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!