Elderberry Syrup for Cold and Flu Prevention

Elderberry Syrup for Cold and Flu Prevention

Cold and flu season is fast approaching! You may not be surprised that we don’t get flu shots and I never run to the doctor before trying natural ways to prevent or treat illnesses first. It must be paying off because we haven’t been to the doctor for a sick visit in 3 years. Sure, we’ve had a few sniffles here and there, even some fevers which have left us curled up on the couch for a few days, but I always treat them at home with natural remedies.

Elderberry syrup is my go-to prevention aid for cold and flu season. Elderberries contain high levels of vitamin A, B and C and are used to boost the immune system, improve heart health, fight coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections, and tonsillitis. Elderberry juice was even used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995. And while you can purchase Elderberry syrup online, even the organic versions have some preservatives and flavorings I find undesirable, as well as set you back $15 for a 4 oz bottle! This recipe will make roughly 16-24 oz and is easy and inexpensive to make at home with a few simple ingredients.

Elderberry Syrup Ingredients

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Elderberry Syrup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 32 oz
  • 1 cup dried elderberries
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 half-inch pieces of ginger root
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 cup raw honey
  1. Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil then cover and lower to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for 35-40 minutes until the liquid is reduced to half.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Let cool to about 115 degrees (just slightly warm to the touch)
  6. Add the honey and stir until it's dissolved.
  7. Store in a glass jar in your refrigerator.
  8. If you won't use it right away, freeze in ice cube trays for later use.


  • Children: Take 1/2 – 1 tsp daily.
  • Adults: Take 1/2 T- 1 T daily.
  • Take a day or two off each week.
  • In the event a cold or flu does strike, take your normal dose 2-3 times per day until symptoms disappear.

Check out my post 12 Ways to Beat Your Cold or Flu Naturally for more ideas! How do you ward off illness when it sets in?

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and tag us @realfood_life or hashtag it #realfoodlife. I’d love to see what you make!

Until next time, keep it real.

Our recommendations:

This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but Keepin’ it Real earns a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.

Medical disclaimer: Although I am a sucker for a great fashionable coat, especially white ones, I am not a doctor. This post is not intended to treat, diagnose or take the place of taking prescription medication when necessary. Always check with your doctor first if you have any questions or concerns about your health or the health of your family.

Do You Need a Health Coach?

Health Coaching

The Health of Our Nation is Declining

It’s estimated that as much as 70% of the adult population is either overweight or obese and 81% of the population takes at least 1 medication a day, with most people averaging closer to 2-3 meds daily. Reasons include symptoms such as high anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, stroke, stress, heart disease, insomnia, heartburn, hypothyroidism and more. Most of which are diet related and are both preventable and/or reversible with healthy lifestyle changes.

It’s no secret obesity is becoming a huge problem, even in children. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Type 2 diabetes, once considered a disease of middle or old age, is now affecting a staggering number of overweight children. Today’s children, based on research, might be the first generation to live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents.  Clearly all this “healthy” eating isn’t so healthy after all.

What’s the Best Diet?

In today’s society we are bombarded with conflicting health information. One day fat is bad, the next day it’s good. Adkins is the best diet, then Paleo is all the rage. Fruit has too much sugar, now we aren’t eating enough of it.  We have completely overcomplicated healthy eating and it’s no wonder our heads are spinning! But it’s really much simpler than we make it out to be. I love the way Michael Pollan puts it in his book In Defense of Food, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Wanting to change to a real food lifestyle and actually doing it are two different things. When we first started out over 3 years ago, the information was overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start, I didn’t know what to make, when I thought I was making good choices I actually wasn’t and I spent a lot of time sorting it all out. Eventually, I learned how to navigate my way around the grocery store, how to convert recipes to real food ingredients and put an actual meal on the table. But the process was long, hard and often frustrating.

What is a Health Coach?

Health coaching is a term that’s slowly gaining momentum nowadays, and with good reason. Millions of people nationwide are finding that the Western diet and medicine is often times leaving them fat and sick, without answers to their ills and they’re repeatedly finding themselves disappointed and depressed.

Health coaches can bridge the gap and offer more in-depth support where you otherwise might not know where else to turn. They can also help you achieve health goals that don’t require medical intervention, such as losing weight, creating better eating habits or establishing a new exercise routine. They can fill the roles of confidant, cheerleader, motivator, friend, and when necessary, they can give you a good kick in the pants to get you back on track.

How I Can Help

Our blog has become a source of information to help you achieve your real food lifestyle. But when you find that you need some extra one-on-one attention and guidance this is where I can help. Learn what we can achieve by working together.

Here are 10 things that I can do for you:

  1. Help you understand what real food is.
  2. Determine what is “good” food and “bad” food.
  3. Help you clean out your refrigerator and/or pantry.
  4. Help you navigate the grocery store aisles with ease.
  5. Give you personal feedback on any questions.
  6. Help get a health plan in place.
  7. Help you pick real food recipes that fit within the rules.
  8. Help you feed your family well regardless of your schedule.
  9. Teach you how to cook.
  10. Help carry out a doctor’s nutritional advice.

Don’t try and go at this alone. Together we can get you and your family on the road to a healthier, happier you!

Contact me at tracey@realfoodlife.com for more information or check out our services page to book your service. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss important posts.

Until next time, keep it real.

Green Smoothies 101: Why You Should Rotate Your Greens


Why You Should Rotate Your Greens

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the green smoothie. Adding more greens to your diet is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health. Chock full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein, antioxidants and more, greens are the shining star of your green smoothies and can help protect you from cancer, arthritis, heart disease, dementia and can even slow down your bodies aging process. Yet, when drinking green smoothies day after day, there is something you need to be aware of called “alkaloid buildup.”

All leafy greens contain alkaloids. Small amounts of toxins occur naturally in every leafy green (a defense mechanism for predators—you know, scary bunny rabbits and caterpillars). Tiny amounts of alkaloids cannot hurt you and may even strengthen the immune system. However, if you keep consuming the same leafy green for weeks on end, eventually the same types of alkaloids can build up in your body and cause unwanted symptoms of poisoning.

HELP! I’ve Never Rotated My Greens!

Settle down. There aren’t any stories making the evening news of people who are poisoning themselves with green smoothies. Sometimes I think people create controversy over healthy eating in general (when they should really be focusing on the people eating Big Macs day after day) which can create fear where it isn’t needed. Don’t sweat rotating your greens too much as alkaloid build up is rare and wouldn’t be something to send you to the doctor’s office. This is simply information to be aware of and as long as you are consciously rotating your greens from now on, you will be fine.

How Often Should I Rotate Greens?

Start by rotating your greens on a weekly basis. One week you might buy kale, the next you might buy spinach. Once you get the hang of it and want to make green smoothies a habit, (I know you will love them as much as us!) start rotating 2-3 greens per week. One week you might use spinach and kale the next week chard and romaine.

Leafy greens come from different “families.” Each family has their own DNA and minor amount of toxins. By eating from different families, you are eliminating toxin build up as well as getting varied nutrients from each.  You can rotate however you see fit, I choose to use 2 or so different greens each week.

To help you get started in mixing up your greens, here is a list of greens separated into family groups:


Spinach: A staple in most green smoothies, it’s a great starter green since it is classified as one of the “5 magic vegetables” leaving little to no taste when added to a green smoothie. It’s health benefits include cancer prevention, lowers blood pressure, asthma prevention, strengthens bones, improved vision, skin smoothing, reduces inflammation and more.

Chard: Chard is a colorful leaf which may have abilities to help stabilize blood sugar levels and may provide special benefits in the diets of individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Beet greens: The last time you bought beets, did you think to save the greens? Not many people do, but by throwing them away you are missing out on many nutrients. Besides being a good source of protein, phosphorus, and zinc, beet greens are also a great source of fiber. Studies have also shown the vitamin K in beet greens contains blood clotting properties, helps ward off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach, and a higher nutritional value than the beetroot itself.


Parsley: Used more than just a garnish, parsley is among some of the foods containing the highest concentration of myricetin (per 100 grams), a flavonol shown to have chemopreventive effects on skin cancer. Parsley is rich in many vitamins, including vitamin C,  B 12, K and A. This means parsley keeps your immune system strong, tones your bones and heals the nervous system.

Cilantro: Cilantro is good in more than just your guacamole. It has been found to suppress lead accumulation in rats, which gives promise for the use of cilantro to combat lead and other heavy metal toxicity. In addition, it has also been found to have an antibacterial effect against Salmonella making cilantro a great detoxifier.

Celery: Despite it being made up of mostly water, celery provides a fair amount of dietary fiber. Celery is also rich in vitamin K and contains folate, vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C. It can have a potentially potent flavor in smoothies, so make sure to use only a little bit and balance it out with a fruit.

Carrot tops: When you buy carrots, do not throw out the greens! Carrot tops are filled with chlorophyll, shown to fight against tumor growth and acts as a cleansing agent. To lessen the bitterness of their flavor, add a banana or two.


Romaine: Not typically thought of as a nutrient powerhouse, romaine lettuce has some heart healthy properties. It contains vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help prevent build up on artery walls and help lower cholesterol.

Dandelion greens: A serving of dandelion greens will give you near the amount of calcium as milk without having to touch dairy as well as other vitamins and nutrients. Bitter in taste, use a banana to help cancel it out.

Others in this family include butterhead, loose-leaf and crisp-head lettuce.


Kale: It’s no surprise that kale has been ranked as one of the world’s healthiest foods. One cup of kale packs 3 grams of protein and over 1000% more calcium than a cup of cooked spinach. You will most likely see either curly kale, lacianto, or red russian kale at your local store. Try them all, but start with only 1-2 leaves to your smoothies until you get used to the taste.

Collards: Maintaining a high intake of cruciferous vegetables has consistently been associated with lower cancer risks. High in vitamins A, C, calcium, iron, protein and fiber this green is not one that you want to miss out on.

Cabbage: Both the green and red cabbage made the “5 magic vegetables” list making them a great choice to add to your green smoothies. It’s another diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer fighter.

Bok choy: Also knows as “Chinese cabbage,” bok choy is best bought in the winter months. It’s taste is pretty mild and is wonderful in soups and mango pudding as well as your green smoothies.

Although pretty spicy in flavor, arugula, turnip greens, and mustard greens are also in this family and can be added to green smoothies in small amounts if you don’t mind the taste.

Spirulina – The “Other” Green

If you really want to take your green smoothies to the next level, try adding some Spirulina. Technically not a green that you would find growing in your garden, this blue-green microalgae is found in warm, fresh water bodies. It comes in a powdered form and is the world’s first superfood, and one of the most nutrient-rich foods on Earth.

Spirulina has between 55 and 70% protein (more than beef, chicken, and soybeans), 8 essential and 10 non-essential amino acids, as well as high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, phosphorus, nucleic acids RNA & DNA, chlorophyll. It helps improve the immune system, and provides exceptional support for the heart, liver, and kidneys. Spirulina is also a natural detoxifier, oxygenates the blood, and helps cleanse the body of toxins and other impurities that may be causing illnesses or other health complications.

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Green smoothies can help change your health in extraordinary ways. I’d love to hear about your green smoothie praises or challenges and help you embrace the green smoothie habit.

Until next time, keep it real.

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but Keepin’ it Real earns a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.

Why I Don’t Count Calories

Why I Don't Count Calories

We have probably all resorted to the cumbersome task of counting calories or points, weighing, measuring and calculating amounts of food we eat to help us control our weight. Following a diet such as this isn’t easily maintained for a lifetime. Who has time to count calories all day, every day for the rest of your life?

If calorie counting worked long term then we would be the thinnest country on the planet. Americans are obsessed with dieting and spend nearly $40 billion a year on weight-loss programs and products. Yet, you would never know it by looking at us. According to the CDC, 2011-12 data shows that 69% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Sixty-nine percent! That’s insane!

Since eating real food, I have freed myself of that daily burden. To me, eating real food isn’t about restriction and worrying about how many calories a certain food contains. It’s not about depriving myself of good wholesome treats. Eating real food is about eating unrefined, nutrient-dense foods that fill me up, make me feel good, and are helping to fight disease rather than fuel it. In my opinion, this is a much more sustainable way to stay healthy long term.

Here’s why I stopped counting calories and chose real food instead.

  1. All calories are NOT created equal. For example, 100 calories of anti-cancer, immune-building, high fiber berries or pomegranate is far superior than a 100 calorie snack pack that is loaded with chemicals, refined ingredients and coloring. It’s more about quality, not quantity.
  2. Crap is crap no matter how many calories it contains. Healthy, nutrient-dense foods will help keep hunger at bay, minimize cravings and help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Nutrient-dead foods will spike insulin, cultivate cravings and encourage overeating.
  3. It’s too restrictive. I love to eat and I eat a lot. Just ask my husband. But nothing takes the joy out of eating like counting how many crackers I can have, writing down my points in my food journal or measuring how many beans I throw on my salad.
  4. You don’t listen to your body. If you are constantly worried about tracking every scrap of food you are eating you are far more worried about meeting your calorie goals then satisfying your hunger. If you eat 500 calories at one meal and leave feeling hungry do you just have to suck it up until the next meal? Or if you are closing in on bedtime and haven’t reached your caloric goals do you eat even though you’re not hungry? Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied is a much easier, enjoyable experience.

If I’m not counting calories, what do I do?

I eat in a way that is not just focused on weight loss, but also focused on optimizing health and promoting longevity. Eating delicious, health promoting meals has allowed my body to lose cravings for sugary, greasy, disease-causing foods while filling me up. Once I started focusing on nutrients rather than restrictions the weight fell off naturally and dieting was a thing of the past.

Get back in the kitchen.

The real remedy is to return to the kitchen and embrace good, old-fashioned home cooking. It’s an important commitment, but can be done…and is fun too! Strive for a diet of at least 80% unprocessed food (focusing on a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and fruits) while allowing “life” to happen the other 20% of the time. Not only will you gain numerous health benefits but you will gain the satisfaction of being able to control the ingredients that go into your food.

Until next time, keep it real.

Dr Fuhrman’s ANDI list is a great place to find the nutrient density of certain foods and how well they score.

For additional info, Dr. Mark Hyman has a great article about Why Calories Don’t Matter.

Reasons to Ditch Dairy

Reasons to Ditch Dairy


“Milk does a body good”…but does it really?

The dairy industry pours about $140 million into advertising each year to scare you into consuming their products. And they have done a pretty good job at it too. Because of their scare tactics most believe that milk and dairy products are a natural and essential part of the human diet. However, nothing could be further from the truth. I am here to sort through the misconceptions which may make you think twice about sporting that milk mustache.

Here are some reasons why I have chosen to almost completely eliminate dairy foods in my family’s diet.

Cow’s milk is for calves.

Breast milk is produced for feeding human babies. Dog milk is produced to feed puppies. Cat milk is produced for feeding kittens. Goat milk is produced for feeding kids. Pig milk is produced for feeding piglets. You get the picture. Cow’s milk is a fatty hormonal secretion designed to take a 65 pound newborn calf and turn it into a 700-pound cow in less than one year. And if it can make a cow fat, it can make you fat too. Humans are the only species on the planet that drink the milk of another animal after weaning from our mother. Logically, it just doesn’t even begin to make sense to keep consuming milk for the rest of our lives.

Milk may INCREASE the likeliness of osteoporosis.

If we don’t consume dairy products, where will we get our calcium?  How will be build strong bones? We’re doomed, right? Wrong. While the dairy industry has advertised for years that milk makes bones stronger, we have begun to find that actually the complete opposite happens when you consume too much dairy. In the book, The China Study, T. Colin Campbell explains that when you consume a high protein diet (including protein-casein-from dairy), it creates acidity in the body. In order to neutralize that acidity, your body draws salts such as calcium and phosphorus from your bones so it can return to its naturally alkaline state. The result is weakened bones and teeth – totally the opposite of what the dairy industry has been touting all these years. Countries in the world that consume very little dairy, like China, experience very little osteoporosis. Go figure. Calcium can be found in a variety of other, healthier food choices such as broccoli, kale, collard greens, other leafy green vegetables, sesame seeds, and beans. Just to name new.

Cow’s milk is difficult to digest.

People are lactose intolerant because they can’t digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. Lactase, the enzyme that helps people digest lactose stops being produced between the ages of 2-5 years. Less than 40% of people are able to retain the ability to digest lactose after early childhood. This leaves more than 60% of the population lactose intolerant. And since cow’s milk is, in fact, intended for baby cows then it really isn’t surprising that majority of us can’t even tolerate drinking milk from another species after being weaned from our mothers.

Milk can contain hormones and antibiotics.

When you drink a glass of milk you might be getting more in that milk than you bargained for. Synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are often given to cows to help increase milk production. It has been used since our cohorts at the FDA approved it, but due to it’s link to cancer our friends across the pond and our northern neighbors all have banned it for use. Gee, why am I not surprised?

Due to common practices that have cows producing way more milk than nature ever intended, antibiotics are often used to treat mastitis which is an inflammation of the mammary glands. These antibiotics are finding their way into our bodies as well creating a resistance to the drugs. This wide-spread resistance makes it harder and harder to treat certain bugs.

Diseases linked to dairy

Dairy products have been linked to increased susceptibility to allergies, childhood-onset (Type 1) diabetes, chronic constipation, Crohn’s disease, ear infections, heart attacks, multiple sclerosis, prostate cancer and ear infections, migraines, acne, arthritis and more.

If I shouldn’t drink milk what can we use instead?

There are many fantastic alternatives on the market that can replace cow’s milk in all the places you need to use milk. Plant-based milks are healthy and great tasting. Try almond, rice, hemp, hazelnut or oat milk. You can even get creative and try pistachio nut or flax milk. The possibilities are endless. Think you might miss ice cream? Try my 1 ingredient ice cream and you’ll never feel deprived of a creamy treat. Can’t give up cheese? Use nutritional yeast as a replacement and get a excellent dose of B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein.

Why I decided to ditch dairy.

I suffered from adult acne for 8 years. Trying every pill, lotion, soap, cream, facial on the market I failed at obtaining a clear complexion. After reading and researching information on dairy, and how it can affect your skin, I decided to give it up when I started our real food journey in 2012. Within 3 months my skin was clear. I couldn’t believe it. After trying EVERYTHING else, all I needed to do was give up dairy despite the dermatologist telling me that nutrition wouldn’t cure me. Still, to this day, if I eat something with dairy in it I can pretty much guarantee a pimple will pop up 2-3 days later.

That said, we are not 100% dairy free. Real life happens and when it does we roll along with it. I let my children enjoy a trip to the ice cream parlor for a treat every now and again. Sometimes we enjoy homemade cheese pizza on movie nights in which I use organic, grass-fed cheeses. Despite the occasional times that we use dairy, I can’t tell you the last time I actually bought a gallon of cow’s milk. Now I make my own milk right here at home…but out of almonds.

Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to your health. Consume a healthful diet of a variety of veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, and beans and get plenty of sunshine. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin D requirements with ease—and without the health risks.

Until next time, keep it real.

Our recommendations:

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase an item through our link you will not incur any additional costs but Keepin’ it Real earns a small commission. We only recommend products we have used, would use or trust. Your support is greatly appreciated so we may continue to spread the news about real food.