Try Eating Purple Foods For A Greater Antioxidant Effect

Jannine Myers

Purple fruits and vegetables are known for their high antioxidant content, and the reason we should all want to eat foods with lots of antioxidants is because they help to combat the aging process and keep us looking younger and healthier!

Additionally, the purple pigment in foods such as eggplant, purple cabbages, blackberries, and blueberries, all contain certain flavanoids that offer protection from certain diseases, including some cancers. With so many different kinds of purple fruits and vegetables to choose from, there’s no reason why you can’t get more of them into your daily diet.

Here’s a recipe to get you started; it’s a baked purple sweet potato and blueberry mash:




  • 2 purple sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil, 1/8 cup organic unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter, unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup walnuts and some shredded coconut for garnish
  • Plain organic yogurt


  1. Heat oven to 400F. Boil sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes, then drain.
  2. In a blender or food processor, pulse all the ingredients, including the cooked sweet potatoes (but excluding the blueberries). When the mixture is well combined, add the frozen blueberries and stir.
  3. Divide between 5 ramekins. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and walnuts. Bake for about 10 to 15 mins.
  4. Serve with yogurt and a dash of cinnamon.


“Everything In Moderation” Questioned By Award-Winning Fitness Expert

Jannine Myers


I read a very interesting nutrition article a few days ago, written by ACE Senior Consultant for Personal Training, Jonathan Ross. It’s title intrigued me, because it implied that a dietary approach based on “everything in moderation” simply doesn’t work. I had to keep reading of course, because for years now that’s exactly the kind of dietary approach I have lived by (and advocated), and for the most part I feel that it does work.

So what exactly does Ross have to say about the “everything in moderation” approach? Let me break it down into three parts:

1. His first point is that moderation, as understood and practiced by the majority, is not moderation at all but a lifestyle. He argues that if a person successfully resists the temptation to eat 90% of all the unhealthy foods that he or she is daily exposed to, yet still chooses to indulge in 10% of those foods, then that is essentially a habit, and habits form lifestyles. For example, a female athlete eats healthy and wholesome foods all day, but allows herself a tall size Starbucks Frappucino each afternoon. Ross claims that such daily rewards, even though small, can’t really fit into the realm of moderate consumption, because if it’s daily it’s therefore a habit and therefore a way of life.

2. Ross brings up the topic of “super” foods. In recent nutrition news, we’ve been hearing a lot about “super” foods that supposedly have extraordinary health benefits. Ross claims that there is nothing extraordinary about these foods; that they are really just normal foods that have been around for centuries and which nourish the body as normal, wholesome foods should. On the other hand, it’s the unhealthy foods – those foods that we love to eat, but strive to eat in moderation – that should be identified as having “super” adverse effects.

Ross believes that if you eat healthfully (as in, you eat normal, healthy and natural foods) most of the day, but also have an unhealthy treat each day, you’re actually creating an imbalance. He explains that the effects of ingesting small, but regular amounts of chemically-laden, or high sugar/high-fat foods, can have a “super” detrimental effect that can’t be compensated for by simply reverting back to wholesome and nutritious meals. It can take “weeks or months,” he says, to clear internal inflammation caused by dietary imbalances.

3. His final point is that too many people see their food choices as being either “good” or “bad.” The problem with this, says Ross, is that it sets people up to say “yes” more often, to the not-so-healthy foods. When eating mostly healthy foods over the course of a day is viewed as “good” (or successful), it then becomes easy to tell yourself that tomorrow, you deserve a cheat day. This is a typical pattern with most people, and one of the reasons why Ross believes so many struggle to have a healthy relationship with food. He suggests that eating healthy foods is neither good nor bad; it’s simply “getting more healthful.”

Ross’ takeaway is that the general perception of eating everything in moderation is skewed. He believes that most people who “feel” like they eat everything in moderation, really don’t, and consequently we have a society of people who are moderately unhealthy instead of thriving.

My takeaway is this:

1. I like to eat a small sugary dessert every night, something like custard mochi, or chocolate, or home-baked cookies, to name a few. And every other night (or occasionally on consecutive nights), I like to drink a glass of wine with my meal. I also like to carry my favourite New Zealand lollies (candy) in my handbag and reach for one or two when I have a sudden sugar craving. Until I read this article however, I had never thought of my small daily indulgences as a lifestyle habit that doesn’t conform to the dictionary definition of moderation.

2. Ross’ suggestion that healthy foods are not “super” foods, while unhealthy foods on the other hand, have “super” harmful effects, is a notion I had also never considered – yet it does make sense. I’m just not sure how accurate Ross’ claims are about small amounts of unhealthy foods having such a significant impact on health.

3. Ross says that the concept of “everything in moderation” oversimplifies an idea that isn’t that simple at all. Yet he also infers that we can improve our relationship with food by not acknowledging our food choices as either “good” or “bad,” but by telling ourselves that choosing a healthy food is “getting more healthful.” But isn’t that also oversimplifying? The alternative is that eating an unhealthy food means that we are getting less healthful. Anyway you slice it – good or bad, or more healthful versus less healthful – the end result will surely be the same.

In summary, when I look at my overall dietary intake, it consists mostly of healthy and nourishing foods, with a few unhealthy choices making up a much smaller percentage. By Ross’ standards, my daily indulgences are enough to label me as a “moderately unhealthy person.” I’m okay with that though, because if I’m moderately unhealthy, that means that I am also moderately healthy. Additionally, if being a “thriving” person means that I must practice moderation in it’s strictest form, I’d have to be willing to live a life so disciplined that achieving “thriving” status would surely come about at the cost of happiness. And if that’s what it takes, then being “moderately unhealthy,” and “moderately thriving,” is what works – for me.

Fight Your Cold With A Spicy Curry

Jannine Myers

Battling a cold? Try eating curry!

Whenever sickness invades my home, I usually try to combat the symptoms by making meals that include foods known for their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. While I would normally go straight for the lemons and honey, and chicken and vegetable soup, I decided this time to go for a spicy curry. The spices in most curries typically promote the production of mucus, which is just what the body needs since mucus traps unwanted bacteria and prevents it from entering the bloodstream.

To make sure my curry was spicy enough, I opted for a Thai red curry with crushed red pepper flakes. It worked; I had to eat with a pile of tissues by my side!


Here’s what I added to my curry:

  • Coconut oil (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes (as little or as much as you like)
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 can lowfat coconut milk
  • 1 can low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • dried mint for garnish


  1. Saute onions, garlic, and red pepper in coconut oil, for several minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add crushed pepper flakes, sweet potato, salt and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Let it boil at low heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. When the sweet potatoes are tender, add the remaining ingredients and simmer on low for a further 15 minutes or so.
  3. Add some dried mint for extra seasoning (and a little lime juice if desired).

Make sure it’s piping hot when you eat it – it will help to soothe your throat as well as get the mucus flowing :) An extra bonus is that this is a fast and easy meal to make, and it’s really delicious!

Celebrating Best Running Friends

Jannine Myers

Last week Anna published a post about “tribe” friendships, referring of course to our amazing WOOT tribe. This week I want to take that concept a step further, and at the risk of sounding a little melodramatic, suggest that a best running friend (BRF) is even better than a tribe of running friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my running tribe; I wouldn’t be half the runner I am today if not for WOOT. But beyond the celebration of shared miles that has evolved into such an incredible group camaraderie, there is also much to be said about shared miles with someone who becomes more than just a friend. If any of you have a BRF, or you once had one, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about.

A couple of years ago, my BRF left Okinawa; I miss her terribly, and here’s why:

  • First and foremost, what started out as a regular friendship grew into something special. I have many friends whom I consider close and dear to me, but my BRF is one of just a very few who really knows me. I am convinced that one of the reasons she became such a close confidante is that we spent hours and hours of time together on the road and on trails. I like what one woman said in a RunnersWorld article about her BRF; she said, “The act of running somehow allows the words to flow easily. We share things on our runs that I might not even tell my closest girlfriend. What else are you going to talk about over 20 miles?” When you swap such personal information on a regular basis with the same person, it’s inevitable that deep bonding will eventually occur.


Family Fun Run at Marek Park

  • This one is obvious, but shouldn’t be overlooked; having a BRF helped me to run when I didn’t feel like running. Everyone knows that having a running buddy helps with accountability and motivation, but when you have a best running buddy, there’s even more of an advantage. You not only feel obliged to “show up,” but you also don’t fight yourself as much. The mental and physical battle is still there, but so is the desire to spend time with the one person you can truly be yourself with.
  • Running with a BRF can produce gains in overall performance. When my BRF was here in Okinawa, a huge percentage of my training runs were done with her; we did long runs together, hill runs together, and speed runs together. Running side by side empowered us to run faster, harder, and longer, and stay more focused on our goals and less focused on the pain we both felt.


Tarawera Ultramarathon NZ 2011 – made it to the 40k Aid Station together

  • A BRF must be someone who runs a similar or same pace to you; if she doesn’t, then you haven’t found your BRF. Running at the same pace is crucial – or at least, most ideal – because ultimately you want to be happy when you run and having to run slower or faster than you’re capable of will only be enjoyable for so long. Additionally, having the same pace means that you can start and finish all your long runs together, and, you can even start and finish races together. The beauty of running races with your BRF, is that you can take turns motivating each other; more often than not, you’ll experience your highs and lows at different times, so you can take turns drawing on each other’s strength.


Okinawa Marathon 2011 – started and finished together


One of several races we ran together

If you’re lucky enough to have a BRF, give her a shout-out this week and celebrate the special and unique friendship you have with her!

This Week’s Farmers Market Buys – Part Two

Jannine Myers

Another purchase I made at the farmers market last weekend is a bag of yomogi leaves.


I first learned about the yomogi plant (known in other countries as mugwort) a few years ago, when I asked one of my Japanese friends why yomogi mochi, or kusamochiseemed to be so popular. Apparently, the yomogi plant grows everywhere in Japan, and because it’s so abundantly available, it’s commonly used to make mochi.

While yomogi leaves are great for making delicious rice cakes, they can also be utilized in many other ways and they are actually believed to contain significant anti-inflammatory effects. One way I use yomogi leaves is by adding them to my smoothies; the leaves do have quite a distinctive taste but I don’t find it unpleasant at all.



Yomogi leaves – a decent handful

Fresh ginger – cut a generous piece

Grated carrots – 1/4 cup

Frozen (small, or half) banana

Frozen strawberries – 1/4 cup

Camu camu powder – 1 tsp

Chocolate protein powder (I use Vega Protein Smoothie Choc-A-Lot) – 1 scoop

Almond milk -1/4 cup

Water – 1/2 cup

Throw everything in a blender and process till smooth and creamy.

If a “yomogi smoothie” doesn’t sound like it’s for you, then you can always try some kusamochi; I bought this one with the sweet azuki beans inside and coated with kinako powder – yum!


Celebrate your Tribe!

Anna Boom

Corinne and I were chatting on our run the other day (okay, really she was chatting and I was trying to catch my breath) about how our group is a great place to meet other women who respect each others strengths, rather than tear each other down to make ourselves feel better. If you’ve ever been the on the other end of gossip, you’ll know what I mean.

But back to respecting each others strengths–WOOT has fast runners, great hill climbers, speedy trail blazers, the best cheer squad, women who just need to run without a stroller at least 1 morning a week!, women looking to become better runners, women looking for a group to hold them accountable, and all of us, really just looking to connect and have some fun outside.

We all have strengths that together make us an amazing team.

Scrolling through our WOOT Wall, I came across a picture that I adore. It says it all, celebrate Our Tribe.

The Tribe of Women Trail Runners

The Tribe of Women Trail Runners

Thanks, Molly for the pic. (she’s a talented photographer, too)

As a few of us take off for the race we’ve trained all summer for, Five Mountains Shinetsu 110 Km, and many of continue to train for the Suck It Up Princess Adventure relay, the Kunigami trail race in December, and the Great Wall half/marathon in May, remember this:

our tribe

Keep coming out with us to celebrate our strengths, and party on trail with your Tribe. Yes, I am talking to YOU :)

This Week’s Farmers Market Buys – Part One

Jannine Myers

I am loving the Japanese orange-flesh sweet potatoes right now! If you like sweet potatoes as much as I do, check out these recipes:

The first is a recipe that reminds me of winter-time meals back home. You’ve probably all tasted or heard of Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie, but if you haven’t it’s a popular dish in New Zealand (though traditionally from northern England), that’s made with ground beef and topped with mashed potato. The recipe I used is one that replaces the potato with sweet potato, and it’s really good! I actually made these for my 11-year old because she’s kind of a picky eater, but my older daughter and I love them too.




  • Sweet potato – 2 large, sliced
  • Almond milk 3–4 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • cheese (e.g. colby, edam, cheddar) 1 cup grated
Pie filling
  • Olive oil 1 tablespoon
  • Onion 1, finely diced
  • Garlic 1 clove, minced
  • Carrot 1, peeled and grated
  • Zucchini 1, grated
  • Ground beef (organic, if possible) 500g
  • Tomato paste 2 tablespoons
  • Tamari soy sauce 1 tablespoon
  • Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon
  • mustard (e.g. Dijon or wholegrain) 1 tablespoon
  • Flour 1 tablespoon
  • Beef broth ½ cup

Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F. Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil.

  1. Cook sweet potato in pot of boiling water for 12–15 minutes, until very soft. Drain and mash with butter and milk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. While sweet potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a large fry-pan on medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, carrot and zucchini for about 3–4 minutes. Add beef and cook for a further 3–4 minutes until brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon (drain fat before continuing with remaining ingredients). Add tomato paste, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and mustard, stir until combined. Sprinkle over flour, stir to combine and cook for 1–2 minutes then add beef broth, stir and simmer for 5–7 minutes until sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Fill four individual ramekins (to 2/3 full) with pie filling. Top with sweet potato mash and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, then let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with a side of fresh greens.

[Recipe from Nadia Lim]

The second recipe is one that is currently my favourite post-run breakfast meal! Seriously, if you have not tried eating sweet potatoes this way, you must:


Just three ingredients are needed for this awesome recipe:

  1. Sweet potatoes (orange-flesh) – 2 or 3 medium/large
  2. Almond butter – 1 tbsp per half sweet potato
  3. Cinnamon – a generous dash


Preheat oven to 425 F. Gently scrub and clean the sweet potatoes, then pierce the tops of them with a fork before laying them on a foil-lined baking tray. Bake for at least 45 minutes.

[Tip: I bake the sweet potatoes the night before]

In the morning, when you’re ready to eat, take half of one of the sweet potatoes (keep the rest stored in an air-tight container in the fridge), and warm it up in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Spread about a tbsp of almond butter over the warm sweet potato, and sprinkle with cinnamon. So delicious!!! {And don’t take the skin off, it’s packed with nutrients!)

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts why sweet potatoes are a great food for runners, but here’s a good visual reminder:


 Hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do!

Book Review: Running For Health And Happiness

Jannine Myers

jason fitzgerald


Like other resource books for runners – such as “Runners World Complete Book of Running,” and “Marathon:The Ultimate Training Guide” – this is a book that aims to provide new runners with everything they need to know about taking safe and progressive steps towards their running goals.


With a focus on improved running performance and injury-prevention, Fitzgerald attempts to identify common mistakes that runners make as they try to get stronger and faster. He claims for example, that the reason so many runners get hurt is that they fail to recognize that metabolic changes take place faster than structural changes. Hence a runner’s improved level of fitness may be stunted by a weaker structural system. Fitzgerald explains how such imbalances can be corrected by incorporating short dynamic warm-up and cool-down routines, as well as specific injury-prevention exercises, all of which can be found either in his book or on his website.


Another point heavily emphasized in this book, is the idea that the “10% increase” rule is too limiting for most runners. Fitzgerald believes that a far more effective approach to improving both endurance and speed is to focus instead on consistently running the same mileage over a period of time, and then adding, for example, an additional day of running – even if that means more than a 10% increase in overall mileage.


Other viewpoints expressed in this book are well justified and explained, and backed up by testimonials of runners who have experienced pain-free and faster running as a result of following Fitzgerald’s advice. Fitzgerald himself, suffered a serious ITB injury in 2008, after finishing the New York marathon in 2:44. A subsequent six month absence from the running world forced him to question his views on previous training methods, and thus his current training philosophy was birthed from that period of reflection. Since developing the Strength Running program in 2010 and applying it to his own training routine, Fitzgerald has only had one injury, and he also ran a 5+minute PR of 2:39:32 at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2011.


In reading the promotional excerpts about this book, one gets the sense that readers will be able to acquire the kind of information that cuts to the chase of what beginner runners really want to know about faster and pain-free running. For new runners, I would certainly recommend this book; it will take away a lot of the guesswork for you in terms of how to set safe and realistic goals. For more experienced runners, I’d suggest that you give this book a try; I have a feeling you’ll be as surprised as I was and you may even find yourself pulling out pen and paper to scribble down a note or two.


[Fitzgerald is also a USA Track and Field certified coach, co-founder of Run Your BQ, and contributor to various publications such as Active, Competitor Magazine, and Daily Burn]

A Few More Healthy Snack/Breakfast Recipes

Jannine Myers

Most of you know by now that when I cook or bake, I tend to make snack and meal choices based on what I have in the pantry and refrigerator. What I enjoy most about this method of eating, is that I am constantly eating different foods and getting a wide variety of nutrients into my diet. The following recipes are some of the snacks that resulted from the previous week’s pantry and refrigerator ingredients:

Soft Gingerbread Cookies (Low-Fat/Low-Sugar/Fresh Ginger)



  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped (add a little ground ginger too, optional)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 beaten egg + additional almond milk to the equivalent of 1/2 cup


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl combine almond milk, sugar, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and egg/milk mixture.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined; roll into balls and place on baking sheet.
  5. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar over the tops of the cookies.
  6. Bake cookies for about 10-15 minutes.

Buckwheat Porridge Loaf With Fresh Fruit




  • 1/3 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 1/3 cup coconut or almond milk
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 fresh peach, washed and sliced with skin on
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp dessicated coconut (+ more for topping)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • GF flour (enough to turn mixture into a bread dough)


  1. Soak the buckwheat groats in a bowl of water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse the buckwheat in a strainer for about one or two minutes.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375F. Once the buckwheat is drained and rinsed, add it to your food processor and pulse a few times to break up the groats.
  3. In a bowl, combine the milk, mashed banana, chia, dessicated coconut, baking powder, vanilla extract, and buckwheat and stir until well combined. Let this sit for a few minutes so the chia can soak up some liquid. Add enough flour to turn the mixture into a bread dough.
  4. Lightly grease a small baking dish and pour in the porridge mixture. Top with the peach slices. Place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from your oven, let it cool slightly and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Eat as is, or with yogurt and cinnamon.

Spiced Muesli And Coconut Yogurt



  • 3 fresh dates, pitted, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
  • A small dash each of nutmeg, ground ginger, cloves, anise seed, and cinnamon [Spices not only add great flavor, but they contain numerous health benefits]
  • 150g tub Chobani Non-GMO Coconut Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup organic muesli (I buy Alishan Organic Muesli from Green Leaf in Chatan)
  • Handful of almonds and sunflower seeds


  1. Combine dates, orange juice, muesli, and spices in a small bowl.
  2. Spoon half of date mixture into a jar or serving bowl. Top with half of the yoghurt. Repeat layers. Finish with almonds and seeds.

Mini Banana, Oat, and Yogurt Muffins (great for school lunch boxes)




  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I like the Japanese brand Meiji Bulgaria LB81, which is supposedly good for intestinal health)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups oats
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (or up to 1/2 cup if you prefer a sweeter muffin)
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 400F and fill a mini muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. Add all ingredients except for walnuts to a blender or food processor and process on high until the oats are broken down and the batter is smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cavity until it is about ¾ full. Sprinkle a few walnuts over the top of each muffin. [Note: I had leftover batter, so I made a few regular size muffins as well].
  4. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in pan and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar. Store in an air-tight container for up to a week.


Feeding Your Family Healthy Meals Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult

Jannine Myers

I’m really excited for you to read this post; if you do I’m almost certain it will motivate you to do your best – most of the time – to take care of your family by feeding them real food with real nutritional value.

Let me introduce you to Kristen Tull, mother of five, and former Preschool Director but currently stay-at-home mom. Kristen is also a member of WOOT, and a good friend of mine who agreed to let me interview her for this post. Having spent time with Kristen and her family, both in and outside of her home, it didn’t take me long to observe that eating healthy is a daily priority for them. Putting this post together was somehow important to me because I understand how frustrating it is for busy moms who want to serve their families healthy meals, but struggle to do so.

Please take from this post whatever tips you think may work for you; the intent in sharing Kristen’s success as a “healthy home cook,” is not to highlight others’ weaknesses, but to offer practical and simple solutions to those who also desire to feed their families healthy meals.


Interview Q & A

1. How often do you grocery shop? Is healthy eating affordable, or are you willing to spend more for the sake of good health?

I grocery shop every couple of days, usually off base. I make a commissary “run” about once every other week, usually for things like paper plates, toilet paper, etc. I find that quick grocery runs are so much easier, even if they are more frequent, than a big long one. On longer shopping excursions, my kids are done by the second aisle; by the time we hit the checkout line I’m so exhausted from keeping them in line that I don’t feel like going home and cooking.

For me, healthy eating is cheaper than eating all of the over-processed, pre-packaged food. As a matter of fact, I found that out first-hand last week. My husband was gone for most of the summer, and I took the kids camping. Usually I cut up a ton of fruits and veggies and throw them into disposable tupperware containers. I’ll pick up some fresh meat and charcoal along the way, but this last time I just didn’t have it in me and out of desperation I went to the commissary and bought a bunch of junk. It was super expensive and I realized it really wasn’t that much easier. I had to take so many bags of “food,” clean up so many containers, and I felt terrible about feeding my kids food that had no nutritional value. I learned two lessons: 1. it’s not cheaper and 2. it’s not easier. I’d rather pay whatever it takes to give my children the best possible start at a healthy life.

2. How many meals would you say you prepare a week? And when you don’t have time, what do you typically feed the family?

I typically prepare meals 5-6 times a week. We used to go out to eat more often when we had 2 or 3 kids, but once we added the 4th and 5th, that had to stop. Being in Japan however, that is sometimes hard for me because I know there are lots of yummy, healthy places to eat.

When I don’t have time to cook, I will usually stop at a Japanese grocery store and purchase a quick meal to go. My children are keen on eating healthy so they usually ask for an onigiri (rice ball), or a salad with fruit and a tofu pudding for dessert. My oldest often asks for noodles, but I limit her intake and when she does have noodles, I make sure she also has some type of protein as well as a fruit and/or veggie.


lunch – mixed raw veges and tuna


3. How do you manage your time; for example, what does a typical week day look like for you?

I manage my time by prepping early. I usually work-out in the morning before my husband goes to work, and if I am lucky I may even get my shower in! Once my older children are off to school (or in the summer they just go with me), I will plan what I am going to cook for dinner, then head out to the Japanese markets as soon as they open. If I know I am going to be busy the following morning, I will purchase enough food for two evening meals. If the stars align right, I can get at least one of my younger kids down for a nap and I’ll drink some coffee then start prepping for dinner.

Sometimes I get everything done by noon, in which case I just have to heat it up in the evening; when that happens I have the rest of the day to play with my babies or do something I want to do. I feel that getting up and going early really helps me get the day started right and allows me to manage my time efficiently. I also do laundry every day; I put a load in before I work-out, switch it over before I shower, then fold before I go to the market. I have my children put their clothes away as an evening chore! That also gives me more time to spend in the kitchen.

When my children get home from school, I have time to help them with homework. If they have a sporting event, we will have an early dinner and I’ll cut up some fruit or make them a protein shake afterward (as a snack) since we ate so early. If they don’t have a sporting event, I will usually give them an afternoon snack and we’ll eat dinner around 6pm.


At a dragon boat sporting event – loads of fresh fruits and vegies to snack on

4. Where do you get your ideas for meals from? A lot of moms give up because they don’t know what to buy and cook. How do you overcome this challenge?

I cook very simple meals most of the time – grilled chicken, baked fish, sauteed beef, etc (I rarely look for recipes but if I do, I use Pinterest and search for “quick and healthy”). I will always have a fresh veggie, fresh fruit and some type of carbohydrate, usually rice (I have a Japanese rice cooker that allows rice to be kept for about 3 days). Sometimes I’ll boil sweet potatoes or have a whole grain pasta. Most of the time my veggies are raw. On the weekend, I will make a big batch of hummus and salsa, as well as boil two dozen eggs. I will cut up all the veggies I have and whatever fruit is on hand. Again, I’ll put them in tupperware containers and my children can snack freely on them.


turkey and tomato basil wraps, pistachios, kiwi fruit

For breakfast I always do something hot and it’s usually a big meal. I will give them oatmeal with chia seeds and hemp seeds, sweetened with honey. I might also give them something I made ahead and froze. Another of my kids’ favorite breakfast meals is scrambled eggs with rice and salad (my children love that in the morning). If for some reason I don’t have time, I will throw something together in the Vitamix – some type of smoothie to fill their bellies. To me, that’s just as quick as pouring four bowls of cereal, plus it’s healthier and it will keep their bellies full for a longer period of time. For snacks at school, I will send them with fresh fruits and veggies. Sometimes a homemade protein bar (super simple, three ingredients, oats, coconut cream and peanut butter), or some type of muffin that I have packed with nutrients (flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, dates).


carrot juice – carrots water almond milk ginger honey

5. What’s the most challenging aspect of trying to serve healthy meals to a large family like yours?

The most challenging aspect for me, feeding a large family the way I do, is DISHES! We don’t have a dishwasher, and although I have my daughter help when she can, I like to do them throughout the day (again, leaving me more family time in the evening). So, to overcome this, I use paper plates and cups. I do feel bad for the environment, but I also feel that by not purchasing all the pre-packaged foods, I am helping even more. If we move into a house with a dishwasher, I will do away with that, but that is what I do for now.


pancake – banana, egg, flaxseed, chia seed, topped with yogurt and honey

6. What advice do you have for busy moms who struggle to feed their families healthy meals?

My best advice is to clean out your pantries and your fridge and start fresh. Purchase only enough for a couple of days. I also don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets; no microwave, no fancy apple cutter, just a knife for everything. I listen to music while I cook and have the baby in a bouncy near me so she isn’t left alone. I’ll have my 2-year old color or build blocks on the floor in the kitchen. My children are very healthy and they like what I cook. Sometimes they complain when their friends have goldfish for a snack while I send them to school with an orange that they have to peel and a hardboiled egg, but they also understand why they are eating those things. I will allow them to eat “unhealthy” stuff on occasion, but again, it gives me such peace of mind to know that I am doing the absolute best I can for them.

I also go by the philosophy that if they are hungry enough they will eat it, so I don’t buy into the idea that my child will starve if I don’t feed them what they like or what society says they should like. Obviously I’m not going to intentionally make something I know they don’t like and make them eat it, but if I know they like carrots, then carrots it is – not the shrimp chips the neighbors have that may seem more appealing to them. If they choose not to eat the carrots, they will go hungry. This doesn’t usually happen, but I feel that I am teaching them some responsibility for their food choices, even at a young age. My two year old for example, is happy to walk around and snack on an entire carrot, half of an apple, and an entire cucumber! Less cutting, very little mess, it keeps her little hands and mouth busy, and she’s eating snacks that are good for her (she will even snack on half of a red bell pepper)!


A couple more things……. I order what I can online! Hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil, pure aloe gel, organic honey, protein powder; I have these on auto ship from Amazon. It helps to reduce time spent at the supermarket or commissary. And finally, I use the Cozi App to help me manage my shopping lists and daily “to-do” list. My husband has access to the shopping list as well, so if I need him to pick any items up on his way home from work, he just needs to sign in to our Cozi account and see what I need.

I think society has made healthy eating seem so unattainable for a busy family, but for me, it’s so much easier – if you just keep things simple.


A final thought from me: Olympic Marathon medalist Deena Kastor, believes in making choices – not sacrifices. I tend to agree, and I think I can safely say that Kristen’s efforts to make healthy eating a way of life for her family is less of a sacrifice than it is a positive choice.