We spoke to Jenn – An inspirational young woman who shows us how eating healthy can be easy all it takes is passion! She talks about cooking with family, her tips and ingredients to use and what her daily meal plan looks like. Must read for any foodie or health conscious person! Enjoy.
- Hi Jenn – Nice to meet you. Can you tell people a bit about yourself?
Hi NomNom, thank you for interviewing me. My name is Jenn. I’m 18 years old but have been interested in food and cooking since I was in middle school. I always loved baking and spending time in the kitchen when my parents were preparing dinner. I’m a college student now, but throughout high school I cooked healthful meals for my family and friends. For my high school senior project, I developed a business plan, menu, and series of recipes for my own invented restaurant. My passion for cooking goes hand in hand with my love of running. I ran cross country all throughout high school and have also run two half marathons. I love creating yummy pre and post run/race dishes. I also have a cooking instagram, “Cooksnook,” where I feature all of the healthful meals and snacks that I make. I have loved watching the account grow over the past year as I gain followers and am enjoying using it as an opportunity to share my healthful passion with others.
- We saw your Instagram and it’s full of healthy food! We love it. How long have you been eating healthy?
I started my Cooksnook Instagram at the beginning of September 2014 when I was 17 years old. In less than a year, I have gained traction with over 1500 users interested in healthful foods and recipes. However, I’ve been cooking healthful foods since probably when I was 14 years old (starting high school). I joined the cross country team then and as I began running more seriously and completing harder workouts, I became more aware of the fuel I was putting in my body and wanted it to be the best possible. I wanted to cook meals that I knew were not only healthful for myself as a runner, but also healthful for my family members as I took on a bigger role in food preparation in my house.
- Was it difficult to get started?
I definitely ate my share of Lucky Charms, Powdered Mac N Cheese, and desserts as a kid, but my parents have always cooked healthful meals too. So, when I first started cooking healthy, it didn’t feel like a huge transition. I just felt like I was contributing more to our family meals. However, over the past few years our family menu has definitely changed to include more healthful options. The thing that made it cooking healthy easiest for me was that I discovered a passion for it. I became to love the slicing and dicing of vegetables, the smell of fresh grains and spices cooking on the stove, and the wholesome presentation of my dishes! Furthermore, I’ve always loved fruits and vegetables, so it was easy to blend a lot of those into my dishes to make them more nutritious. To dull the often sharp transition to cooking healthy, I recommend finding more healthful versions of your favourite meals, or adding in fruits and veggies to your already existing dishes. Also, if you can make cooking fun or something you enjoy that will make getting started a lot easier! For me, the bigger transition was that instead of being the helper or watcher when food was being prepared, I became the cook of my family. I gained a lot of happiness and pride in the ability to really contribute something in our house, and I think this was part of what inspired me to continue cooking healthful meals.
- How did you learn what is healthy, which foods to use etc?
Growing up I definitely learned a lot from my parents. They’re the type of parents who never refused to give me a slice of cake, but they also taught me to distinguish fruits, vegetables, and meats from candy, sweets, and potato chips. Around 14, as my interest in cooking grew, I started reading food and running magazines, such as Cooking Light, Clean Eating, Bon Appetite, The Food Network Magazine, Runners World, and Running Times. At first I loved just simply flipping through the pages and looking at the pictures of amazing meals, but I quickly realized I could really improve my cooking from reading these magazines. In addition to reading magazines that stressed healthful ingredients and recipes, I also learned from online. There are so many healthy food blogs out there that can help you become aware of good and bad foods and why certain nutrients in some ingredients are so beneficial for your health.
- A lot of people think, eating healthy is time consuming and a lot of effort. How long does it take you to prepare your meals? What advice do you have for others who might be struggling?
Cooking healthful meals definitely doesn’t take any additional time. A lot of the initial struggle comes from the unfamiliarity of cooking healthy. At first, it is definitely challenging to know how long to cook each type of grain for or what is the most efficient way to cut different types of vegetables. Don’t give up though – it gets easier! It takes me anywhere from 3 minutes to 45 minutes of hands on food preparation for most of my meals. Dinners take me the longest to make – usually at least 15 minutes – but breakfast and lunch take as little as just a couple of minutes to prepare. For those who are struggling, keep in mind the end goals; you’re not only producing a beautiful dish, but also something nutritious that your body will benefit from. Also, if you can make cooking fun and pleasurable it will be easy to lose track of time while you’re preparing!
- What are your favourite healthy ingredients?
I love them all! If I had to choose a few they would be tomatoes, broccoli, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, avocado, pomegranate seeds, berries, and spinach.
- Do you count your calories or macros? What’s your daily food intake like?
I don’t count my calories – I prefer just to eat when I’m hungry – this is generally breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner, and sometimes another snack or small dessert after dinner. My daily food intake consists of lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and some seafood and lean poultry. For breakfast I’ll often eat a yogurt granola parfait or oatmeal with fruit, lunch a tomato hummus spinach sandwich or avocado toast or a salad, snack a bowl of almonds, trailmix, popcorn or an apple or fruit salad, and for dinner a pasta bake with veggies or quinoa, sweet potato, and veggies.
- How do you learn, get ideas and keep motivated?
Social media has definitely helped give me ideas and stay motivated. I’ve not only found a lot of yummy recipes from Instagram and pinterest, but also connected with people who are interested in cooking healthy and running. When you have friends to run with, cook for, or share your dishes with, its much easier to stay on track. I also think that because I started at a young age, my healthy habits will stick with me through my college and adult life. The thing that keeps me most motivated is how good cooking nutritiously and running makes me feel: more energetic, happier, and healthier.
- If you could pick one from a smoothie, pancakes or pizza. Which one and why?
I would choose a smoothie. I do love oatmeal pancakes or pancakes with fruit mixed in, but eating them doesn’t give me the same cool, refreshed feeling that drinking a smoothie does. Not only do I feel good after drinking smoothies, but they’re loaded with antioxidants from fruit and often protein from milk, yogurt, or protein powder so I know they’re good for me too. There is also so many different types of smoothies to make from fruity to leafy to chocolatey – the options are endless! They’re easy to make – just throw all the ingredients together and blend – and they’re perfect for an on the go breakfast or snack.
- What do you think of our app Aflete? Whats your username so people can follow you?
I love the Nomnom app! So many people create blogs or websites to share their nutritious dishes or training and workouts. I think having a platform specifically devoted to healthful foods and fitness is perfect! It makes it much easier and more convenient for people to find healthy recipes and workout. My username is @cooksnook (:
- How can people see more of you?
Follow my Instagram, Cooksnook, for healthful breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert ideas and recipes! Also feel free to email Cooksnook3@gmail.com if you want to reach out or have any questions! Thanks for a great interview Aflete!