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Provided by the Park City Culinary Institute
Participants of the Park City Culinary Institute learn to make meals independent of recipes.

Eating healthy meals doesn’t mean eating things that don’t taste good, said Sara Wells, a mother of four and blogger at Our Best Bites.

“Healthy is a balance,” she said. “There’s a stigma attached to that word — no sugar, no fat, nothing delicious. But there are levels of everything in a healthy diet.”

Wells and chefs from the Park City Culinary Institute shared ideas to help make eating healthy at home a reality.

A food blogger’s triumph

Wells said eating healthy doesn’t necessarily limit the food groups one can work with.

“We cook with all the food groups,” said Wells, who is also a co-author of “400 Calories or Less with Our Best Bites.” “You’ll find butter, bacon, chocolate and heavy cream in our book; it’s just that we’ve used it in smart ways.”

Her advice for any family working toward health goals is simple and universal: plan. Stock the fridge and pantry with meals that can be turned to in a pinch, she said, forget the complicated calendars, think about the grocery list, and start to mentally prepare dinner a few hours early.

Wells said this philosophy has benefited her children.

“My kids love my food because they don’t know it’s health food,” she said. “It’s good food.”

These habits also helped her lose 50 pounds in 18 months.

When it comes to resolutions, Wells said short-term goals are especially helpful. People often feel like they’ve failed because they set goals to lose 50 pounds by April and it doesn’t happen, she said. Her advice is to focus on one month at a time, setting goals such as, “This month, I’ll stay in my calorie range,” or “I’ll run a 5K,” and then re-evaluating afterward and setting another realistic goal.

Never too late to learn

“The most important skill you’ll ever learn in the kitchen is time delineation,” said Adam Kreisel, a chef for the Park City Culinary Institute.

Preparing a meal at home doesn’t need to be something that takes hours on a weeknight with a waiting, hungry family.

“I go to Harmons, and I buy four different kinds of meat,” Kreisel said. “When I have a free hour, I make three or four quick marinades and I put them in vacuum-seal bags in the freezer. Then, when I’m ready, it’s been marinating for a week or so.”

Preparation such as this can be done in a few hours over the weekend and can also be done in bulk so there’s always a meal ready in the freezer, Kreisel said. He noted that “doing things ahead of time is never a sacrifice of quality or flavor. In fact, it usually improves quality and flavor.”

This prior planning can make a difference after a long day at work when the temptation to eat out seems especially quick and tasty.

“My mom cooked out of a can, nearly everything,” said Laurie Moldawer, president of the Park City Culinary Institute. “My grandmother, too, and she would get so upset when I wouldn’t eat her Brussels sprouts. But they were bitter; they were mushy. Now my favorite food is Brussels sprouts, and my son loves Brussels sprouts, because you can actually make vegetables taste really good.”

Moldawer said the goal of a new program at the Park City Culinary Institute is to help cooks learn to read between the lines of a recipe and to eventually give up using recipes altogether.

“When I cook at home, I can read (the recipes) and discern why they were designed a certain way,” Moldawer said. “I can tweak the recipe knowing the science behind it. … I know I can get my vegetables to taste better than that. If you can learn the techniques behind the recipes, then you can really cater the meal and decide what tastes good.”

At the end of the day, the food is meant to be shared with loved ones.

“It doesn’t have to be three meals a day … but you have to sit down together and enjoy a meal with other people — that’s the joy of eating!” Kreisel said.

The Park City Culinary Institute’s new, two-month program will begin at its recently opened Salt Lake City campus at 2233 S. 300 East starting Feb. 8. The program is for both aspiring professionals and home cooks, and it teaches preparation skills, time management and cooking techniques for a life independent of recipes, according to information from the institute. For more information, visit parkcityculinaryinstitute.com.

Tips

Here is some advice from Our Best Bites blogger Sara Wells and Park City Culinary Institute's Laurie Moldawer and Adam Kreisel on improving meals at home:

• Prepare a meal plan in advance.

• Stock the fridge with many options.

• Set short-term goals that can be measured.

• Invest in a vacuum-sealer.

• Double the meal size and freeze for later.

• Make your own dressings and sauces (less expensive and no added chemicals).

• Marinate meals over the weekend in the fridge or freezer.

• Separate passive and active cooking tasks.

• Let the oven do the work (cook for a long time at a low temperature).

• Eliminate waste by getting creative with leftovers.