Kristin Willard is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate with respect to teaching people about eating healthy after bariatric surgery and maintaining their weight loss forever. Kristin has been an RDN for eight years and frustrated with the lack of nutrition resources for her bariatric clients. So to fill this unmet need, Kristin is in the process of creating BariatricWholeLiving.com. Here, she will deliver recipes, credible nutrition advice, and inspiration for those considering or who have undergone weight loss surgery. Kristin also develops bariatric recipes for publication on MyBariarticLife.org.
Kristin is an integrative member of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). She works in a bariatric clinic in Northern California and maintains a virtual private practice at KristinWillard.com. She and her family live on a farm where they grow some produce and enjoy eating seasonally.
How to Get Your Family Eating Healthy after Bariatric Surgery
Please describe eating healthy after bariatric surgery.
You wrote, “Good health involves more than just eating healthy food. It is also about feeling a sense of belonging and purpose.” What are some ways that a bariatric surgery patient can feel a sense of belonging at family meals, holidays, and events when there is such a heavy focus on food?
This is SUCH a good question. Many of my clients have expressed that they feel a sense of isolation after bariatric surgery because they cannot eat the same foods that they once did, or they do not appreciate comments made by other people when they eat small amounts of food. It can be a challenging transition.
Food is an intimate part of our culture and will continue to be at family events, so instead of fighting that reality, I ask my clients, “How can you work with it?”
What adjustments can you make to your environment or mindset to help you get through this challenging time?
One of my clients told me that she no longer makes food the centerpiece at her holiday events. She serves food in one room and has games, such as cards and monopoly, in another room. This allows her to enjoy playing games without having the constant temptation of food in front of her. It also prevents her from eating mindlessly while she plays with her family. Her family enjoys the interaction and they create lifelong memories. [Read Stop Grazing after Bariatric Surgery]
The key message here is to create new traditions around holidays and family events to help take the focus off food and more on the positive relationships in your life.
Another strategy, is to offer to bring a dish to the event. You can show off your cooking skills and prepare a meal that is aligned with your health goals. The host will also appreciate you contributing to the event. [Get Kristin’s bariatric recipe for Mediterranean Turkey Burgers]
Please share your advice on planning meals that are compliant with the bariatric diet, which the entire family can enjoy.
Meal planning takes practice. If you are new to meal planning consider making a goal to meal plan at least one day a week and as you become more comfortable increase the frequency.
First start by asking your family if there is a particular meal they would like to have. They will be more likely to eat it if they feel their opinions are valued.
Next, ask yourself, “What is the protein in this meal?“ Chicken, pork, tofu, etc? If it doesn’t have one then make sure to add on a protein. For instance, if your family is asking for pasta with tomato sauce, then what kind protein would go well with it? Baked chicken perhaps, or adding ground turkey meat to the tomato sauce.
Then, ask “What is my vegetable?” Ideally you want to include at least one non-starchy vegetable like broccoli, asparagus or cauliflower. If you have chosen to make pasta with tomato sauce, the tomato sauce does count towards your veggies, but I would recommend to include at least one vegetable side dish such as broccoli or salad.
After choosing your vegetable, ask “What is my starch in this meal?” In the pasta meal example, the pasta would be considered the starch. If you are concerned there are too many carbs in the meal then you can make adjustments as needed. For instance, you could prepare zucchini noodles for yourself instead of having pasta. Ask your dietitian what your specific carb goals are. Generally, those who have had bariatric surgery eat between 90-150 g carbs daily.
Lastly, consider what spices and healthy fats you are going to use in your meal. Spices provide a boost of flavor and extra antioxidants to your meals. Including healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, helps your body absorb fat soluble vitamins in your meal. Plus, fat helps you feel more satisfied with your meal.
The take-home message here is to include your family in the meal planning and adjust the meal to meet your specific higher protein and lower carbohydrate needs.
How can families eat healthy on a budget?
To save money I recommend buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Usually these items are offered at lower prices when they are in season. As an extra bonus they usually taste better.
If fresh fruits and vegetables are not an option, then your next best choice are frozen fruits and vegetables. They are picked at their optimal ripeness which also means they are at peak level for nutrients. Then they are frozen to help preserve these nutrients. Make sure you are purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables that do not have any added ingredients like sugar or oils.
Purchasing food in bulk is also a helpful way to save money at the grocery store.
Lastly, what is the key to eating healthy after bariatric surgery to maintain long-term weight loss?
I believe the key to success is different for everyone. I always describe “health” as a moving target. Just when you think you have it figured out life throws you a curveball and you have to readjust. It could be the loss of a job, a promotion, a new baby, moving to a new house, etc. It is important to be flexible and patient with yourself as you discover a new pattern that will work for you. But there are some key habits that I believe help people maintain their weight loss in the long run. Drumroll please 🙂
- An active lifestyle
- Not skipping meals
- Eating a whole foods diet
- Breaking out of the self deprivation and overeating cycle
- Meal planning
Thank you so much, Cheryl, for having me featured on your site.
And thank you, RD Kristin, for teaching us about eating healthy after bariatric surgery for the entire family! Be sure to join Kristin on her Free Facebook Group and Instagram to get bariatric diet recipes your entire family will enjoy. And be sure to register on her website BariatricWholeLiving.com to receive her Top 10 Dietician Approved Foods to Eat after Bariatric Surgery.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life