By: Michelle Jenck, TC Wellness Coordinator

Tillamook County Wellness is all about making healthy happen in 2020. We are encouraging people to Choose Well – a campaign series that will run throughout the year, providing support and local resources for living a healthier life.  To kick things off, we are launching our Eat Well campaign, highlighting specific ways we can improve our eating patterns. As coordinator of our wellness initiative, I am sharing some of my own experience and inspiration for making healthy, restaurant-inspired meals everyone can enjoy.

Our family celebrated the New Year with football and peanut butter, pickle and pineapple hamburgers. This tasty nugget was inspired by a visit to Killer Burger more than a year ago.  Other restaurant-inspired foods that have made their way onto our kitchen table include squash soup, roasted Brussel sprouts and kale salad; all foods we would not have considered making at home until we discovered their deliciousness at a restaurant.  Much of our inspiration has come from local restaurants like The Creamery, Blue Heron, Pacific Restaurant and Antonette’s, to name a few.  You don’t have to eat out to enjoy a good meal that’s also good for you.

Growing up, I didn’t give much thought to how or what I ate. As we began to raise a family, and as I worked toward earning a master’s degree in Health & Kinesiology, my relationship with eating and cooking changed. It was a slow process, motivated by my desire to serve healthy meals to our growing boys. When I understood the role good nutrition played in how their brains developed and how that would help them become better learners in school, it became a major priority for me to prepare and serve healthy food at home.

There was just one problem. The foods my kids liked to eat weren’t very healthy and they turned their noses at the healthy options I tried to serve.  It didn’t help that I am really not much of a cook.  I had to figure out how to make healthy food taste better.  I began to change t my cooking habits based on things our family enjoyed when we ate out.

One of the biggest changes I made was to add more vegetables and flavor to our meals.  There are three magical ingredients that worked for us . . . garlic, onion and olive oil.  There are very few nights of the week my kitchen does not smell like a combination of these ingredients.  It doesn’t matter if we are eating whole wheat spaghetti, chicken stir fry with brown rice or a veggie frittata, I always start with those three ingredients.  To this day, that is one of my favorite smells when I walk into a restaurant. And that’s when I knew our family had made the change toward better eating – when my kids came home from sports practice or work and, as they entered the kitchen, would breathe in deeply and say, “Yum, what smells so good?”

There are so many simple tips and tricks that have helped me become a better and more confident cook.  It’s taken twenty years and it is still a work in progress.  The biggest lesson I have learned is that motivation matters.  I didn’t get serious about eating better until I decided to do it for my kids.  We’d love to hear from you, whether you are an experienced cook or someone who, like me, entered the kitchen as a reluctant chef.  What simple changes have you made to your eating habits and what changes have you noticed as a result?  What has motivated you and what barriers have you had to overcome?  If you’d like to share your story, reach out to us at and join us in making healthy happen in Tillamook County.

For more local health and wellness information,  follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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About the Author : Michelle