If there were a top ten list of busiest women in Shanghai, Chief Sprouting Officer and Co-Founder of Sprout Lifestyle Kimberly Ashton would definitely be on it. Kimberly is an old friend of Shanghai Dolls and has supported us since back in the day. If you’re joining us this Sunday’s event, you’ll get to meet Kimberly in person.
Hi Kim, tell us about yourself. What do you do and why are you in Shanghai?
I am an Entrepreneur, Food educator, Nutrition & Wellness Coach, Writer and online TV hist. I am passionate about food therapy and providing platforms and media for people to learn about health. I have been in Shanghai for almost 13 years, originally from Australia (but an expat kid growing up and travelling a lot in Asia). My background was in Corporate Events Management and working on everything from exhibitions, trade shows, PR launches and sports events, to the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai World Expo. I’m in Shanghai because after doing a 1.5 year exchange program in University in Hangzhou/Zhejiang University and moving back to Australia, I decided that Shanghai was the place to be to use my Chinese and further my career.
What is Sprout Lifestyle?
Sprout Lifestyle is a nutrition cooking studio, a health food store and cafe. A 3-in-1 hub of Food Education where you can learn, experience, cook, buy, eat and enjoy.
We are in the process of rebranding and launching our cafe under the name “Better Bentos” and this will be Shanghai’s healthiest meal boxes and snacks. All designed by our new team and partners with a whole foods, superfoods and highly nutritious selection. You can eat-in, takeaway or order Sherpas under Sprout Cafe. We are very strict about using no white sugar, refined flours, MSG, colourings or additives and make all our own sauces and dips.
How did you get into the world of nutrition?
In 2009 I did a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Course and that changed my life, as by the end of the course I was hooked on food therapy, the power of nutrition and health & wellness and I had to learn more. I started further self-study and reading, and came across the term “integrative nutritional therapist” and thought ‘that’s exactly what I want to be!’ So I enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York and commenced their health coaching online program in 2009. It’s been a 9 year journey and I’ve since completed my Macrobiotic nutrition & cooking training levels (I am doing the advanced level and therapeutic cooking and counselling this April in Europe actually). I have been teaching everything from raw food, detoxification, digestive wellness to holistic nutrition. I also used to do a lot of health coaching with clients which was beneficial to me building my experience and also helping clients with their nutrition and wealth, I don’t do so much coaching now as my business takes up most of my time.
In the midst of the urban sprawl and hectic world of Shanghai, Sprout Lifestyle sits very quietly and unassumingly; when on the contrary it is infact a powerhouse of strength, growth and vitality. What makes you and your business so successful in the community?
Thank you, we are definitely a vitality filled bunch! We get our energy from what we eat and how we live! 🙂 Yes we aren’t what people would call “mainstream” as the products we stock in our retail store, serve in our cafe are super, super healthy. When people start exploring detoxification, nutrition, super foods and want a health food store – very different from a regular supermarket/wet market – for dried ingredients they find us. Also, through our nutrition cooking classes, popular for learning and tasting alternative styles of cooking with topics such as raw food or Macrobiotics.
Our Better Bento lunch/dinner boxes and snacks are also launching soon, we hope this will be a not so quiet part of our business as the demand for healthy, ready-to-go meals is increasing. Ours have strictly no MSG, no white refined sugar and we make all our own sauces. I think because we are niche, unique and have solid nutrition and holistic health behind us and our teachers and partners, we have had some success. We look forward to growing further and provide Food Education and healthy goodness to the community.
What are your favourite classes to teach? Which can you recommend to our subscribers who might want to sign up?
Ooooh that’s a tough one. I love teaching both nutrition and practical cooking. If I have to pick my personal favourites it would be Food Therapy ( a combination of TCM and Macrobiotics) and Greens & Bean class. Both are not topics that people normally learn and I love widening our participants view and exposure to new ingredients and concepts.
For Shanghai Doll subscribers, I would recommend our Healthy Desserts, Healthy Breakfasts and Vegan Baking classes – as they are awesome, fun, delicious and simple. Dishes are easy to prepare and practical and a great way t start getting healthy. We also have our annual challenges and I highly encourage ladies to try our No Sugar 1 Month Challenge, our 2 week Detox Challenge or our 2 Week Energy Challenge (details on our wechat or website).
We hear you are somewhat a TV celebrity in Shanghai, tell us more?
(Can we have your autograph?!)No not a celebrity but I have been on TV over the years, mainly ICS TV as a guest on Culture Matters and You Are the Chef, and we recently launched an online/wechat TV show in Chinese around healthy cooking and nutrition. I love being able to spread the message of healthy eating, alternative ingredients, and nutrition to more people.
You can definitely have my autograph- but inside my new book, it’s coming out in April and called TCM Smoothies. I wrote it with my teacher and TCM doctor and it contains information about TCM theory and then delicious recipes with ingredients such as black sesame, millet, red dates, ginger, rose and herbal teas. I’m pretty excited about the book coming out!
We bet you get asked this all the time, but when you’re not working do you eat out and where? I cook a lot, almost 2-3 times a day, outside of teaching but I do enjoy eating out too. My biggest problem when eating out is MSG, its at the top of my list of toxins and bad foods, so Asian food is really tricky, its everywhere (less so in Indian food) especially soups, broths and cold dishes. So if do eat out its Asian food where I know they can do no MSG (ie.they actually listen to my request), I love Shintori for special occasions, love Indian food, Italian food and my vegetarian/healthy favourites like Wattz, Pure & Whole, organic hotpot at Mahota.
Lastly, you’ve been here for a long time and know China probably better than most. What is your number one top tip you’d give a Shanghai newcomer who is interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
Get active in the wellness community, its really blossoming and there are a lot of choices for every taste. If you like yoga dive in, CrossFit has many options across town, try aqua aerobics for summer, and get moving. For nutrition there are more restaurants and cafes and food delivery brands in the market place, so try all of them and work out which ones you like and trust. Don’t make excuses about being busy, just prioritize your well-being. Last but not least cook yourself, its the best choice, healthiest and most rewarding! I hope to see you soon, we have a wellness community board in our store too with all sorts of event information, and of course our regular nutrition cooking classes to help you get and stay healthy.