NATURAL MEDICINE with Dr. Monique

By on December 2, 2014

Taking it one resolution at a time

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – As a naturopathic physician, I talk every day to people who want to improve their diet and health, but don’t know where to start. And they’re afraid I’m going to make them give up everything they love to eat and drink for some draconian regimen.

Good news: It’s not that bad. You don’t have to turn your dietary world upside down starting tomorrow. That’s too hard a program to stick with. Start with just a few of these five fairly simple things that will make an immediate, positive difference:

STOP THE POP

Americans are drinking fewer soft drinks and I highly recommend that you join the trend, especially if you drink diet soda. The idea is to avoid the high levels of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners and flavors that these drinks contain. Be advised: Fruit juices and sports drinks such as Gatorade are nearly as bad. Check the label — if the product has more than 8 to 10 grams of sugar, put it back on the shelf. Try a sparkling water or an iced tea instead. Or carry your own bottle with your own recipe. Try a tablespoon of organic maple syrup and a tablespoon of organic lemon juice in 16 ounces of water for a healthier, cheaper alternative.

CUT DOWN ON PROCESSED FOOD

At home or at holiday parties, pass up the chips and dip or cheese and crackers. Instead, opt for the veggies and dip, if available, or eat the cheese without the cracker. When shopping, try to avoid buying processed snack foods like chips, crackers, candy, cookies and cakes. Instead, try naturally smoked trout or salmon with cream cheese on an endive leaf and get that salty treat in a much healthier package. Make a hummus dip with veggies — Google has a zillion recipes. For dessert, have some dark chocolate or a sorbet.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER

Staying hydrated helps your immune system stay strong. Living in Jackson Hole means being exposed to the different viruses and bacteria brought by visitors from all over the world. Dry mucous membranes from inadequate hydration make you more susceptible to viruses, so carry a bottle of water and take sips often to keep from getting sick. (Airplanes and dry winter air will dry out those membranes thoroughly.) Bonus: Hydration greatly improves alertness and physical performance.

BRING YOUR OWN FOOD

This one helps your wallet and your health: Make your own lunch instead of eating out. We’ve all been there — making healthy food choices is twice as difficult when you’re hungry. Instead, try making a sandwich at home, such as pita bread with tuna or turkey. Another option is to make extra dinner the night before and bring it for lunch. For that mid-afternoon craving for sweets, have some food available at work. Apples, grapes, nuts, seeds or a protein bar (read the label first) are great to hold you over until dinner and help you avoid that cookie or donut.

QUIT TOBACCO

Whether you’re a regular smoker or one who just bums a couple cigarettes at parties, now is a great time to eliminate the habit. I know how hard it is to quit. (Yes, your naturopathic physician is not an angel — I smoked in college!) Nicotine comes just after heroin on the list of addictive substances. Start cutting down now. Then pick a date and quit. I’ve seen gum, e-cigarettes and patches work, but acupuncture is especially effective.

As I said in the beginning, take baby steps and don’t try to do it all at once. Make some changes gradually and get started before the holidays. Questions? Suggestions? Let me know at [email protected]

Monique Lai, ND, is a naturopathic doctor and natural health expert with a family practice in Jackson Hole.

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