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Stay Healthy This Winter With Real Food

As we approach the fall and winter seasons of colds and flu, I start to think about how to boost my family’s immune system in natural ways, so that we will be prepared to fight off bugs and germs and stay as healthy as we can.

With less sunshine and more time spent cooped up indoors comes a higher probability of illness, but there are ways to fend off the flu and cut down the colds. Real food and food supplements are the best place to start.

Homemade Chicken Broth (Stock)

One of the best ways to both prevent and treat colds and flu is with homemade chicken stock. Why would anyone make their own stock when it’s so easy to buy at the store? Well, there are a lot of benefits, and it’s really very easy!

Homemade stock contains tons of nutrients that you just don’t get in a box or a can (and many brands contain hidden MSG). The key is using bones. Yep, bones! Bones are full of minerals that will leach into the liquid as it simmers, and the result will be a rich, healing bone broth. There’s a reason our grandmothers always said chicken soup will cure anything!

The minerals and nutrients in homemade chicken stock are in a form that your body can easily absorb and use.  Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, real gelatin, and fancy-schmancy things like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine – for which people pay top dollar in supplement form – are all abundant in homemade chicken stock.

Photo by brian kelly

Here’s a simple recipe for homemade chicken stock that will make about 3-4 quarts, depending how long you let it simmer. You can use one quart that day, and freeze the rest for later. I freeze mine in 1-quart mason jars.

The recipe uses a whole chicken, so you also end up with delicious meat that you can use for enchiladas (a personal fave), tortilla soup, chicken salad – whatever. Make sure you use the best quality chicken you can get – local pastured chicken is best. I use the recipe found in Nourishing Traditions.


• 1 chicken (or 2-3 pounds of bony parts)
• 4 quarts cold water
• 2 TB apple cider vinegar
• 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
• 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
• 3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
• 1 bunch parsley

Basically, you throw it all into a big pot, except for the parsley. Let it sit there for about 30 minutes and then bring it to a boil. If anything rises to the top, skim it off. Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. The longer you simmer it, the more flavorful and nutrient-rich it will be. About 10 minutes before you’re finished simmering, add the parsley.

When finished, let it cool slightly and then you can take out the meat and use it, freeze it, or whatever. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer into containers that will seal and remain airtight. If you plan on freezing it, remember to leave about an inch of room at the top. You can stick it into the fridge once it’s at room temp, and let the fat congeal and rise to the top in order to skim it off, but you don’t have to.

Voila! Home-made chicken stock, complete with healing properties and free of added scariness. Economical, too. I try to make sure I always have at least one quart in my freezer at all times.  I love to make soup with it, but it’s also great for cooking rice, cous-cous, and quinoa, instead of water.  And it’s a wonderful base for many delicious sauces.

This is a great way to include a little stock in your diet everyday throughout the fall and winter season and build up your immune system naturally.

Vitamin C: Citrus Season is Coming

I think it’s no coincidence that oranges and clementines come into season right at the time when we need an extra dose of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a super immune booster, and the best way to take it is straight from the source.

Throughout most of the fall and especially the winter, our family consumes a lot of citrus.  It’s a perfect little snack for when we are on the go; just peel it at home, tuck the slices into a reusable snack bag, and stick it in your purse for later – an easy, delicious, and healthy immune boost.

Photo by Francisco Antunes

Vitamin D: Especially Needed in Winter

When the daylight hours begin to wane and sunshine is in short supply, we need to make extra sure that we’re getting enough Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system, as well as avoiding depression and other serious diseases as well. A few “real food” sources of Vitamin D include:

• pastured eggs – eat them for breakfast, or hard boil a dozen and pack one in a reusable snack bag each day.

• wild seafood – salmon, tuna, and shrimp are all good sources.

• cod liver oil – yes, it’s yucky tasting, but oh so good for you. Follow it up with a slice of orange and the taste will disappear quickly – or try cod liver oil capsules.

Photo by Christy McDonald

By making these foods a part of our diet in the fall and winter months, our family avoids many illnesses, and our immune systems are stronger and healthier.

How do you and your family boost your immune systems for cold and flu season?

This post is sponsored by Eco Lunch Gear. Find reusable sandwich and snack bags, cinch snacks, cloth napkins, and more, at Eco Lunch Gear’s online store.

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  1. Nicola

    How timely!! Was thinking about trying to make my own chicken stock yesterday. Ashsamed to say I have never had any fresh stock in my life, always cubes. I have a couple of questions. I assume “2 TB of apple cider vinegar” is 2 tablespoons? Also, how long does fresh stock keep in the fridge?

  2. Danielle

    Homemade chicken broth is the best!! I make mine in the crockpot. Here is how: I prepare a roast chicken a few times a month. After dinner I put any parts of the chicken that weren’t eaten in my crockpot along with some raw carrots/onion/celery/garlic (whatever I have on hand at the time) along with a few peppercorns and fill the crockpot with water. I let the crockpot cook on low overnight. The next morning I strain all the solids out of the broth. It is as simple as that!

  3. TreeHugginMomma

    You forgot about the almight beet and cabbage (sauerkraut in particular) not some of my favorites but truly vitamin packed and in season in my area.

  4. Kara @Simple Kids

    You know, I never thought about how citrus comes in season right along with flu season, too. Huh. Makes sense, though.

    And, first I learned you can bake in glass jars from Aimee, and now I see you’re freezing things in glass jars. It is becoming obvious to me that I need to consider these for more than just humble storage containers or drinking glasses, eh? 🙂

    We’ve already gone through a round of colds here, so I’ll be taking your advice to heart! Thank you!

    Have a great weekend, my friend!

  5. Jessica

    I made the crockpot stock last night. It is currently in my refrigerator at home waiting to be frozen in ice cube trays so that I can use as much as I want at a time. I also find this is a hugely economical way to eat chicken. We had one meal of roasted chicken and squash, one meal of tandoori chicken pasta, and then I used the carcass to make stock so that the chicken will now make chicken noodle soup a few times this fall and by the time I’m out of this round of stock we will probably do it all over again. I also add cubbed sweet potatoes and cilantro to my chicken soup, gives it that extra vitamin punch. Yummy!

  6. Sally

    What a great post Katie. I have wanted to make my own stock because not only is it better for you but it must be cheaper than the GOOD store bought version. Not only are you getting the broth but also a couple of chicken dishes to boot.

    I am also giving my family Zinc chewable tablets this time of year to help boost immune systems. I love to drink Kombucha tea. No one else in my family likes it as much as I do but I am trying to convince them little by little.

    I try to make sure I feed my family unprocessed foods as much as possible because I believe all the additives and preservatives are really bad for the body.

  7. Courtney

    Don’t you love the way the things we need during this season are at their peak during the season! Homemade stock is amazing and far surpasses the flavor of store-bought! If you are out of an onion or standard veggies feel free to sub in something you have or omit. It will still turn out great.

  8. Jimmie

    It’s really, really sad how far we’ve strayed from natural nutrition. We eat boneless chicken and take supplements instead of stewing the whole chicken. Natural is best. The book Nourishing Traditions is on my to buy list. Have the sample on my Kindle, and I’m very impressed.

  9. Lori F.

    A great post and reminder that we can often do things ourselves that we largely take for-granted. Like a previous poster, I roast a whole chicken several times a month. Instead of making stock each time, I save those carcasses in the freezer and add a whole chicken to make a very large batch of chicken stock. I can usually get 1-2 gallons of stock this way and I am done for a month. I also use herbs from my herb garden (sage, thyme) in my chickens when I roast them and I leave those herbs in the carcasses so they all go into the stock pot.

    It’s always nice to have some containers of stock in the freezer when the cold and flu season strikes. Homemade love “mom style.”

  10. Nicole

    can’t wait to try your homemade stock! sounds delicious!

  11. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    I had a turkey stock simmering for the better part of today, Katie, and nothing smells better! Great post!

  12. CecileBecker25

    I had got a dream to make my own company, however I didn’t have got enough of cash to do this. Thank goodness my fellow proposed to take the credit loans. Thus I received the secured loan and made real my old dream.

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