Trying To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Jannine Myers

There are many reasons to feel grateful for living in New Zealand, but cheap food is not one of them. Grocery shopping for the average family is either a major financial burden or a nutritional nightmare. I don’t claim to have the perfect solution, but I do have a system to share that may work as well for some of you as it does for me.

First of all, before you even begin, I recommend spending a few weeks lining your pantry shelves with some staple ingredients such as spices, seasonings, sauces, healthy oils, dried fruits and nuts, seeds, baking essentials, and also canned beans, legumes, and low-sodium vegetables. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go! This is how I do my weekly grocery shopping, and it does not involve writing out or taking a shopping list (unless there are a few specific items that I want to remember to pick up):

1. Start with your nearest fresh fruit and vegetable store and grab a basket. Go down all the aisles and only put in your basket whichever fruits and vegetables are selling for the best and cheapest price in terms of quality and quantity. The selection of “sale price” fruits and vegetables tend to differ from week to week, allowing for not only an affordable selection of varied fresh produce but also a wider range of nutrients.

2. Go next to your local supermarket of choice and be prepared to only reach out for “best deal” options. The produce section is always the first area when you walk into most supermarkets, but since you will have already bought your fruits and vegetables, just walk right through towards the deli section. I usually do a quick scan of the deli area to see if there are any exceptionally good deals available but if not, I keep moving.

3. Beyond the deli section you’ll start to encounter the meats in the back of the store, as well as the first aisle entry. My strategy when supermarket shopping is to specifically look for: a) whichever protein foods are on sale, to include eggs, all lean meats, seafood, and vegetarian options; b) top up on the cheapest complex carb options, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, seeded breads, etc. (root vegetables would have been purchased at the fruit and vegetable store); c) choose whichever dairy (and/or refrigerated vegan) products are on sale, and d), top up on any pantry staples that need replacing.

The main thing to keep in mind is that your objective is to specifically seek out the weekly deals on: fruits and vegetables, meat and non-meat proteins, complex carbohydrates, and dairy and/or vegan cold products.

Once you get home, it’s always a good idea to start food preparation right away. I almost always plan my grocery shopping trips on days that I am off work and have enough time to shop and meal prep all in one go. You’ll find that by practicing this one habit, the likelihood of food being wasted will be significantly reduced.

By now you’re probably wondering how I create my meals without having planned an advance menu, and the answer to that is that I simply mix and match the groceries I come home with. All of our meals are built around the concept of a balanced plate that contains some type of lean protein, a complex carbohydrate, a decent size serving of vegetables, and a small serving of some type of healthy fat (such as avocado, nuts and seeds, or olive oil, for example). By the end of the week, if protein options are completely used up, I start using pantry supplements such as beans and legumes.

Finally, it’s not necessary, but if you enjoy baking as much as I do, I use up ripened or excess fruits and vegetables by making bread loaves and muffins, and I use dried fruits and nuts to make biscuits; I prefer to have healthier home-baked sweets on hand in place of store-bought packaged goods.

A final tip: have plenty of portable containers available to pre-pack meals for school and work, and to also store ready-made meals in the freezer that can be pulled out later in the week and re-heated.

collage (6)

 

Coping Strategies For The Runner Who Can’t Run

Jannine Myers

After moving to New Zealand several weeks ago, I not only fell ill with a bronchial type cough that lasted for weeks, but I also managed to injure myself. Consequently I have done very little running and have had to withdraw from three races I had previously signed up for. As a runner who can’t run, it’s difficult keeping a positive mindset, but the following strategies are helping to keep me motivated in the meantime:

– Acknowledging my disappointment and frustration, and allowing myself to feel those feelings was probably a good first step for me. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to run for a significant period of time, I was able to make a conscious decision to stop focusing on the negatives and visualize instead on daily and progressive steps towards improved physical and mental health.

Key Tip # 1 – Don’t camp out in the land of misery! Keep marching right on through, knowing that every step forward is a step away from negative thoughts and self-pity.

– One thing that I always find helpful whenever I am struggling with any kind of problem, is spending more time reading, learning, and self-reflecting. I like to wake up early and read and/or listen to motivational articles/books/podcasts, as well as journal and put down on paper what I envision and hope for, and then follow through with positive self-declarations.

Key Tip #2 – Use the time that would otherwise be spent training, doing things that advance your personal growth and character.

– My daily goals had to change! To avoid further discouragement, I had to make a shift in goal expectations. Rather than set myself specific and intense training goals, I set myself smaller and more realistic goals, such as “I’m going to do one thing today to maintain my strength,” or, “I’m going to do 60 minutes of non-impact cross-training today.”

Key Tip # 3 – Modify your goals! Make them manageable (given the circumstances you’re faced with), yet still rewarding enough to invoke enough of a positive stimulus and a satisfying outcome.

– Seek professional help! I’m currently under the care of a physiotherapist who has prescribed a set of recovery exercises for me, and depending on how effective or non-effective they are, we may add some acupuncture into the mix of my treatment. For now, I am abstaining from running, doing other cross-training activities that don’t aggravate my injury, foam-rolling, icing, and attempting to do (at least once a day) the rehab exercises that I’ve been given.

Key Tip # 4 – Don’t try to self-manage your recovery process if it’s obvious that your illness/injury is not improving. Better to seek professional guidance and not run, than listen to your over-eager self who will almost always tell you that it’s okay to keep running.

– Nutrition and diet has always been important to me, but it becomes even more so during times of training, racing, illness, and injury. Just as I would normally pay attention to how I fuel my body during peak training phases, I also pay extra attention to my food choices whenever my body is under other types of physical (or emotional) stress.

Key Tip # 5 – Get interested in nutrition! Seek out information on the web and at the library, or consult a dietitian if necessary; learn what foods will help to speed up your recovery. Since my immediate goal is injury/recovery-related, my kitchen efforts at this time are focused on meals that contain a lot of anti-inflammatory foods such as broccoli, salmon, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, blueberries, and ginger and turmeric. On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my anti-inflammatory (and easily portable) breakfast meals:

Turmeric-Ginger Fruit Blend With Oats 

17361487_10158239952260562_1979659111_n

17328283_10158239952475562_152901390_n

Ingredients (Serves 4):

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 small banana

1 small apple

3 dried dates

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup oats

Toppings: 

Plain greek yogurt, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (optional), pumpkin seeds, coconut shreds

 

Directions:

Mix the coconut milk, banana, apple, and spices together in a blender.

In four bowls (or containers with lids), add 1/4 cup dry oats to each. Top with a little water to moisten the oats. Pour the coconut milk mixture in even portions over all four oat bowls. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When you’re ready to eat, top with a dollop of yogurt, some pumpkin seeds and coconut shreds.

Enjoy :)

A Brussels Sprouts Recipe You Might Actually Enjoy

Jannine Myers

Brussels sprouts are one of those odd vegetables that people seem to either love or hate; I personally love them! If you’re in the “indifferent” camp and don’t mind eating them, but won’t go out of your way to buy them because you’re not sure how to cook them or what to pair them with, give this recipe a try.

I made this a couple of nights ago, and not only was it super quick and easy, but it was also really delicious. And on a nutritional note, there are so many reasons why you should include brussels sprouts in your diet, including the following:

– a great source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins

– high in Vitamins C and K

– a reasonably good source of protein when compared with other green vegetables

– can potentially fight different types of cancer and improve bone health

[The following recipe directions recommend adding the brussels sprouts last, and cooking for no more than 5 minutes – brussels sprouts are nutritionally optimal when they are not overcooked].

17199156_10158192300335562_1606555495_n

Ingredients

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsps Thai red curry paste

3 cups cubed cooked pumpkin, kumara, and potato (to save time, I stopped at the deli section of my local supermarket and picked up a pre-packaged container of already roasted vegetables).

1 can (400g) organic black beans

1 can (400g) coconut milk

brussels sprouts, washed and halved (about 2 cups)

brown rice, cooked (to serve as base for the curry)

Directions

Heat oil in pan, and gently saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the red curry paste and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, coconut milk,, and drained black beans. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and a sprinkle of organic sugar, and stir through. Cook over low heat for a further 5 minutes and remove from the stovetop.

Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

[Recipe by Angela Casley, Viva]

Re-Creating Cafe Favorites

Jannine Myers

Something I love to do in my free time is to get in my kitchen and re-create some of my favorite cafe meals. It’s always nice going out to eat but it’s also nice to cook my own food and I can usually save a little money at the same time, since one cooking session will typically result in two or three meals.

My latest meal re-creation was taken from the menu at Green Leaf’s Yomitan Cafe; I love their Molokhia Noodle Salad (original Green Leaf version on the top and my re-created version below):

13149973_10156778911470562_1786881234_n   13336199_10156864711120562_1284422151_nThe ingredients were not exactly identical, but the taste was very similar and I’ve since made this cold noodle salad for myself several times. Here’s how I made it – so fast, simple, and delicious:

Ingredients

1 100g package Molokhia noodles (I bought mine from Green Leaf)

13382189_10156887571125562_1590968160_n

Salad greens – your choice

Carrots and Japanese Daikon, shredded

Alfalfa sprouts

Mixed seeds and dried berries

Sesame Dressing Ingredients:

2 tbsps Vegan Mayonnaise (or your choice of mayonnaise)

1/2 tbsp Tamari Sauce

1/2 tbsps Sesame Oil

1/2 tbsp Rice Vinegar

1/2 tbsp sesame seeds

Dash of organic sugar (optional)

Water (if the consistency is too thick)

 

Directions:

Bring a medium size saucepan of water to the boil, then immerse the noodles and cook for just a few minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.

Layer your bowl with the salad leaves, noodles, raw shredded vegetables, and top with the seeds and dried berries.

Make your dressing by simply whisking all the ingredients together; add desired amount to your salad. Enjoy :)

 

[Green Leaf also makes a delicious soy taco rice; I didn’t try to duplicate their recipe but I used their idea to make a similar meatless taco rice. Instead of using soy textured protein to make the “ground beef,” I used pulsed and blended cauliflower, walnuts, and hemp seeds. For the full recipe visit my trail running page here]

12080365_1143103742386198_1050393032262328422_o (1)   13342259_10156864713915562_1885555488_n

Green Leaf soy taco rice on left and my meatless taco rice on the right

Turning Kid-Favorite Meals into Kid-Healthy Meals

Jannine Myers

Even at the age of 12, my younger daughter is still incredibly picky, but I generally don’t let her eat foods that have no place in our home; i.e. those foods that come in packets and boxes and with ingredient lists a mile long. I do understand however, her frequent cravings for the types of comfort meals that many kids – and even adults – are drawn to. Still, we compromise with such meals and she lets me “re-create” them; in other words, I make them from scratch using the most nutrient-dense ingredients. Last night for example, I made her a healthy version of sloppy joes and received no complaints.

[Note: making these sloppy joes from scratch did cost more because I added fresh vegetables and used organic ground beef, but I’d rather contribute to my child’s health than to a slightly greater spending allowance]

13285722_10156832578620562_1549406674_n

Ingredients

  • 1 pound organic ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shredded cheese
  • Whole-wheat kaiser rolls

Directions

Brown the meat in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Pour the drippings out of the pan and discard, and set the meat aside. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, and red pepper to the pan (with a little olive oil) and saute for 5 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Transfer half the vegetables to a blender, and add half the tomato sauce. Pulse into a puree and pour into a jug or small bowl. Do the same with the remaining vegetables and tomato sauce. Return the meat to the pan, along with the pureed vegetable sauce, and all remaining ingredients. Bring back to a boil over medium heat, and then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve over toasted bread rolls, with a little melted cheese and a side of vegetables (I added roasted cauliflower and raw carrots).

Vege Recipes For Vege Haters

Jannine Myers

Here’s a couple more recipes for the young ones, and these ones, though they contain vegetables, might please even the pickiest of eaters. The first recipe is a Smoked Gruyere Brown Rice Frittata with shredded vegetables.

12696084_10156433333605562_1884559238_n

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (approx.) brown rice, uncooked

1 to 2 tbsps olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 medium carrot, grated

mushrooms, sliced (optional)

1/3 cup milk (at least 2% fat)

3 tbsps freshly chopped rosemary or a good dash of dried rosemary

1/2 block of Smoked Apple Gruyere cheese, grated (this particular cheese is rich in taste and gives the frittata a really delicious flavor)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan that you would use for a round cake or frittata.

Cook the rice and drain well (I cooked the rice in a mix of chicken broth and water)

Heat the oil in a frypan, then cook the onions and garlic until soft, and add the zucchini, carrots (and mushrooms, if using). Cook and stir for just a couple of minutes then set aside to cool.

Once the vegetable mixture has cooled down a little, add the cooked rice, eggs (pre-whisked with a fork), milk, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in half the shredded cheese.

Pour the mixture into baking pan and top with remaining cheese. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Serve warm with a side salad or other greens (I served it with steamed broccoli).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The second recipe is what I’ve called “Surprise” Muffins. I made some of these for a friend, and asked her to guess what the yellow pieces of flesh were. She and her husband thought they were either mango or peach, but they were both wrong; I used yellow tomatoes.

Yellow tomatoes are “surprisingly” sweet, and nutritionally they are just as good for you as red tomatoes; the main differences are that they contain slightly less fiber, quite a bit less vitamin C, but more phosphorous, potassium, zinc, sodium, and double the iron.

12746223_10156433334205562_544004550_n

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup oats

1 ¼ cups organic flour

1 cup wheat bran flakes

1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk

12 small pieces of soft, white cheese (any kind)

2 to 3 yellow tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup organic sugar

2 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup vegetable oil (or half oil, half apple sauce)

3 eggs

2 tbsps golden syrup (or honey, maple syrup)

brown sugar to top muffins

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 365 F. Line or grease a muffin tin.

Pour the milk into a small bowl and add the bran flakes; let the bran soak for several minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, golden syrup, and add the bran/milk mixture; mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, then add the diced tomatoes and mix until well combined. The mixture will seem a little wet, but that’s okay.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tray, top with brown sugar and tomato bake for 20 to 25 mins.

Best to eat warm from the oven, while the cheese is gooey and melted. Enjoy.

Super Nutritious Black Rice and Vegetable Bowl

Jannine Myers

I was really craving a clean and wholesome meal yesterday so I drove over to the local supermarket to choose a selection of fresh produce. I had already put some Lotus Foods Forbidden Black Rice in the rice cooker, and all I had to do when I got home was prepare the vegetables to my liking. Black rice by the way, has more protein and fiber than white and brown rice, and a much higher amount of antioxidants than any other type of rice.

One of the easiest ways to make a fast and healthy meal is to make a bowl of assorted vegetables or fruits, and add some protein. My meal last night ended up being a black rice and vegetable bowl, with a Sunbutter/lemon dressing:

12182158_10156092039600562_1313050742_n

Here’s how you can make this delicious meal:

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow sweet potato
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup uncooked black rice
  • 1/2 cup any type of bean mix
  • 1/2 cup shredded raw daikon
  • handful of fresh salad greens
  • sunflower seeds
  • Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup Sunbutter
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (approximately 2 lemons)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Clean the sweet potato, carrots and broccoli, then cut into bite-size pieces. Place them in a bowl and coat with olive oil and kosher salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil and pour the vegetables on the tray. Bake for approximately 30 mins.
  3. Meanwhile, clean the rice and cook in a rice cooker according to the packet directions.
  4. In individual salad bowls, place a bed of salad leaves in each bowl. Then evenly distribute all the ingredients (roasted vegetables, shredded daikon, bean mix, black rice, and seeds) around the bowl.
  5. Make your dressing by pouring all of the ingredients into a blender and pulsing into a smooth consistency.
  6. Drizzle your salad with a little dressing and enjoy!

 

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.

P1070381

IMG_0296

Ingredients

  • 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:

IMG_0499

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

Directions

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:

6-Health-Benefits-of-Sweet-Potatoes-Om-Nom-Ally

 Hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do!

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.

IMG_0040

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.

IMG_0570

lunch – mixed raw veges and tuna

IMG_0567

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.

IMG_0432

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.

IMG_0666

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).

IMG_0416

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.

IMG_0417

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)!

IMG_0667

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.

IMG_0842

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

P1070343

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:

Ingredients

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

Directions

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]