An M.D. Shares Her Go-to Healthy Meal Plan (Including the Tasty Recipes)
It may sound like a cliché, but you really are what you eat — as I always tell my patients, food can either be your medicine or your poison. My four pillars of a healthy lifestyle include a clean diet, exercise, restorative sleep, and stress reduction, but the most important foundation of a healthy mind-body-spirit is food, first and foremost. Food can be used to your advantage if you want to boost energy and immunity, maintain a healthy gut, have radiant skin, equilibrate mental health, and reduce overall inflammation.
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I’m a serious advocate of following a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Eating fresh foods that are teeming with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals has been demonstrated in medical studies to contribute to longevity and a better quality of life. We all know that a poor diet can lead to increased health risks, and scientific studies have shown that diets high in saturated fats can lead to obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, among other concerns.
As an integrative MD, I focus in part on gut health. Your gut’s microbiome is a direct result of what you eat — and it doesn’t just impact your digestion. In fact, keeping your gut in good equilibrium helps you maintain optimal immunity, along with balanced mental and physical overall well-being; the gut microbiome has been shown in studies to influence everything from memory, mood, and cognition to your heart. These days, so many foods are ultra-processed, which can lead to inflammation and change your gut microbiota for the worse.
My best recommendation for rebalancing your gut is to simply eat enough fresh, natural, unprocessed foods. These are my top favorite ingredients that confer medicinal properties: berries, lentils, mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds — and if you choose to be pescatarian, then include fatty fish rich in omegas, such as salmon.
Transitioning to a diet rich in antioxidants is my soundest advice for creating a healthier, happier version of your existence. Here are three recipes that make up a meal plan for the day that I think are a great template for a healthier way of eating.
1. Breakfast: Cinnamon Blueberry Banana Smoothie
For breakfast, consider a delicious plant-based smoothie like this one. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, cinnamon is a heart-protective spice, bananas contain beneficial phytochemicals, and a little almond butter in the morning offers you a nice hit of protein as you start your day.
2. Lunch: Curried Broccoli Chickpea Salad
This crunchy salad tastes great — and I also love it because broccoli is the star of the show. You may remember your mom asking you to eat more broccoli at the dinner table, and (as usual!) she was right: Broccoli has some seriously impressive cancer-protective properties. I like that this salad also includes the powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient turmeric.
3. Dinner: Creamy French Lentils with Mushrooms and Kale
This is one of those simple recipes that is seriously more than the sum of its parts — and it tastes divine, too. Lentils are rich in polyphenols, which are micronutrients that can help protect against everything from oxidative stress to cancer. Mushrooms help stimulate growth of gut microbiota, and kale — a cruciferous vegetable — has high antioxidative properties. Finally, this recipe includes a couple tablespoons of white wine — because life should be fun, too!
Deepa Verma, MD, AIHM, is a double board certified MD specializing in integrative and anti-aging medicine, and the founder of Synergistiq Wellness. You can follow her on Instagram @drdeepavermamd and @synergistiqwellness.
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