Getting Started With Fermented Foods Part 1: Buying Guide

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If you want to start including fermented foods in your diet, there are 3 ways you can go about it:

You can:

  1. Buy them

  2. Use a starter culture

  3. Make them from scratch

Or you can do a combination of them all.

In the next 3 posts I’m going to walk you through the 3 options, so you can choose which works best for you.


Buying Ferments

If you aren’t feeling super confident to make your own ferments, then your next best option is to buy them ready made. This is a great way to get a taste for what you and your family like before you learn how to make them yourself.

Even if you do make all your own ferments, store bought versions are great to try for inspiration.

Unfortunately a lot of ferments you see on the shelf are mass produced and don't contain the benefits traditional ferments do . The ferments you want to eat are the ones fermented with traditional techniques. These are good for your guts and full of beneficial bacteria, vitamins and minerals.

The best place to look for these is at your local health food store in the fridge section.

Here’s a run down on what to look out for when buying your next ferment:

(Please note I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in this post. These are products that I personally use and recommend).


Cultured Vegetables (Sauerkraut and Fermented Whole Vegetables)

  • Always choose cultured vegetables from the fridge section. These ones are full of live bacteria (like a probiotic) that are good for our guts. Steer clear from your supermarket ones on the shelf. These have been pastuerised (heated) which kills all the beneficial bacteria.

  • The only ingredients on the label should be vegetables/herb/spices and salt - no sugar or vinegar.  

  • Some brands add starter cultures for consistency in their products and this is normal. 

  • My favourites: Nourishing Wholefoods, Gutsy Ferments, Lewis & Son, and Peace Love and Vegetables


Kombucha/Kefir

  • Always choose a kefir or kombucha from the fridge section (the ones on the shelf have been pastuerised which kills all the beneficial bacteria). 

  • The only ingredients on the label should be tea, sugar, water, fruit/roots/spices to flavour and kombucha/kefir culture.

  • Sugar is a normal ingredient needed for the fermentation process. It provides a fuel source for the culture to convert it to beneficial bacteria.   

  • My favourites: Buchi Kombucha, Nourishing Wholefoods and Remedy.


Yoghurt (Coconut or Dairy)

  • Choose a plain variety with no added sugar.

  • The only ingredients on the label should be milk and live cultures (except for coconut yoghurt which usually contains tapioca starch to thicken and a natural sweetener).

  • The more variety of live cultures listed the better. Lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus bulgaricus, bifidus and streptococcus thermophilus are the most common.

  • Choose organic when possible to ensure you are getting yoghurt from happy, healthy cows (or coconuts). 

  • My favourites:  Coconut - Born Cultured or Coyo, Dairy - Barambah and Jalna.


Other ferments made with traditional techniques

  • Miso - look in the fridge section of your health food store. The only ingredients on the label should be rice, soy beans, salt, koji starter, and perhaps other grains or vegetables depending on the variety. Avoid any miso paste containing preservatives, additives or sugar. These have most likely been pasteurised which destroys all the beneficial bacteria. My favourite brand is Meru Miso.

  • Cultured dips/vegan cheeses - Look for these in the fridge section of your health food store. Botanical Cuisine make the most delicious variety of vegan cheeses and cultured dips. Other great brands to look out for are Peace Love and Vegetables and Nutty Bay.


The best place to buy them

  • Farmers markets - This is the best place to get your hands on locally produced ferments and speak directly to the producer.  

  • Health food stores - Check the fridge section for what's on offer, look for a locally produced product or ask staff for their recommendations.


Where to from here?

Once you find a favourite ferment (or two), that you and your family love, the next step is to learn to make it yourself.

In the next 2 posts I’ll run you through the options for making your own ferments.

How To Help Your Kids Love Fermented Foods

Do you struggle getting your kids to try new foods? You’re not alone! Introducing kids to new foods takes time and patience and fermented foods are no different. Some kids will love fermented foods from the get go and others will take time. Some will also go through phases of loving them one meal and not touching them the next. I’ve experienced this first hand with my 2½ year old Anjali.

The best way to start introducing your kids to fermented foods is to get the whole family on board and make fermented foods a regular part of mealtimes.

To help I've put together my top 5 tips that you can try when introducing your kids to fermented foods. These are what have worked for me over the past 2 years with my daughter Anjali. 

1.     Start slow

If your child has never eaten fermented foods don’t expect them to love them straight away and be eating fermented foods at every meal from the get go. Try one thing at a time and start by talking about that fermented food and how good it is for them. Start putting it on their plate/in their cup and if they don’t eat/drink it at first, don’t worry just let them explore/play with it until they become curious enough to try.  See below the tips for a list of kid friendly ferments to start with.

2.     Lead by example

Include fermented foods in your meals too and make them a normal part of mealtime. Kids love to emulate us and are much more likely to try something if they see us eating it too.

3.     Get them involved  

Whether you’re making your ferments or buying them from the shop get your kids involved in the process.  If buying them from the shop let them choose what flavour/type they would like. If making them yourself get your kids to help even if this means getting your 2 year old to massage cabbage while it goes all over the floor! The mess is definitely worth the effort as kids love being involved.  Check your ferments daily, talk about the process and watch in awe as they bubble away. My 2 year old is obsessed with our Kombucha scobies and loves saying ‘hi’ to them.

4.     Start them early

It’s never too early to get your kids used to the flavours of fermented foods. Babies taste buds start developing from the time they are in the womb and they continue to taste different flavours through your breast milk, so load up on fermented foods during pregnancy and while breastfeeding so the flavours become familiar to your child.  As soon as babies are old enough to eat solids they can start having fermented foods. Start of with some sauerkraut juice or coconut kefir on your finger and let them suck it off. Gradually increase their dosage from there. Babies really love sour flavours! If you’ve got older kids it’s never too late to start either it may just take them a little longer for their taste buds to adapt.

5.     Make them kid friendly  

What foods do your kids love? Incorporate fermented foods into those. Ice-blocks, smoothies and gummies are great to put yoghurt, kefir or kombucha in. Or try putting sauerkraut into a sandwich, a sushi roll or sprinkle on their favourite meal.  

What to start with

Fermented foods are on the strong end of the flavour spectrum and not all kids are used to the tangy flavours. Young babies generally love sour flavours from the get go but with older kids it helps to start with milder tasting ferments like yoghurt and water kefir. As they get used to the flavours slowly add in more stronger tasting ferments like sauerkraut and other cultured vegetables.

So have fun experimenting and don’t be hard on yourself if they don’t like something the first time. Be patient and persistent and you will be rewarded in the long term. 

Check out these kid friendly recipes for some ideas: