A Bariatric-Friendly Thanksgiving

A Bariatric-Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is arguably the biggest food holiday in this country. People are encouraged to eat to the point of needing to sleep. How do you enjoy the holiday after surgery when your relationship with food has changed?

First of all, food doesn’t need to be everything. Enjoy time with family and friends with non-food activities. Participate in a “turkey trot” walk or jog. Turn up the music and dance with your kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews. Pull out the board games. Watch old family videos. There are lots of ways to spend your day without the focus on food. But eventually, you will be seated around the table for the big meal.

Turkey – Enjoy this protein-based food! Each ounce of turkey has 7 grams of protein and even the dark meat is relatively low in fat. The dark meat (legs, wings, and thighs) is more moist than the light meat so you may tolerate the dark meat best. Keep the skin on the turkey while it’s cooking to lock in the moisture. If you deep-fry or pan-fry your turkey, avoid eating the skin soaks up the oil and may feel too greasy for your stomach.

Gravy – Gravy is a condiment. Just like salad dressings, you can put some on the side and dip each bite of turkey into it. If you are sensitive to high-fat foods, gravy will likely be too rich for your stomach. Trader Joe’s makes boxed turkey gravy that is low in fat and still has good flavor.

Potatoes – The nutrition profile really changes based on how your potatoes are prepared – mashed, baked, roasted, twice-baked. Potatoes are a starchy vegetable and they contain many nutrients in their skins. Sweet potatoes are very high in vitamin A, which is how they get their orange color, but they are still a starchy vegetable. Because of their dense, starchy texture, they may feel heavy in your stomach. You can slim down mashed potatoes by using skim milk or plain Greek yogurt to add creaminess in place of butter or cream. You can also swap cauliflower in place of potatoes for a dish lower in calories and carbohydrates that feels lighter on your stomach.

Stuffing – This staple of the Thanksgiving plate might not feel good in your stomach since it is bread-based. Bread products tend to swell up in the stomach and make you feel uncomfortably full. You can try a small amount of the real deal or experiment with reducing the bread and adding more vegetables. Eggplant, butternut squash, mushrooms, and chickpeas can add bulk to a stuffing in place of bread.

Green Beans – The casserole version with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions will likely be too rich for your stomach. How about roasting your green beans and topping with good quality Parmesan cheese? Or sautéing with some garlic and olive oil? These are great cooking methods for any Thanksgiving vegetable including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and carrots.

Dessert – Sweet foods can be as problematic for the stomach as high-fat foods. They can cause dumping syndrome in extreme cases, or nausea in more mild cases. For many people, a couple small bites are all they need to feel satisfied with sweets after surgery. If that’s your situation, have some of the real deal and savor each small bite. If you are looking for a slightly larger quantity, there are lots of bariatric-friendly dessert ideas, including protein shake ice cream, sugar-free pudding “cheesecakes”, and protein balls.

My favorite bariatric food resource is The World According to Eggface blog: http://theworldaccordingtoeggface.blogspot.com . Shelly has been blogging about delicious bariatric-friendly recipes for 13 years. Use the ‘Search’ function to find Thanksgiving recipes that will delight everyone at your table, whether or not they’ve had surgery. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing You Happy (and Healthy!) Holidays

Wishing You Happy (and Healthy!) Holidays

Contributions from:
Ali Coster, Dietetic Intern
Laura Andromalos, Dietitian and Diabetes Educator
Amanda Davis, Exercise Physiologist
Lance Briggs, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

During this holiday season, make a promise to put yourself at the top of your list. You’ve worked hard to stay on course with managing your weight and health throughout the year. Don’t let the holiday season throw you off! Parties, big meals, treats at the office and alcohol all create a challenging environment for healthy eating. Days of travel and holiday events limit time for exercise. And we won’t even start counting the number of possible stressors that come with the holiday season.

Your NWWC care team wants to support you! With nutrition, fitness, and behavioral health experts, we can help you make a plan to stay on track throughout the holidays. Be proactive! Schedule an appointment to see us before the holiday season wreaks havoc on your health goals.

Nutrition Tips:

  • Want to make sure you can still enjoy holiday favorites? Use the plate method for a balanced and portion-controlled meal.
    • Fill a quarter of your plate with protein foods and eat those first.
    • Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and eat those next. Think green beans, mushrooms, carrots, spinach, Brussels sprouts, etc.
    • Finally, a quarter of your plate is for the starch-based foods such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, or corn. If you are listening to your stomach, you might not have much space left for the foods in this part of your plate. Savor the flavors of each bite.
    • Treat fats, such as gravy, butter, or oil, as condiments. A little bit can go a long way.
    • If you choose to have dessert, have a small portion, enjoy every bite, and move on. Don’t let it turn into an everyday indulgence during the holiday season.

Fitness Tips:

  • Start your day with a Turkey Trot or a Jingle Bell Jog. If you can’t make it to an official one, do your own with family and friends.
  • A 30-minute casual walk after a meal can significantly decrease your blood sugar level whether or not you have diabetes. Get some steps in after you eat.
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be time-consuming and anything is better than nothing. A 5- or 10-minute walk is always better than 0 minutes of movement.

Behavioral Health Tips:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene: Lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep will greatly increase your risk of developing depression or anxiety
    • Set a schedule – Start settling into bed at least 30 min before the planned sleep time. Set an alarm and have a morning routine.
    • Turn off electronics – Lights from the phone or TV trick your brain to reduce its production of melatonin, the sleep time hormone.
      • Pro tip: If you are having trouble with this one, switch to radio / podcasts, and then transition to a white noise device (e.g. fan).
    • Cut out evening / nighttime caffeine – Caffeine’s half-life is about 6 hours, but the amounts in most caffeinated drinks can take up to 12 hours to be fully eliminated.
  • Practice mindfulness: We’ve programmed our minds to plan for the future, and analyze the past, but it’s difficult to focus on the present. Mindfulness, or present centered thinking, can help reduce anxiety about the future and guilt from past situations.
    • Pay attention to physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes helps you focus. Start with routine activities, such as a shower. Focus on the feeling of the water drops flowing downward. When your mind wanders off into the future, bring it back with focusing on a sensation.
      • Pro tip: Mindfulness may seem silly at first, and not as important as other things to focus on, but the emotional and psychological benefits with this practice are profound.
  • Practice gratitude through journaling: Research clearly shows a link between improved mental health and gratitude. It is often easier to identify the wrongs in our life and neglect the right things.
    • Set a daily time, perhaps in your evening routine, to sit down and write of list of things you are grateful for that day.