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Eating Better

How do you eat better to lose weight?

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: It’s helpful to identify healthy snacks that fill you up. When I get hungry in the afternoon around 4 pm, I eat a small handful of almonds with a container of Greek yogurt. They taste delicious and they are healthy, and the protein really fills me up.

I do allow myself to eat some sweets in moderation. I’ll have a small handful of peanut M&M’s, a container of sugar-free chocolate pudding, or frozen fat-free cool whip. When you freeze it, it tastes like ice cream.

Eva Mayer, MD, a mom of a nine-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, an associate professor of pediatrics at Temple University, and a pediatrician with St. Luke’s Pediatrics Associates, in Bethlehem, PA

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: As a specialist in liposuction, many of my patients ask me advice on how to lose weight or keep from regaining weight after their surgery.  I tell all my patients that the key to weight loss is a combination of diet and exercise.  Although both are important, I always emphasize diet and tell my patients “to watch what you put in your mouth.” Exercise is great, but if you do cardio, such as running or swimming, for an hour, you only burn around 300-400 calories. That’s less than what’s in a cheese burger! You really can’t use the excuse that you can eat anything and work it off later. I am extremely disciplined in what I eat.  Also, eating healthy gives you energy and makes you feel better overall.

In general, I avoid sugars. This includes foods that have sugar in it – cookies, candy, sugary snacks, soda and other sweet drinks. The sweet drinks are really important to look out for – the mixed coffee drinks and some energy drinks have a lot of sugar that people forget about. I also don’t drink alcohol at all because of the calories.

I also limit my intake of carbohydrates, and if I do eat them, it’s at my first meal of the day, usually oatmeal for breakfast.

A typical day’s eating for me is a few eggs for breakfast, a light salad with avocado for lunch, and a chicken breast and steamed broccoli for supper. I don’t snack much, but if I get hungry in between meals I’ll have a piece of fruit such as a pear or an apple.

It’s also important to avoid pseudo-healthy foods, such as smoothies. People think that they’re healthy, but they have a lot of sugars and a lot of calories!  My best advice is to read the labels and by this I mean the calories, fat, and carbohydrates. Ignore the marketing hype that calls something “slim” or “protein” or “low carb” and turn the product over to see exactly what’s in what you eat.

Catherine Begovic, MD, a mom of a six-month-old daughter and a plastic surgeon at Make You Perfect, Inc in Beverly Hills, CA. 

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: Everyone has one type of food that’s their weakness. For me, it’s sauces. I love sauces, gravies, and dressings. They can have a lot of calories. Rather than cutting them out of my diet, I searched to find flavors and brands that I like that don’t have too many calories. I found Makoto Ginger Dressing, for instance, has only 80 calories in 2 tablespoons instead of a higher-calorie creamy dressing. You can buy it at Target.

Sometimes I mix a higher-calorie dressing with a lower calorie one. For example, I’ll combine Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Light (only 50 calories per 2-tablespoon serving) with a higher calorie Asian dressing. This gives me more flavor, for fewer calories.

Tiemdow Phumiruk, MD, a mom of 13-, 10-, and 7-year old daughters, a pediatrician in the Emergency Department of Children’s Hospital Colorado at Parker Adventist Hospital, and Adjunct Faculty at Rocky Vista University School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Lone Tree, CO


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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: After my pregnancies, particularly after my second, I developed food sensitivities and gastrointestinal issues. I reacted negatively to almost everything I ate! I had to watch carefully what I was eating. I went on an elimination diet, and I stopped eating gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. I only ate organic, whole foods, such as organic fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry.

Eventually my body healed from avoiding these foods. I can tolerate gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs in small doses now. It took me  nearly  a year before adding these things back into my diet. I  did it one at a time so I could note any reactions. For most people it  takes three to six months. I just felt really great eliminating those foods!

A side benefit to overhauling my eating was weight loss. I lost nearly 12 pounds!

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: I’ve found it to be very helpful to identify a few healthy go-to meals and eat them every week. It all started when my kids were little and I tried to make it easier for my housekeeper and me, for shopping and preparing the meals.  Most people eat the same foods over and over again, so if you make those meals healthy, it goes a long way to helping lose weight.

For example, we usually eat hamburgers or meatloaf and broccoli on Mondays, chicken with steamed cauliflower on Tuesdays, fish with some sort of spinach dish on Wednesdays, and pasta  on Thursdays.  Every day we have a fresh salad. On Fridays, we celebrate Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), and so we have a special meal. We start with prayers and then sit for almost two hours, often with guests, and enjoy a drawn-out meal of soup, salad, and then our main course with lots of side dishes, mostly veggies.  On Friday night we also have dessert.

Weekends we had leftovers and usually barbecued Sunday night.  Sometimes we went out to eat, but never, ever did we take our kids out for fast foods.  Our dietary limitations (we eat a Kosher diet and only eat vegetarian and plain fish out), it wasn’t too difficult to just say, “we can’t eat that.”  I think if more parents said that to their kids, eating habits would be much better.

Linda Brodsky, MD, a mom of a 30-year-old son and 28- and 25-year-old daughters, the president of WomenMDResources.com, a physician in private practice with Pediatric ENT Associates in Buffalo, NY, and a professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at the University of Buffalo (retired 2007)

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I’ve probably lost myself—my entire body weight—four or five times. I’ve tried everything to lose weight. But every time I lost it, I gained it all back. My weight has been a life-long battle.

I was even a chubby kid. I remember as a child, my weight was treated as a negative issue. I wasn’t given the same treats as other kids were. That really reinforced my negative feelings about my weight.

I’ve learned that I need to be vigilant about my weight all of the time. The only strategy that has worked is eating sensibly. As my grandmother used to say, “Moderation in all things.” If I try to give up food entirely, then I feel deprived, I rebound, and I overdo it later.

I was a heavy teen, and when the first diet soda, Tab, came out, I went on a Tab-and-Jell-O diet. I ate nothing else for a few weeks and lost a few pounds. Then I gained them all back. Now I eat whatever I like, in moderation.

Another thing that helps is my family keeps kosher. We can’t eat out in fast food restaurants, and that helps me to avoid grabbing calorie heavy foods like that. While keeping kosher helps avoid the pitfalls of eating out, there are still plenty of calorie heavy Kosher items available in the grocery store,  So while not eating out is helpful, I still must be vigilant with my grocery shopping!

Susan Besser, MD, a mom of six grown children, ages 28, 26, 24, 22, 21, and 19, a grandmom of two, a family physician, and the medical director of Doctors Express-Memphis, in Tennessee

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: It’s challenging to eat well right now. My daughter is in a phase where she only wants to eat chicken nuggets and yogurt.

I don’t want to fight with her. So to get her to eat her vegetables, I sneak them in. I shave carrots and put them into burritos. I stir a little applesauce into yogurt.

My son, on the other hand, is more a more adventuresome eater. He likes to try new foods. When we visit my friend Cheryl Wu, MD, in New York City, she prepares a lot of Asian dishes. They have tons of vegetables, and they’re very healthy. My son was excited to try all of them, and he loves using chopsticks. We’ve adapted some of her recipes to make at home. We make big stir-fries of vegetables, a protein such as chicken, and sometimes an egg.

Sigrid Payne DaVeiga, MD, a mom of a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter and a pediatric allergist with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in Philadelphia, PA

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I’ve had challenges with my weight my entire life. My weight ruined my adolescence. I remember standing in line at Walt Disney World at age 13 thinking, I’m so fat. I want to disappear. I was always so uncomfortable in my own skin.

I’ve tried so many different weight loss programs. Yet today, I weigh less than I did when I was in seventh grade. The key was finding out what works for me.

I eliminated all grains from my diet, including bread, pasta, oats, barley, and corn. Even though I tested negative for Celiac disease, if I eat even a little bit of wheat, I get sick.

When you eat grains, it costs your body far more nutrients to process it than your body is getting from the grains. Every time you eat a piece of bread, for example, you deplete your body’s antioxidants. Your body uses up more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to process the food than it actually gets out of the food. It’s giving you calories with no nutrition. Unless you eat five to 10 servings of vegetables a day, your nutrient levels are going lower and lower.

It can be challenging for people to eliminate grains from their diets. I suggest people try it for a month and see how they feel. Corn is especially difficult to avoid. You have to check labels carefully for things like corn oil and corn starch. Even plastic is made with corn. It has completely infiltrated our lives.

One thing that I noticed was it was difficult for me to control how many carbs I ate. I believe that we crave what we’re allergic to. For me, that has been a huge weight connection.

Avoiding all grains, combined with exercising at a moderate intensity, helped me to lose the weight and maintain it. Now I feel better at age 52 than I did at 32! Instead of grains, I eat plenty of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and good fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and avocado. I think we all got fat on a low-fat diet! I especially avoid products like light mayonnaise, which are filled with corn syrup to replace fat. It’s far better to eat fat than all of those grains.

—Marie Dam, MD, a mom of 24- and 20-year-old daughters, and an anti-aging medicine specialist in private practice in Naples, FL, and Danbury, CT.

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: After delivering my children, I started cutting back on one thing at a time. I was (and still am) a big snacker. I cut one snack time at a time: first, the middle of the night snacking, next the before dinner, then after dinner, then before lunch.

Once I was down to three meals per day, I started decreasing my calories for these meals.  For lunch I restricted myself to a fruit, granola bar, and a cup of yogurt.  I also started skipping breakfast and just having coffee.  Coffee is actually a great appetite suppressant.  (I’m not recommending this approach as a doctor, but it does work.)

Stacey Ann Weiland, MD, a mother of a 14-year-old daughter and 9- and 7-year-old sons and an internist/gastroenterologist, in Denver, CO

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: I’ve been most successful at losing weight when I eliminate two elements from my diet: sugar and flour. For example, right now it’s early December, and I’ve sworn off sugar and flour until the New Year.

It might seem like this would be especially difficult at this time of year, but actually it makes dieting easier. Around the holidays, there are so many temptations that if I had to make a decision on each individual treat whether or not to eat it, I would nibble continuously. But because I eliminated sugar and flour completely, it’s easier to do. Studies have shown that it’s easier to go cold turkey than to moderate. Once you commit to a change it takes about three or four days for that to become your new normal.

I don’t avoid all carbs. For example, I eat mashed potatoes and will put honey in tea as a sweetener. Obviously, I avoid cookie exchanges completely!

Amy Baxter, MD, a mom of 15- and 12-year-old sons and a 10-year-old daughter; the CEO of buzzy4shots.com; and the director of emergency research, Scottish Rite, of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

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.