettuce wrap or bed of greens instead of a bun or bread. This could be with a burger, chicken, fish, heck I've even eaten an "italian beef salad"
5) Oil and Vinegar instead of other salad dressing. This one I recommend because salad dressings are notorious for having all sorts of weird added ingredients and sugar. My best bet if I'm eating out is always Oil and Vinegar, because at least that way I have a better idea of what I'm eating. Sometimes if there are enough delicious ingredients in the salad, I just leave off the dressing all together.
If you are being very strict or have food allergies, you can ask your waiter about what types of oils they use for cooking and where the meat/produce came from. Depending on the restaurant, they may or may not know the answers to those questions. If there is an option of cooking oil, my top choice would be coconut oil, or a form of animal fat (butter, lard, duckfat, etc- since they have more saturated fats, and can go to high temperatures better). I would stay away from highly processed cooking oils like vegetable oil, canola oil, etc. Here is a guide for which fats to cook with, which to eat raw, and which to avoid all together! Since I don't go out to eat very often, I typically just try to do the best I can, knowing that it is a treat and I can't control everything about the way my food is prepared all the time.