Physician-chef cooks up recipes for healthy weight loss

Dr. Edwin McDonald

Patients who come to see Edwin McDonald, MD, for weight-loss help are 15, 20, 30-plus pounds overweight. Diets have failed and they’re frustrated. They may be heavy enough to get winded climbing stairs, but they are too light to be considered for obesity surgery. McDonald knows their pain and hunger pangs.

The gastroenterologist packed on 40 pounds during his medical residency. He wasn’t getting enough sleep, and found himself eating unhealthy foods during his long hospital shifts.

To complicate matters, he was sampling entrees while taking culinary classes at Kendall College.

McDonald switched to a plant-based diet, lost the weight and gained a fresh perspective on cooking and counseling patients. Weight management is not a one-size-fits-all deal, he says. The key is to understand patients’ emotions, behavior and lifestyle and give them practical tools to empower change.

“I tell people, ‘the world is your gym.’ Even if you are watching TV, you don’t have to sit there. You can get up and clean the house during commercials. At the end of the day, every little bit matters.”

At the Center for the Endoscopic Treatment of Obesity, McDonald offers custom, comprehensive weight management services at the University of Chicago Medicine in Hyde Park and at the new Center for Advanced Care at South Loop.

The interdisciplinary care team assesses each patient’s health, contributing weight factors, food intake, activity rate and behavioral patterns. The team provides guidance on dietary and lifestyle changes, and where applicable, the use of nutritional supplements or pharmacotherapy.

Both physicians perform reversible, endoscopic procedures to motivate patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 to 30 to jumpstart their weight loss and mobility.

McDonald, 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, is happy to share recipes and ways to steam, sauté and grill vegetables.

The self-described “flexitarian” admits he can’t pass up a good brisket. He also grills an occasional steak for his wife and his children request his roast chicken tacos.

Still, plant-based soups, entrées and sides — seasoned just right — are the stars of his menu. They are as delicious as they are filling.

“As for food, it is a friend,” he said. “Know good food, and food good for you. I always use a variety of fruits, but blueberries are one of my favorites for their antioxidant properties. One recent study demonstrated that consuming at least half a cup of blueberries led to detectable changes in bloodstream antioxidant levels."

Edwin McDonald’s "Kind of Blue" smoothie recipe


  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • (fresh, frozen, or a combination)
  • 1 peeled clementine
  • 2 medium sized strawberries (whole)
  • 2-3 dried apricots
  • 1 handful/cup loosely packed arugula
  • (or baby spinach)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup water

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend for 30-60 seconds until all ingredients are liquefied. Add additional water if the mixture is too thick.

Variation: Add a serving of a plant-based protein powder for additional calories. Consder throwing in grated ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and/or freshly squeezed lemon juice for an extra flavor boost.

Serving size and nutritional information:

Serves 1

Approximate values per serving: Calories 128, Total Fat 0.7g, Sodium 25mg, Potassium 257mg, Total Carbohydrate 32g, Dietary Fiber 8.3g, Sugar 14.8g, Vitamin A 35%, Vitamin C 65%, Calcium 10%