Returning To Health by Sabrina Falquier Montgrain, MD
Updated: Jan 11
This weekend I reached out to Sabrina Falquier, MD, primary care physician, and asked her how she helps her patients become their healthiest. She is a firm believer that "food is medicine" and she shares that belief daily with her patients, her community and her family.
What does the doctor-patient relationship mean to you?
On a regular basis, in my Internal Medicine practice of almost 15 years, I have conversations with patients about health. It’s what I do as a primary care doctor. My favorite part is helping people find ways to move their own needle in a direction towards better health. I aim to create a space where patients can allow themselves to be truly honest and vulnerable about where their health is at - both physical and emotional, as the two are interconnected and cannot be separated. For me, the relationship is precious, and is ultimately about trust.
How do you help patients visualize health? What do sculpture and health have in common?
Here are my words to sit with. Close your eyes. Picture yourself as a marble sculptor, like Camille Claudel, the incredible French sculptor from the late 1800’s. You have a giant piece of marble in front of you and inside that hunk of rock is the healthy you. What does healthy feel like for you? How much energy do you have? How does it look? What will be your first chisel from that block of stone to get to the best you? Only you can decide. Take it slow and methodically decide your first chisel. This is not a race, this is your chance to create who you know is inside of you. I am here as your guide, as your mirror, with no judgement. My wish for you is to move in a direction that feels right, and when you go off-course, reflect again and move back to the path that feels positive, kindly. I cannot wait to see your steps. Now open your eyes and begin!
In what way have you found that talking about food helps empower patients?
I love asking my patients all about their eating habits- what they eat, when they eat, who they eat with, what are their snack and drink choices. When patients are presented with these questions it often comes as a surprise. In our culture of ‘doctor’, the food part has practically been lost or forgotten. To me, food is key in health. Yes, for the nutrients in real food, or lack thereof in processed food, yet more so because of all that surrounds food. The connection to who grew our food, the acquisition of ingredients, the slowing down to decide what to do with those ingredients in creating food that is so delicious. It is truly powerful to realize that food can improve your health.
It’s possible to make a choice to improve your health each time you pick up your fork or spoon! Empowering people to know they can do this: this is key for me. To have each person know they have a beginning, and together we discuss what that beginning can be. Is it drinking more water or moving away from soda or endless caffeine/sugar fixes throughout the day? Is it turning off the TV when it is time to eat? Is it learning how to roast a vegetable so it becomes delicious rather than what is perceived as healthy in the ‘bland, boring, boiled broccoli sense’? I love giving patients recipes to begin their journey. It brings me great joy to receive photos of their creations and I applaud with them for all that went into getting that deliciousness on the plate.
What is your cooking philosophy?
As a physician linking food and medicine, I empower people to cook their own nutritious plant-forward scrumptious sensations. I am a true believer that if people know and understand the ‘why’ behind the consequences of different foods to their health, they will understand the need to make changes. With this understanding, I empower them to take the next step with the ‘how’ to be healthier through food. I love food and I love waking up all the senses while acquiring ingredients, preparing and eating meals. I want people to be empowered to make doable, delicious meals that are also fantastic for their bodies without compromising flavor.
I was born and raised in Mexico City and spent many summers in Switzerland. Daily, I would accompany my grandmother to different small shops. It was a beautiful ritual of speaking to the vegetable and fruit stand vendor, or the butcher, or the cheese monger and getting ingredients at their peak. This perspective of taking simple, real ingredients, and making them shine is a huge part of my drive within my culinary medicine practice. I want people to be empowered to make doable, delicious meals that are also fantastic for their bodies without compromise to flavor.
Cheers to good health and bon appetit.
Sabrina Falquier Montgrain, MD
Dr. Falquier (Fall-Key-A) was born and raised in Mexico City. She moved to the US at the age of 11. Spanish is her first language. She did her medical training at New York Medical College followed by an Internal Medicine Residency at UCSD, then did a one-year Women’s Health Fellowship. Since 2005, she has been working in outpatient primary care at Sharp Rees-Stealy in San Diego, Califonia.
She has enjoyed cooking for herself and her family since time allowed after residency. Dr. Falquier is highly involved at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, 6.85 acres of land in National City that have been converted to edible gardens and has been on their Board of Directors since March 2017. She promotes culinary medicine in a variety of ways. She is currently working on her Culinary Medicine certification through Tulane University.