David L. Katz, MD
Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: I'm nursing a 2-month-old while trying to lose the 30 pounds I gained during pregnancy. But I'm up at 2 A.M. and 5 A.M. for feedings and always hungry. Can I snack at night and still lose weight?
— Syneetra Hill, Newark, New Jersey

A: No wonder you're hungry. Breastfeeding increases your body's energy needs by 500 calories a day, which is even more than pregnancy, at 300 calories per day. But your question is about losing weight—and yes, you can do it while munching at night. When you eat matters much less than what you have and how many calories you take in over a 24-hour period. So for your nocturnal snacks, instead of cookies or chips, opt for a nonfat yogurt with some whole grain cereal, fresh fruit, or perhaps an all-fruit spread on whole grain toast. Carrots, sliced turkey or chicken, nuts, seeds, and avocado are also good choices. The key is to adjust your daytime eating so the calories you take in at night are instead of, rather than in addition to, those you would ordinarily consume. Focus on the overall pattern of your diet, make sure to get in some physical activity, and both you and your baby will be headed toward good health.