The Kitchen Table at Ways to Wellness Helps Local Residents Learn to Implement Healthy Meals at Home

Chef Jeremy Reinicke at HealthEast’s Ways to Wellness new teaching kitchen, the Kitchen Table.

“Food should be fun. It can be, and it can still be good for you,” says chef Jeremy Reinicke of Ways to Wellness in Woodbury. “If food tastes good, it will satisfy the craving and you’ll naturally eat less.”

Reinicke is part of the team at HealthEast’s Ways to Wellness, a unique and comprehensive approach to healthy living, which has a new 8,000-square-foot facility on the Woodwinds Health Campus. The facility includes a teaching kitchen, named the Kitchen Table, which helps community members implement better choices in food in a fun, non-intimidating setting. “People often panic when they walk into their kitchen to create a meal, so building some foundational skills is really important,” Reinicke says. He designed a series of 90-minute classes to teach fundamentals such as knife skills, “better for you” techniques for cooking, how to choose nutrient-dense foods, as well as navigating specific diet recommendations, including anti-inflammatory, gluten-free or vegan.

“The literature tells us that if people cook at home they eat healthier, and better foods,” says Brenda Navin, a system director for health and well-being operations, who founded Ways to Wellness in 2006 to close gaps in the way traditional health care could serve the public. “Registered dieticians can talk about what foods to eat or to avoid, and the science behind the food, but the missing link was how to actually prepare it and incorporate it into their lifestyle at home,” she says. “Where else can you go to the doctor’s appointment and see this glass into a kitchen and people learning how to cook? We can say, yes, this is part of your prescription. The chef will see you now.” The facility is also open to the community, so you do not need to be a HealthEast patient to utilize Ways to Wellness services.

In addition to learning better ways to eat, Ways to Wellness offers a gym with 24/7 access for members, group fitness and Pilates reformer classes (at additional cost). Clients can see fitness professionals, physicians and psychologists, receive diagnostics on body composition and blood work, and receive advice and a plan of action around lifestyle choices that will prevent long-term issues. The Kitchen Table is also open to rent for events such as birthday parties, wedding showers or team-building events.

“We encourage people to get over it if they do slip, and get back at it the next day,” Reinicke says. “We tell people to treat themselves and to celebrate small successes, because it’s really about a lifestyle change.”

Chef Reinicke’s Kitchen Tips

- Stay out of the center aisle of the grocery store. Buy as many whole and fresh foods as possible.

- Season (which means salt) fresh meat 30 minutes to an hour before you cook it. A properly seasoned chicken breast, for example, tastes great on its own.

- Preheating your surface is key! Whether it’s a grill, sauté pan or flat top, you have to preheat it. Otherwise the chemical reaction responsible for the browning won’t happen properly.

- Invest a little bit of money in a couple of really good cookware pieces. Get one really great chef’s knife.