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Eating Better for Energy

How do you eat to keep your energy up?

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I’m very conscious of how foods affect me—whether they deplete me or energize me. I try to pay attention. I drink a lot of green smoothies, and I eat a lot of green vegetables, good fats such as avocados, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, and clean protein such as grass fed/ organic meat and chicken, pastured eggs, and wild caught Alaskan salmon.

I notice that eating simple carbs such as bread and crackers and grains make me bloated and tired, so I avoid them most of the time.

Kay Corpus, MD, a mom of a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, a family physician, and the director of Owensboro Health Integrative Medicine, in Owensboro, Kentucky

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: A few weeks ago, I gave up coffee for 10 days. I confess I’m attached to the aroma of coffee, and it’s the jolt I get to jumpstart my day. I like being caught in a cycle of sugar and caffeine euphoria. I also took a hiatus on processed sugars, red meat, and foods like pasta and bread.

With the help of a nutritionist-yoga teacher, seven colleagues and I went on a 10-day quest to find out what foods “best serve us.” During this journey, I became aware of all the people who stroll down the streets cradling their Starbucks cups. When I mentioned to my friends that I was caffeine-free for 10 days as part of a spring fast, I might as well have said that I was volunteering to go on a forced march through Siberia. I wondered if caffeine is our security blanket that provides the energy for us to scramble from one momentous task to another. I worried that I might not be able to write without my caffeine jolt.

Even though this started out as a 10-day hiatus from coffee, I’ve kept it up for two years. I found out that I don’t crave it or need it to keep my energy up. From this experience I discovered that you can change a habit with something that you think you can’t live without. And I got to experience what it must be for my patients to try to change a habit.

Nancy Rappaport, MD, a mother of 22- and 18-year-old daughters and a 20-year-old son, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, an attending child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Cambridge, MA, public schools, and the author of The Behavior Code


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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: To keep my energy level up, I eat plenty of fresh fruit. I seek out fresh berries and I supplement fresh with frozen fruit when necessary.

I sometimes make yogurt smoothies with plain or fruit flavored yogurt and add the frozen fruit and swirl in a blender. You can freeze this to make yogurt pops. Or sometimes I defrost the fruit overnight and just add the fruit to yogurt without blending. For my son, I occasionally add frozen strawberries to orange juice and whirl in the blender.

I also make fruit sauces with frozen berries by cooking the berries with sugar and a little lemon juice and put this over oatmeal in the morning or ice cream at night. Of course sometimes I just defrost, drain, and eat plain. My son actually prefers the berries frozen!

A lot of people don’t think about incorporating frozen fruit into their diet, but it is less expensive than fresh and actually pretty flavorful as it is flash frozen at peak of ripeness. Consider that a lot of “fresh fruit” sits around in the grocery store too long or has come thousands of miles!

Jennifer A. Gardner, MD, a mom of a three-year-old son, a pediatrician, and the founder of an online child wellness and weight management company, HealthyKidsCompany.com, in Washington, DC

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I try to make healthy eating choices and think of food as fuel. I find that if I focus on eating to nourish and energize myself and, rather than to eat whatever I want to eat, it makes a huge difference in how I feel. I have so much more energy.

I eat a lot of healthy protein, such as nuts and seeds. In the fall, I roast pumpkin seeds. I also buy turkey jerky in bulk (like at Costco or Sam’s). I like to buy reasonably priced protein such as good lean cuts of turkey. I like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. I also love roasted vegetables. I buy kale and make kale chips by sprinkling it with olive oil and salt and roasting it in the oven. Roasting veggies (especially cauliflower or sweet potatoes or kale) is pretty easy; essentially you just cut the veggies into similar size chunks, toss in olive oil and your favorite seasoning (I like sea salt or Montreal steak seasoning), place them on a cookie sheet, and roast at 350 degrees until they are carmalized or golden brown.

I shop at Whole Foods or Sprouts where you can buy foods in bulk. I buy a small amount first to try it, and then if I like it I buy more. I buy the ingredients to make homemade granola (which I sweeten with maple syrup or applesauce instead of sugar), which is so much healthier and tastier than store bought. I also buy chia seeds, mix them with a bit of vanilla soy milk, and let them soak overnight. It tastes a bit like tapioca pudding.  I have to admit, it’s an acquired taste!

I think that eating a variety of healthful foods is the key. When people try to eat a small selection of healthy foods, they get bored and give up.

If on the weekends, I eat a lot of junk food that I’m craving, such as crackers, then I don’t feel as good. It might taste good, but I pay for it later.

Antoinette Cheney, DO, a mom of a seven-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, a family physician with Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, CO and from Lone Tree, CO

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.