Is this your first holiday season after metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS)?
Some patients worry about being surrounded by holiday foods, sweets, alcohol, and other temptations that don’t fit into a bariatric diet.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun and festive holiday! Follow these easy post-surgery tips to keep your healthy lifestyle on track for the holiday season!
As you probably already know, getting enough exercise is vital for a healthy weight loss journey.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore – make it fun! Here are some easy ways you can incorporate exercise into your daily routine:
- Get your family out on a hike, or play a physically challenging game or sport that helps get your heart rate up while having a good time. Look for a local Turkey Trot to participate in this Thanksgiving season!
- Schedule workouts into your calendar, and invite a friend or family member to the gym to help you stay motivated and accountable.
- Try not to focus on weight gain or weight loss. Instead, aim to maintain your weight during this time of year.
Whatever you do, don’t push your workout routine to the side. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is best to support healthy weight loss.
Note: If you’re under six weeks post-op, you still need time to heal and will likely need to avoid strenuous exercise. Consult with your healthcare provider for a customized workout plan.
When you plan ahead, you set yourself up for success. This is especially true for holiday eating!
Plan to eat light meals or a protein-filled snack before any big holiday event to prevent overeating. This will make it easier to enjoy those tasty dishes without overindulging.
If you find yourself at a buffet, plan your plate accordingly: focus on protein first, then choose steamed, grilled, broiled, or roasted veggies instead of anything fried. Remember to eat slowly and chew well!
If you’re headed to a restaurant this year, look up the menu before you get there to determine what you will eat. Check out the appetizers instead of a large entree, or ask for a healthy substitution for side dishes. This would also include dressings and sauces that might come with an entree. Ask for condiments on the side, and be conscientious of how much you are using. There are several bariatric-friendly restaurants that will accommodate your needs.
Choose Bariatric-Friendly Foods
There’s no doubt about it; holiday parties are accompanied by appetizers, entrees, side dishes, drinks, and desserts. Instead of worrying about what you can’t eat, prepare a healthy dish everyone can enjoy.
Stick with high-protein, low-carb, and nutrient-dense recipes. Still not sure what to make? Here are some of our favorites:
- Crunchy wonton cups
- Cheesy zucchini boats
- Mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes
- Reduced-fat green bean casserole
- Vegetable-rich salad with chicken and 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fat, like avocado, pumpkin seeds, or walnuts
Our dietitian-approved avocado-deviled egg recipe is another excellent choice for your holiday gathering. Your friends and family will be shocked that the ingredients call for plain Greek yogurt, low-fat mayonnaise, and avocado to create a rich creaminess. Plus, they’re super easy to make!
Recreate Favorite Recipes with Healthy Ingredients
Do you have a favorite dish you can’t bear to miss this holiday? Instead of diving in and regretting it later, try making it with healthier ingredients.
If it’s a creamy dip you crave, try this healthier spinach artichoke dip! Our Bariatric Fusion dietitian created this recipe with tofu and plain Greek yogurt to increase protein and reduce fat. Serve with vegetables or whole-grain crackers.
Here are some other tricks for making your favorite holiday dish bariatric-friendly:
- Use only half the sugar called for in a recipe (most people won’t notice a difference).
- Use applesauce or prune puree as an alternative for half of the fat in a recipe.
- Use cooking spray instead of butter.
- Thicken soups with pureed veggies.
- Use cooked risotto rice instead of a cream mix.
- Use skim milk instead of whole milk for fat-free mashed potatoes and soups.
- Add more herbs and spices rather than fats for flavor.
- Replace one whole egg in a recipe with two egg whites.
Note: Follow your bariatric surgery center’s guidelines for diet phases post-op.
Be Mindful of Portion Size
Your portions are going to look a little different this year.
Instead of loading up on whatever you see in front of you, focus on eating protein first. Consider taking two bites of protein and then one bite of a vegetable.
Eating 3-4 oz of lean or very lean proteins is a good goal. One-quarter of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, another quarter should be filled with whole grains, and then about 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fat (like avocado).
Another good trick is to use smaller plates to make it look like you’re getting more food!
Bariatric portion sizes can look much smaller than the average food portions. As soon as you feel a sensation of fullness, stop eating. Listen to your body; it will tell you when it’s time to stop!
If you are having issues with portion sizes and moderation, consult your dietitian regarding eating habits.
Note: If you are a visual person, think of the palm of your hand as about 3-4 oz of lean meat, your fist is about the size of 1 cup, a cupped hand is about ½ cup, and 2 tbsp would be the length of your thumb.
Keep Everything in Moderation
Portion size and moderation tend to go hand in hand. Stick with these tips to prevent overindulging at your next holiday party.
Holiday Eating Tips
Remember that the holiday season is about enjoying the company of friends and family above all else. The food is all secondary!
To help keep the temptation to a minimum, try the following:
- Sit away from the buffet table to help reduce grazing.
- As we mentioned earlier, choose a smaller plate and fill it up with high-protein, low-fat foods.
- If you have to have that pumpkin pie, cut a small slice for a taste. Enjoy what you can while setting healthy limits for yourself.
- When you feel full, it’s time to stop eating. You do not have to eat everything left on your plate!
Can you Drink After MBS?
Metabolic and bariatric surgery affects the way your body metabolizes and absorbs alcohol. Surgery can severely increase the body's sensitivity to alcohol, making you more likely to feel the effects only after a few sips.
There are a few good reasons why you shouldn’t drink alcohol after MBS. Your body will have a harder time breaking down the alcohol; plus, it’s full of empty calories and can dehydrate you. Drinking can also cause low blood sugar in weight loss surgery patients.
Each surgery center has different policies. However, many recommend avoiding alcohol until six months after surgery or avoiding it altogether.
If you’re cleared to drink and want to have a glass this holiday season, remember the following tips:
- Limit intake and set boundaries ahead of time.
- Avoid syrups, sugary fruit juices, creamy additives, and carbonation.
- Limit yourself to five ounces of dry wine or diluted spirits.
- Make a low-sugar mocktail.
- Don’t forget to drink plenty of water (48-64 oz daily).
- Use a food and beverage tracking app to help keep yourself accountable.
The holiday season can be intimidating, but if you stick with the tips above, it will be easier to stay on track and avoid temptation. Be sure to reach out to your support system, like your family, friends, your bariatric care team, or a support group if you find yourself struggling. There will always be barriers and road bumps on your weight loss journey. Just remember, the positives outweigh the negatives!
Post-surgery, the goal is to follow consistent healthy patterns involving exercise, better habits, and healthy eating strategies. Enjoy the holiday season with the company of family and friends while also eating some of the foods you love (in moderation, of course). Not all is lost if you overindulge a little. The important thing is to learn how to stay on track with a healthier lifestyle.
See also: Gastric Bypass Revision
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your bariatric surgeon or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition. A qualified healthcare professional can best assist you in deciding whether a dietary supplement is suitable based on your individual needs.