Because every M.D. knows that their diet plays a major role in their health and longevity, we wanted to learn more about what ends up on their plates—and what they wouldn't touch with a 10-foot-stick. To get in the know, we reached out to some of the nation's top cardiologists, gastroenterologists, plastic surgeons, OBGYNs, sports medicine, obesity and preventative medicine specialists. Many of them prioritize eating an array of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, dairy and healthy fats–no shocker there–however, what they don't eat was a bit more surprising. Get a sneak peak into the eating habits of those who live and breathe health and medicine every day and steal their health- and waistline-saving secrets for your own diet. Here, we tell all! And then don't miss the stuff that drives the pros crazy in our exclusive report on 21 Nutrionists Confess Their Pet Peeves!
"I try to avoid foods that contain trans-fats, corn syrup, and added sugars," says Eugenia Gianos, MD, a cardiologist at Northwell Health. "Often listed as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, synthetically engineered trans-fats increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and decrease your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, upping your risk of heart attack and stroke." While plain steel-cut oats fit into Dr.Gianos' diet plan, Quaker Instant Oatmeal Fruit & Cream is an example of a product that does not. Every single flavor pack that comes in the box contains ingredients on her "do not eat" list. In need of a flavor boost? Add fresh fruits, a touch of honey, or an ounce of nuts to your bowl instead. Click here for 50 Overnight Oats Recipes for Weight Loss!
"Although I love them, I try to stay away from cream-based soups. They not only bother my stomach, but are also loaded with empty calories and often have concerning fillers like hydrolyzed proteins, food dyes and corn syrup that I find out about later!" says, Dr. Taz Bhatia, integrative health expert and author of The 21-Day Belly Fix.
"There isn't a food I avoid entirely. One cheeseburger never killed anybody unless they choked on it," jokes Blase Carabello, MD, Chairman of Cardiology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. "However, I do limit myself to one per month since the dish is high in heart disease-causing saturated fat and served in a processed bun made with refined carbohydrates." (And top it with a green. Here's a list of The 10 Superfoods Healthier Than Kale, so you can mix up your salad rut.)
Low-Fat Packaged Baked Goods
"I avoid any product marketed as 'low-fat.' Typically, these items are extensively processed and packed with chemicals that are added to try to achieve the consistency or reproduce the flavor of the full-fat models on which they are based," explains Rebekah Gross, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. "I'd rather indulge in a smaller portion of a food naturally high in fat or sugar than ingest an artificial substitute. In most cases, the real deal tastes better, is more satisfying, and doesn't cause the gastrointestinal upset that can be associated with highly processed foods."
"As a plastic surgeon, I'm always thinking about my figure," says New York City-based physician, Lara Devgan, MD. "To that end, I never eat energy bars or granola bars. Although they can be tasty, for the amount of calorie-dense carbs and fat they contain, you might as well eat a candy bar. Many of these bars are packed with simple sugars, and they aren't quite filling enough to substitute for a meal or snack." And dip some yogurt into one. No need to read every label at the store; we did the legwork to track down the Best Brand-Name Yogurts for Weight-Loss!
Giant Cups of Coffee
"I try to avoid excessive caffeine," says Dr. Mamta M. Mamik, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "An adult can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (which is equivalent to four 8-ounce cups of coffee), but drinking any more than that can cause calcium excretion, which, over time, may lead to osteoporosis. Avoiding excess caffeine also helps to ward off uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like lethargy, insomnia, headaches and irritability."
"I eat a very clean, plant-based diet so the avoid list is long for me. However, even for those who eat meat, the processed varieties are a bad choice," warns David L. Katz, MD, MPH, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. "While the link between meat and chronic disease is fairly tenuous, the connection between salt-, sugar- and chemical-laden processed meats and chronic disease risk is strong and consistent. If you eat meat, it should be pure—like you want your own muscles to be. If you eat the highly processed, adulterated meats they may pay it forward to the meat on your own bones."
"I don't drink soda. A long time ago cola had cocaine in it, and it's arguably gotten even more unhealthy since then," says Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, MD, sports medicine specialist and assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Most sodas contain phosphorus, which binds to calcium and increases calcium loss, which is terrible for bone health. Plus, just one can is filled with 40 grams of sugar—the equivalent of 20 sugar cubes—which makes it challenging for the body to maintain healthy glucose and insulin levels. And diet soda is potentially worse. Diet beverages contain low doses of carcinogens and artificial sweeteners that have potentially dangerous effects on the brain and metabolism. While everything in moderation is reasonable, I steer clear of sodas—high risk, no reward." And see What Happens to Your Body When You Give Up Soda!
"I avoid soymilk," notes Gonzalez-Lomas. "Yes, the horror stories linking overconsumption of soy products to estrogen-like effects–like the development of enlarged breasts in otherwise healthy males–are exceptional. However, the fact is that soy mimics estrogen and activates estrogen receptors in the body. Do you want to take that risk? Plus, there are plenty of other milk substitutes—like almond milk—that don't carry the same potential side effects."