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.

Lentils and Eggs – A Great Recovery Combo

Jannine Myers

It’s been a while since I posted a “fast, fresh, and easy” dinner meal, so here’s one that’s loaded with wholesome nutrients and perfect really, for any time of day.

Warm Lentil Salad


Besides having to wash and cut some vegetables, this recipe is really very simple and shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to prepare. Here’s what you’ll need:


Green salad leaves (any kind)

1 cup green lentils, uncooked

Chicken broth and/or water (3 cups total liquid)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinger

salt and pepper

1 zucchini, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 small punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large tomatoes)

1 small punnet of button mushrooms (chopped)

eggs (one per person)

1 tbsp white vinegar

1 tbsp basil pesto


Cook the lentils in broth/water as directed on the package. When the lentils are cooked, set aside to cool a little. Meanwhile, saute all the vegetables in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, and during the last couple of minutes, add the balsamic vinegar. Finish cooking the vegetables and take the pan off the heat. Next, poach the eggs in boiling water and white vinegar. Finally, layer the plates. Start with the green salad leaves, then the lentils, followed by the vegetables, and then the poached eggs. Add a small dollop of basil pesto and your warm lentil salad is ready to eat.

[Original recipe here]

30/30/30 Strength Endurance Workout

Jannine Myers

Several weeks ago I made a spontaneous decision (after returning home from a WOOT run on Mt. Ishikawa) to register for the Kunigami 19k Trail Race later this year. I was still feeling the “high” from having run some tough trails on Mt. Ishikawa and I felt motivated and pumped to do the Kunigami race. Now, a few weeks later and no longer on that high, I’m feeling a little panicked! I have never run the Kunigami trails before and from what some of our WOOT members have said about them, I’m feeling “pretty bloody” scared!

WHAT was I thinking? I’m way behind in my training; I’ve been averaging 3 to 4 runs a week over the summer break, and my longest run has been around 12 miles (which incidentally, was last week, and I only managed to run 10 of them before the heat and humidity forced me to walk/run the last 2 miles home). On top of that, very few of my runs have been on trail! So, with that in mind, and the intimidating fact that some of my close running friends are well ahead of me in terms of being race-ready, I’ve changed up my runs a little to at least partially prepare me for race-day.

If you’re in the same boat, then check out this strength/endurance workout that I recently built into my weekly training plan. It’s what I call my 30/30/30 workout: a 30-minute run, followed by a 30-minute progressive stair workout, followed by another 30-minute run.

The concept: 1. to exhaust my legs, then continue running so that I learn to endure under tiring conditions, and 2. to build strength.

The workout:

1. Run 30 minutes at an easy pace – run to a decent set of stairs that you will use for the strength portion of your workout. If you don’t know a good 30-minute route to and from the stairs, then simply start your run at the location of the stairs, and either do an out-and-back (15 minutes each way), or run small loops near the stairs for a total of 30 minutes. Lucky for me, I know a couple of great 30-minute routes from my house to the stairs that I use.

2. Get straight into a 30-minute progressive stair workout, divided into three 10-minute segments. Each segment consists of 8 minutes of non-stop up-and-down stair exercises, followed by 2 minute walk/rest recoveries, and each segment gets progressively harder. By the time you have completed all three sets of exercises, your legs should feel pretty heavy and fatigued.

Segment 1: Single step up as fast as you can, and walk back down. Catch your breath as you walk back down and be ready to turn around and run back up as soon as you reach the bottom. No stopping until you reach 8 minutes. Take a 2 minute walk/rest break, them move straight into the second set of exercises.

Segment 2: Jog up and jog down. Alternate between single and double steps on the way up and take slow, single steps back down. The key with this second set is to pace yourself so that you can jog up and down for the full 8 minutes without stopping. Take another 2 minute walk/rest break and begin the final set of exercises.

Segment 3: Walk/lunge up (every 3rd stair), and lateral-jog back down. As you walk/lunge up the stairs, use your arms as leverage to propel you upwards. On the way down, do a lateral jog on one side and switch sides at the halfway point. Do not take a break when you reach the bottom; turn around and immediately start walk/lunging back up. This final set is where you will be tested; your quads, glutes, and hamstrings should start to feel really fatigued by this point, but don’t give up – keep going. When 8 minutes is up, take a final 2-minute walk/rest break (or a little longer if you need it).

3. Now that your legs are heavy and tired, start your 30 minute run back home (or finish with an out-and-back 30-minute run, or 30-minutes of loop-running near the stairs). There are a couple of routes I can choose for my run back home, one of which is mostly flat and the other which includes a couple of short but steep hills, as well as a set of stairs. I could opt for the mostly flat route, but since my goal is to improve stamina and endurance, I take the hilly route back. Ultimately, I hope to eventually produce an adaptation that will enable me to keep running when my muscles feel depleted of strength and energy.

So that’s the workout, and to help you out, I’ve also included a video clip that demonstrates the stair exercises. Also, this workout is completely versatile and can be easily modified; you can shorten the length of running time, and/or the length of time on each stair exercise, and you can even limit the number of stairs to just one or two levels.


[Don’t be fooled – the workout may look easy, but you’ll be surprised at how tiring it actually is]

A few final comments and tips:

  • Do not pause your garmin during the entire 90-minute workout; push yourself to keep moving the entire time.
  • Take regular sips of sports drink; it’s still really hot and humid and you’ll struggle to complete this workout without water and electrolytes.
  • Because each set of stair exercises is different, various muscle sets are being used. You’ll strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abductors, adductors, and core.
  • In addition to building strength and endurance, the HIIT-style training on the stairs (heart rate goes up with intense bursts of energy, and goes down with short recoveries), means that your body will become more efficient at fat-burning.

‘Tis the Season For Shikuwasa – Okinawa’s Fruit of Youth and Vitality

Jannine Myers

The end of summer in Okinawa is typically when you see a lot of shikuwasa at the farmer’s markets and local supermarkets. Shikuwasa, otherwise known as Citrus Depressa, is found mostly in Taiwan and Japan. It looks like a lime, but it’s inside resembles more of a lemony flesh, and it’s taste is much more sour than both lemons and limes.

Shikuwasa is considered by local Okinawans to be one of their most healthiest fruits, due to it’s rich antioxidant content and natural healing properties that include improving diabetes and slowing the aging process.

I brought home a full bag of shikuwasa fruit the other day, and yesterday I got busy creating a recipe; the end result was a shikuwasa sweet bread made with brown rice flour and coconut milk.



First, make a sweet shikuwasa sauce:

1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus 3 tbsps water

1⁄2 cup organic sugar

Squeezed juice from a whole bag of shikuwasa (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)

1⁄4 cup water

[In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the 3 tablespoons of water. In a small saucepan stir together the sugar, the shikuwasa juice and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil over moderate heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and boil, stirring, for about 30 seconds or until the sauce thickens].

Second, make the bread:

1½ cups brown rice flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Approximately 1/3 cup shikuwasa sauce (reserve remaining sauce)

1/4 cup agave syrup

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

Juice and rind of 1 lime



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan with coconut oil.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a smaller bowl, mix together wet ingredients and add to the flour mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf tin.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean when placed in center of bread.

Remove bread from oven, and using a toothpick or fork, poke a few deep holes in the top of the loaf. Pour the remaining sauce over the bread, spreading evenly to ensure the entire loaf is nicely glazed. If you have any leftover limes, use one to grate some rind over the loaf.

[Note: this bread is best served warm, and is especially good with a nice cup of hot ginger tea]

The following video has nothing to do with shikuwasa, but I thought you might enjoy it nonetheless – it’s a short clip about getting back to the type of lifestyle that led to longevity among older generation Okinawans.


What You May Not Know About Tofu That’s Consumed In Japan

Jannine Myers

Tofu is a staple food here in Japan, and while there is much debate about whether or not tofu is good for you – or more specifically, soy – I still continue to eat and enjoy tofu. What I will say about tofu however, is that only a small percentage of what is sold in Japan is actually produced from domestically-grown soybeans. Ironically, Japanese tofu manufacturers rely largely on American soybeans.

Initially, the provision of American soybeans during the post-war era greatly assisted in supplementing the diet in most Japanese homes, but since the United States approved the production of genetically modified soybeans in the 1990s, tofu (and other soy products) is no longer what it used to be. I’m not about to discuss the arguments for and against genetically modified crops (there’s enough information out there for you to do your own research ), but the purpose of this post is to simply bring awareness to the fact that soy products in Japan are heavily dependent on the import of American soybeans.

If the issue of genetically-modified crops concerns you, and you would prefer to buy locally-produced tofu that has been made from organically-grown soybeans (from Mie Prefecture), Green Leaf usually has fresh packages stored in their refrigerator section. I’m sure there are other stores in Okinawa that sell “GM-free” tofu, but Green Leaf (in Chatan) is the only place I currently know of.

For those of you who enjoy tofu as much as I do, here’s one of my favorite tofu salad recipes:


Tofu made from organically-grown soybeans (in Mie Prefecture)




  • 1 (14-ounce) container firm tofu
  • 1 can drained white beans
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • handful of cranberries
  • handful of pecan pieces
  • a few stalks of green onions, sliced
  • a bunch of string beans, lightly steamed
  • any type of green leaves (I used Italian parsley in the above dish)


Wrap tofu in paper towels and let it sit for 20 minutes to remove excess liquid.
Place tofu on a cutting board and cut into cubes. Place 1/3 cup of the tofu in a blender and add 1/2 cup of the beans, mustard, vinegar, agave and salt. Blend until very smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and carefully mix in the remaining tofu and beans. Layer a salad bowl with the greens, tofu mixture, beans, spring onions, cranberries, and pecans. I like to let the salad sit in the refrigerator for several hours before eating, to allow the sauce flavors to penetrate the salad.


USSEC (U.S. Soybean Export Council) (2012 October). Japanese Trading Companies and the Asia-Bound Grain Trade. Retrieved from http:ussec.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/ASA-IM-Special-Report.pdf

Shimamura, Natsu (2007 Setember). Soybeans. Retrieved from http://tokyofoundation.org/en/topics/japanese-traditional-foods/volume/.-3-soybeans