Meal Planning: The Key to Healthy Eating

It’s never to late too embark on new healthy habits, especially regarding nutrition and menu planning – a concept I wholeheartedly support in my practice as a naturopathic physician.

Menu planning might sound like a chore, but its benefits are far-reaching.  It’s a powerful tool to enhance your nutrition, save time and money, and foster family involvement in the kitchen. I find it’s one of the best ways to improve your nutrition or stick to a new dietary regime. When you plan your meals, you take control of what goes into your body. Menu planning allows you to make conscious choices about ingredients, ensuring a balanced and nutritious diet. You can incorporate more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your meals, leading to improved health. It saves you time and money. How often have you found yourself wandering the supermarket aisles, aimlessly grabbing whatever looks good? Menu planning eliminates this wasteful habit. Creating a shopping list based on your weekly menu not only saves you money but also precious time. No more midweek grocery store rushes. You’re also less likely to cave in and eat out, pick up fast food or order food in, which will save both your money and your waistline. Menu planning also helps engage family members and models and is an important life skill to children. I recommend involving your family or roommates in the process. It’s a wonderful way to bond and instill healthy eating habits in children. Plus, it takes the pressure off the primary cook. Get the kids to help choose recipes and assist with food prep. 

Whether you’re feeding a family or flying solo, these practical tips can help you get started with menu planning. For families, I recommend gathering your family for a weekly meal planning session. Discuss everyone’s preferences and dietary needs. Try theme nights when you dedicate specific nights to themes like Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays. It adds variety and simplifies planning. Then you can meal prep together; kids can wash veggies, while adults handle the cooking. For singles, I encourage preparing larger quantities of meals and freezing individual portions for future use. It reduces cooking time during the week. For ideas, explore meal planning apps like Eatthismuch.com that offer single-serving recipes and shopping lists tailored to your needs. Plan to repurpose leftovers into new meals to reduce waste and save time. For instance, baked chicken breasts can be made into a chicken salad or stir-fry the next night. Roasted vegetables are delicious in a salad the next day. 

I underscore the importance of menu planning in my naturopathic practice. Menu planning is a cornerstone strategy when I coach my patients on nutrition. It empowers them to make lasting changes to their eating habits and supports their overall well-being. So, if September feels like your chance to embrace a fresh start, then try scheduling a time each week to practice menu planning. You’ll reap the rewards of improved nutrition, time and money savings, and enhanced family involvement in the kitchen. Happy menu planning and bon appétit!

The Power of Mindset: How Your Mind Influences Your Health Choices

Let’s face it, what we know we should do for our health and what we actually do are often quite different. When it comes to making healthy choices, we often focus on external factors like finding the right diet plans, exercise routines, or medical advice. While these factors are undoubtedly important, one key determinant of success that often goes overlooked is the power of our mindset. The way we think and perceive ourselves and the world around us can have a profound impact on our health choices. As a naturopathic physician, I see the fascinating connection between mindset and health. I’ve learned that it is imperative that the doctor-patient relationship include good coaching on how to cultivate a positive, empowered mindset towards our choices, our bodies and our health.

The choices we make regarding our health are deeply rooted in our mindset. Our beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about ourselves and our bodies shape our daily habits. For example, if we have a negative mindset and believe that we are incapable of making lasting changes, we are more likely to give in to unhealthy temptations, procrastinate, or give up on our goals. However, with effective coaching towards a more positive mindset, we can develop a proactive approach to our health, set achievable goals, and cultivate healthy habits that support our well-being.

One fundamental step towards creating a more intentional lifestyle is mindfulness. Learning to be more aware of your inner self and practicing being fully present in the moment can positively impact health choices. For instance, when we cultivate mindfulness, we become more attuned to our body’s signals of hunger, fullness, and overall well-being. This awareness enables us to make informed choices about what, when, and how much we eat, resulting in a healthier relationship with food and a better understanding of our body’s needs.

The mind and body are deeply interconnected, and research increasingly shows that our thoughts and emotions can influence our physical health. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and pessimism can weaken the immune system, increase the risk of chronic diseases, and slow down the body’s healing process. On the other hand, a positive mindset, characterized by optimism, self-belief, and resilience, can enhance our overall well-being and even influence recovery from illnesses.

Naturopathic medicine is all about empowering people to become informed about their health and coaching them on how to live a lifestyle conducive to good health, including using natural medicines when needed or for health optimization. The old medical model was to wait until you got sick, then expect the doctor to provide a magic pill. My patients come when they are sick and when they are well. They are eager to have an in depth health investigation and create a program to move towards greater health. Fundamental to success, is adopting a positive mindset conducive to making informed decisions, overcoming challenges, and cultivating sustainable life habits.

Developing self-awareness, practicing mindfulness, and fostering self-compassion are essential steps in harnessing the power of mindset to achieve optimal well-being. As a naturopathic doctor, I am just as likely to coach a patient on these important practices as I am to prescribe an herb, vitamin or prescription drug. Remember, your mindset can be a catalyst for positive change, leading you on a path towards a healthier and happier life. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

A Holistic Approach to Seasonal Affective Disorder

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, most commonly during the fall and winter months when daylight hours are shorter. While conventional treatments like antidepressant medications can be effective, many individuals seek natural and holistic approaches to feel better. Naturopathic medicine offers various therapies to help individuals combat SAD.

 

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing SAD symptoms. A naturopathic approach to nutrition for SAD involves consuming foods rich in specific nutrients that can help regulate mood. Vitamin D, commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” is essential for mood regulation. As sunlight exposure decreases during the winter, many people become deficient in this vitamin. Recommendations often include vitamin D supplements or eating more vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and egg yolks.

In order to determine how much vitamin D you need, naturopathic doctors can order a vitamin D blood test to help you ensure you are taking the right amount for you.

 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Asian practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow. In naturopathic medicine, acupuncture is considered an effective option for managing SAD. The use of acupuncture for SAD is best started in the fall, in order to help prevent changes to mood as daylight hours diminish in the winter.

Many people report improved mood, reduced anxiety, and better sleep quality after regular acupuncture treatments. 

 

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has a long history of use in naturopathic approaches to mental health. Several herbs are known for their mood-enhancing properties and are often recommended to individuals with SAD. One such herb is St. John’s Wort, which has been studied for its antidepressant effects. It is believed to increase the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. However, it’s essential to consult with a naturopathic doctor before using herbal remedies, as they can interact with medications and may not be suitable for everyone.

 

Light Therapy

One of the hallmark treatments for SAD is light therapy. This therapy involves exposure to a bright light source that mimics natural sunlight. It is believed to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and boost mood.  Studies have found it to be effective and even as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy for SAD.

Daily sessions of light therapy can significantly alleviate SAD symptoms. It’s essential to choose a high-quality light therapy device with the correct intensity in order to get optimal results. I help patients choose the right light for them, determining the appropriate duration and timing of light exposure.

 

Seasonal mood changes can be challenging to face, but naturopathic medicine offers a holistic approach that focuses on nutrition, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and light therapy. By addressing symptoms of SAD proactively, especially in September and October, many individuals can enjoy a more balanced mood during the darker months of the year.

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

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