I was born and raised in Mexico City and spent many summers in Switzerland, and no matter where I was in the world, there was one daily ritual I would always share with my grandmother.

Each morning I would accompany her to different small shops, watching her speak to the vegetable and fruit stand vendor, or the butcher, or the cheesemonger, as we gathered ingredients at the peak of freshness.

The perspective I gained from those experiences of taking simple, real ingredients, and making them shine is the inspiration behind my culinary medicine practice.

Photo by Olivia Hayo & Sylvie Coulange

As a physician, I want to show my patients the link between health and nutrition, and to empower them to make doable, delicious meals that are also fantastic for their bodies.

I am a true believer that if people know and understand the ‘why’ behind the consequences of different food choices on their health, they will understand the need to make changes, and with this understanding, we can take the next step with the ‘how’ of getting healthier through food.

When we hear we need to eat healthy, often bland, boiled broccoli is what pops into mind. My goal, when I discuss what people are eating, is to show them that eating well is not a sacrifice.

The charring or roasting of vegetables is a fabulous way to start experiencing this. I’ve proudly converted many patients, including my kids and nieces and nephews, with a good roasted broccoli dish.

This broccolini recipe is a great example (broccolini is a lovely relative of broccoli with smaller buds that cooks quicker) of an easy “convert dish”, especially since you get all kinds of great umami and saltiness from the parmesan cheese and lovely heat from the chili flakes.

I like to add cooked whole wheat pasta right in the cast iron pot after cooking this recipe, toss it, and set it at the center of the table as our main.

Photo by Olivia Hayo & Sylvie Coulange
Photo by Olivia Hayo & Sylvie Coulange
Photo by Olivia Hayo & Sylvie Coulange
Photo by Olivia Hayo & Sylvie Coulange

We often feel stuck and instead of trying to make food at home, we fall into our patterns of acquiring food that someone else made. I promise, that if you are making your own food, you will be eating better.

Playing with fresh ingredients is so fun, and a great way to see that making delicious, healthy food that is truly yours, is totally doable.

That’s why I love using this recipe for shaved asparagus with feta dressing as a jumping off point for other seasonal salads.

The easy dressing uses feta cheese as the salt and the fat and lemon as the acid, and tastes good on just about anything, so this salad can be made with any super fresh vegetable I find at the farmers market or in the garden.

I encourage patients to try this recipe and play with it.

Another thing I try to teach patients is that the more whole foods we eat, the more nutritionally dense and better for us our meals will be in the short and long term.

When the ingredients are in their natural form, our bodies extract the nutritional goodness within, and this is especially true of whole grains.

courtesy of the author

A whole grain still has the husk (which has the fiber) and the germ (which has the healthy oils, vitamins, minerals and protein), while processed grains, which we find everywhere in packaged foods, white bread, and pastries, have only the starchy component that can spike sugar levels and actually make you more hungry.

Whole ingredients, including whole grain bulgur, are highlighted throughout this vegan bulgur bowl recipe, which is packed with healthy fats from avocado and peanuts, protein from nutritional powerhouse, edamame, and tons of fantastic flavor from fresh herbs.

Play with different whole grains when making a lunch bowl. There are dozens of options available at the market, and most can be cooked and last up to a week in the fridge.

Build flavor and freshness with chopped herbs. Use or add in another lean protein like grilled chicken.

Think of your plate as a puzzle and try to hit all marks: half vegetables,  one-quarter lean protein (edamame, the unprocessed form of soy, is a fantastic source of plant protein, as is avocado), and one-quarter whole grains. Then comes the really fun part, adding flavors and textures with farmers market finds and fresh herbs.

With gorgeous meals made to suit your taste, it becomes clear that eating to optimize health doesn’t have to be a compromise, it can be a delicious, empowering adventure.

About the Author

Dr. Sabrina Falquier (Fall-Key-A) Montgrain was born and raised in Mexico City, and moved to the United States at the age of 11 with spanish is her first language. She completed her medical training at New York Medical College followed by an Internal Medicine Residency at UCSD and a one-year Women’s Health Fellowship. She enjoyed returning to the kitchen to cook for herself and her family after her residency was completed.

Dr. Falquier promotes culinary medicine in a variety of ways, including through her involvement with the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, 6.85 acres of land in National City that has been converted to edible gardens, where she has been on the Board of Directors since March 2017.

Dr. Falquier attends a yearly conference run by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America to obtain research-based nutritional information, language, and concrete tools to aid in empowering people to optimize their health by utilizing food as medicine.

Find Dr. Falquier in outpatient primary care at Sharp Rees-Stealy, where she has been a physician since 2005, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @SensationsMD.

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