What Do Doctors Really Eat?

By , Dr. Thomas J. Kleeman, MD
Fact: Doctors love to eat. It is a truth that I learned early on in my medical training and one that has followed me through my career. To survive long shifts and a revolving door of patients, I quickly learned that a solid meal is key, but that doesn’t always mean we have time to sit down for a nice meal of quinoa and kale. For doctors, food is energy, plain and simple, and that means carbs, fats and proteins that can be procured and eaten quickly on breaks.

As the treadmill of my life as a surgeon cranked up to full speed, I adopted these poor eating habits to cope with my increasingly hectic schedule. Sporadic eating throughout the day led to overeating at dinner, and bribing nurses with glazed croissants ended with indulging in one or two sweet treats myself. I gave little thought to nutritional value or savoring the taste of what I was eating and thus, as my practice grew, so did my waistline.

Suddenly, 20 years had passed since my days as an eager intern, and my weight was up--along with my cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. Who knew I couldn’t just tell my patients how to be healthy without following the same advice myself?

But then I realized something great: It was not too late to make a change. I could save my patients and myself at the same time. Yes, there is a donut shop on the first floor of the hospital, but I don’t have to frequent it.  While there are bays of elevators taking me up to the 8th floor to see patients, I don't have to use them. In the end, it is about finding the right balance. The secret to healthy living is not a fad diet or some short term sacrifices; It is about making good choices, most of the time.  I am not perfect, but my weight is down, my blood sugar levels are normal and my cholesterol is under control. I don’t count calories, but I do exercise five days a week, alternating cardio and weight training.

My Healthy Eating Routine

I normally begin the day with a glass of water and then a couple cups of coffee with just a tablespoon of cream.

I arrive at the hospital by 6:30 a.m., see my patients and then hit the cafeteria. A typical breakfast for me includes two hard-boiled eggs with a little butter, fresh fruit and water or green tea. The protein, fiber and fat see me through my first surgery of the day.  Later, when time allows, I grab a mid-morning snack of two graham crackers with some natural peanut butter to keep me going in case surgery runs long and lunch gets delayed.

When it’s time for lunch, I head back to the cafeteria for the salad bar.  My salad includes fresh greens, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper and some lean protein (either chicken, tuna or chick peas) topped with a little oil, balsamic vinegar and sunflower seeds.  Again, water is my drink of choice during the day.  I discovered that even though diet soft drinks have zero calories, the sweetness left me craving more sweets.  As a result, I now opt for water or fruit-infused water.

Most of my weeknight dinners are at home, where my family follows a Mediterranean diet. We usually have fish, chicken, nuts, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and a glass of red wine.

Our love of food means we are often creating and recreating recipes to make them more healthful, but just as delicious. It was this idea that sparked the creation of our website, eatandbefit.com. All too often my patients—much like my former self—rely on the same unhealthy comfort foods time and again. The goal of Eat and Be Fit is to help other individuals find healthy new recipe options that are still comforting and satisfying, while keeping them on track at the same time.

So, as you can see, doctors really aren’t any different than anyone else. We encounter the same obstacles, both at work and at home, but we can all seek out information that can help us learn about and adapt to healthy living. This doctor might have had to learn the hard way, but he did learn, and so can you.

Dr. Thomas J. Kleeman, MD, is nationally-renowned orthopedic surgeon and founder of the New Hampshire Neurospine Institute. With the help of his wife Anne, he has become dedicated to the use of exercise and good nutrition as a means of maintaining quality of life during the aging process.  Now 66, he is a cancer survivor who found the benefits of exercise and nutrition instrumental in his own recovery.  Along with his wife Anne, a registered nurse and certified fitness professional, he has launched MDfitness: The Doctor's Workout on DVD—an easy to follow exercise program designed for people over 40, along with EatandBeFit, a nutrition and fitness blog.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


USMAWIFE 9/18/2020
thanks. I only have one really healthy doctor who eats what she tells her patients to eat Report
PATRICIAAK 9/11/2020
:) Report
TURQUROISE 5/11/2020
thank you Report
KATHYJO56 4/30/2020
Dr. Kleeman has a very healthy diet Report
That normal daily meal routine sounds boring but easy to do when someone else prepares the food. If you can afford to eat out daily & find a place that serves healthy food, great. And his wife cooks dinner.

My Asian doctor is vegetarian but many others have been fat, and one still smoked! Glad things are changing. Report
Doing the hard work. Agree about finding balance Report
Interesting article Report
thanks Report
Nice to share Report
You rock, Dr. Kleeman! Report
Vey interesting, I did notice a small belly on my doctor Report
Well they do have to eat and most just don't have time to cook with their busy schedule Report
Interesting. Report
wow thanks for sharing Report
good information Report
Yup, we all put on our pants the same way, no matter what our profession. Not sure why people are shocked by this or worse, leaving negative comments. Report
Who cares what doctors eat?? They aren't any different from any of us.
We all(no matter what color coat we wear or what letters come after our names are the same. Some of us are in need of help in maintaining ourselves through clean eating, working out etc. We just don't all think it through and thats why SparkPeople.com is so helpful to everyone us. Off I go to "maintain" and prepare my lunch (sardine patties) a recipe from one of my Spark friend team members "Pookie" she has Numbers after her name so maybe I should be skeptical. LOL. Happy St Patricks day!! Just saying! Report
The links don't work. I'll google "Eat and Be Fit" and see if I can find it.
Edit: I tried and the site is down. Oh, well. Report
Interesting! Report
In the last few years I have spent many days eating in a hospital cafeteria, and I LOVE the fact that you could get a hot and healthy satisfying meal there, very inexpensively. In spite of the stress of seeing my beloved brother struggle with being very ill, I managed to lose weight there because I had such healthy and satisfying food easily available at the hospital cafeteria. There was always a choice of hot entrees, like baked chicken or fish as well as big steaming pots of hot vegetables, and a salad bar. The cooler held fruit, cut up in cups or whole, and yogurt and pudding. Eating there was a lot like eating at our family dinner table when I was growing up. And, it was inexpensive. I don't know a restaurant anywhere else where I could get a meal like that for around $10.

I love hospital cafeterias! Report
This was a very motivating article. Would love to see more like these. Report
Very interesting what they eat. Report
Ha! Every doctor I have ever met has eaten like crap (and yes, I've know more than my fair share). Report
Interesting. That's a pretty low carbohydrate way of eating. Fat (cream) first thing in the morning. Minimal carbs at breakfast, and those are naturally packed into the fruit. Minimal carbs at lunch, and those are packed into the veg. Dinner is "fish, chicken, nuts, olive oil, fruits and vegetables and a glass of red wine." No mention of pasta or breadsticks, although their website does feature whole grain orzo and other things. Report
"Who puts butter on hard boiled eggs?" Don't knock it 'til you try it. A Finnish friend introduced me to this. She chops a hard-boiled egg and mixes it with a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Very filling. Report
Who puts butter on hard boiled eggs? Report
This author is correct. I'm a Nurse Practitioner student right now and our schedules are hectic. I don't have time, except between classes or hospital shifts, to eat much. Luckily for me I prefer to shove fruit in my backpack or keep Lara Bars in my office

Normal RN's have it even worse than Nurse Practitoners and Doctors. While they may not have to work as many hours as us their daily duties are grunge duties. I easily see stress eating occurring in their day to day lives. Report
Great information. So ... why are so many nurses over-weight at my hospital? Because life is made up of personal choices. Report