It seems like the summer has flown by, and now it’s fall. When I think of fall, I think of dressing layers, tall boots, and all things pumpkin spice. Even though it’s projected to be in the 90s here in Northern California for the next few weeks, my farm box has started that transition to fall. Winter squashes and apples are becoming the stars of my food prep side dishes.
Last week I prepped this amazing stuffed acorn squash recipe, packed with protein and in-season apples, mushrooms, onion and sage. I even tried chickpea panko for texture and to keep the carbs a little lower. Pinterest win!
This week, I will be searching for something awesome to go with spaghetti squash.
Winter squash is great nutritionally as it’s full of fiber and slow-digesting, keeping you full longer.
So why eat seasonally? And locally!
Selecting fresh fruits and vegetables that are harvested locally means they are picked at the height of their readiness, meaning more flavor and more nutrients. And local foods don’t have to travel as far, which is good for both the local economy and the environment. When you buy locally directly from the producer, you can learn more about how the food was grown, where it comes from, and who grew it. Eating in season means that there’s also more of an abundance of foods in the market, keeping the prices low. We’ve been visiting a local farm stand lately and are getting the most delicious fruits and vegetables, both summer and fall since our seasons really blend together here in California, and the price really just can’t be beat. We also have a lot of organic options locally as well. When you buy organic, you definitely know what you’re getting.
Plan around what’s available
Each week, I come up with a game plan for my meals. I start with planning my proteins, as that’s the most important part of my diet, post-bariatric surgery. Pinterest has led me to some awesome recipes. I get a farm box from Farm Fresh to You full of local, seasonal food. I can pick what goes in my box, so I will search for recipes that go with whatever is in season. This has forced me to get creative – but it’s also forced me to do more home cooking. Cooking from scratch with whole food ingredients is the best way to know what’s in your food. This is important for folks with food sensitivities, but it’s also a way to avoid pesticides and chemical ingredients. I prefer my food from the earth, not from a lab.
Choose organic when you can
Organic is always better when it’s available, but it’s not a must. Your goal for nutrition is to go for the most nutrient dense selections without any additives. Follow the EWG’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen List to read more about when to choose organic.
Use the change in seasons as an opportunity to branch out and try new things. Look for root vegetables, winter squashes, new apple varieties, and some greens and slice, dice, and roast your way to better health.
This quick recipe was adapted from a simple quinoa recipe from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I had made it before, but I wanted to make something that incorporated more turmeric which I could include as a nice pairing to the Red Lentil Dal I made earlier.
This “salad” incorporates green onion, fresh basil and parsley, as well as some healthy extra-virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
I typically use grains sparingly as an accompaniment to a salad. The intent today was to pair it with lentils and fresh arugula to get some added greens in my life. The spices blend perfectly with the peppery arugula. This will be a great meal prep meal for me. This can be made vegan, but I used chicken bone broth instead of water for some extra protein and hopefully healing properties for my nagging knee osteoarthritis.
I’ve been exploring the concept of food as medicine as a way to help deal with the pain and inflammation of my knee. So many years of bearing excess weight, and running half marathons at 200+ pounds have caught up with me. I’ve got bone on bone in my left knee, along with damage to all of my ligaments. Since my gastric bypass, I am no longer able to take NSAIDs for inflammation and pain, so I have turned to more homeopathic approaches like arnica, CDB topical products, heat and ice, and food. Yes, food.
Since starting my health coaching program, I have learned quite a bit about the healing properties of a lot of different foods and spices and the benefits of a primarily plant-based diet to help heal a variety of ailments. I recently picked up the book “Healing Arthritis” by Susan Blum. The book connects arthritis to other immune and inflammatory disorders and focuses on restoring gut health, elimination of inflammatory foods, and reducing inflammation without adding medication. I heard Dr. Blum discuss the connection between gut health and arthritis in an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman on Twitter. I’m a skeptic at times, but the science makes sense to me.
Last week I received a few recipes from my own health coach and fellow student at Institute for Integrative Nutrition to address my goals of adding more plant-based foods and more anti-inflammatory, healing foods into my diet. One was this recipe for Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal, which I ended up pairing with a modified version of a quinoa salad that features turmeric. Seemed like a good pairing.
Both recipes together took me about an hour to prepare and clean up (for me, I need to know how much clean up there will be, and I am definitely getting more efficient about cleaning as I go). I’m definitely going to incorporate these recipes into my food prep tool box. Considering the volume of food I can eat, I may consider cutting the recipe in half next time, or sharing with my food prep clients too. If you try them, let me know what you think!
For Christmas eve, we were asked to come up with some kind of a vegetable side dish to go with dinner, and since I had all the ingredients on hand for this super easy and healthy salad, I proposed this.
My husband isn’t exactly a kale guy, but he knew that there was plenty of other food for him to eat if he didn’t want the salad.
This salad is simple to make and can be done without a whole lot of concentration, and everyone can joke about how you are giving the kale a good massage.
The verdict: thumbs up from everyone. In fact I even got a thumbs up the next day because apparently it made great leftovers too.
That’s my favorite thing about kale. Aside from being nutrient dense and just plain good for you, it’s also pretty hearty in terms of consistence and holds up well when prepped in advance. This is actually a good one to make for meal prep as you can enjoy it for a few days.
The rest of the story: my sister-in-law has what I would consider a dream kitchen. Modern, open, lots of surface space. Multiple people can be making different things without getting in the way of each other. The only think I really needed the stove for was the quick toasting of the almonds. The joy of a gas cooktop is something I can’t describe (since our kitchen is the original harvest gold electric cooktop and is now on it’s last burner). We have been on the hunt for a gas cooktop that would fit in the same space as our current electric one — it’s an odd size. So — we’ll planning a big kitchen remodel! Stay tuned for more as plans take shape.
With all the food prep I’ve been doing, I’ve really started to enjoy spending time in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to inviting clients in for some experimentation with healthy recipes in the new year! Goodbye harvest gold!
As a bariatric surgery patient, the holidays can be a challenge. Staying on track with eating low carb can be a struggle, especially at potlucks and holiday parties. I’m about 17 months out from my surgery, but am celebrating a full year at my goal range and maintaining my weight. It’s easy to see how old habits can come back, so finding safe alternatives to bring to parties is one of my keys to success.
I am so not a baker. Growing up in a house with a diabetic and a Weight Watchers instructor (mom and dad respectively), I didn’t learn about baking at home. I’m learning from Pinterest! You can find pretty much anything there, and there are so many resources for bariatric-friendly recipes and ideas, you are more than likely to find something within your skill and patience level and that works with your dietary goals.
Bariatric Eating is one of my go-to sites for recipes and for information about maintaining post-surgery. Their Inspire protein line is definitely one of the best-tasting supplements out there in the bariatric formulated arena. I subscribe to their email updates and recently received one that was full of holiday cookie recipes. I saw the one for Hermit Cookies and I knew I had to give them a try. My baby brother and my grandmother used to bake hermit cookies together, so there’s a touch of nostalgia there. I’m pretty sure the recipe called for brown sugar and molasses, which is strictly off limits for me, post-bariatric surgery. This bari-friendly recipe uses almond flour, so it cuts down on the carb content and is also gluten free, which is important for people with gluten and wheat sensitivities.
I know a sugar-free recipe is successful if my husband tries one and tells me they are okay to bring for our Christmas Eve dinner. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, so might be a good one to try if you’re wanting something lower in carbs and sugar but definitely a seasonal taste.
So consider hermit cookies to bring to your next gathering. You can bring hermits, so you don’t have to be one.
2½ cups almond flour
⅓ cup Truvia
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
2 large brown eggs
¼ cup raisins, chopped – optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend the almond flour, Truvia, Pumpkin Pie spice and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the raisins if you choose to add them.
Next add the eggs and blend into a soft dough. Gather into a smooth ball. Divide in half.
Roll each piece into an even 1½ inch log, place on lightly sprayed baking sheet, press to flatten slightly. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until logs begin to turn golden and are firm to the touch.
Cool and cut into one inch bars with a chef’s knife.
Recipe credit goes to Susan Maria Leach, founder of Bariatric Eating.
There’s so many resources about diet after bariatric surgery when you are post-surgery to about 6 months. Moving from liquid, to puree, to solid stages during weight loss comes with a lot of guidelines. What life looks like post-weight loss is not nearly as well-documented. I know when I was researching surgery, I followed so many blogs of people who were going through weight loss, and they all seem to get to a certain point and then stop documenting the journey. Even my own blogging has slowed down now that I have reached maintenance.
This week in my health coach training, one of our assignments is to create a resource for my clients about clean eating. Do you need to recreate the wheel for bariatric patients? I think not.
Here’s some guidance from our curriculum:
Keep It Whole
Experiment with Home Cooking
Limit Refined Carbohydrates
Maintain Consistent Eating Times and Try Not to Skip Meals
Balance Your Plate
Let’s put the bariatric spin on this.
There are rules we have to follow as bariatric patients (and they may vary from surgeon to surgeon, so it’s important to follow YOUR program). First and foremost, we must take our vitamins and supplements. For me, this means a bariatric formulated multi-vitamin, calcium with vitamin D, vitamin B-12, and 60-80 grams of protein specifically from protein supplement. Since we’ve got through a major surgery to reroute our digestion, supplementation to ensure proper absorption of these nutrients is critical.
Emphasize Quality Over Quantity
This applies to your supplements as well as food. I have chosen bariatric formulated products to ensure maximum absorbtion. It is expensive? Not compared to feeling like crap and being 90 pounds overweight. It’s all relative. We have one body in this lifetime and we’ve already put it through a lot to get to where we are going, so invest in your health.
The same goes for the rest of the things we eat. We’re so limited on how much food we can intake. In the beginning, I was fine with 1/4 cup serving sizes for meals, but as I got more into my exercise program, I gradually increased to 1/2 cup per meal, and now that I am in maintenance, I can eat much more — depending on the food, but the quality of that food matters. Since we can only eat so much, nutrient dense food is the way to go. So:
Choose Whole Foods
When planning meals, think of choosing the most unprocessed food and keep it simple. I always include a protein source as my primary food and eat that first, followed by whole vegetables and fruits. I lean towards a plant based diet, so protein sources can include beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, or hummus but I will also include vegetarian sources like eggs, cottage cheese, string cheese, greek yogurt, or other reduced fat cheese. Occasionally I will eat chicken or fish, but try to choose organic and sustainably raised animal products when I do choose them. I will typically pair these foods with organic fruit or vegetables, usually fresh, sometimes frozen. Simplicity is the key. I will meal prep simple “lunchables” that are roughly the same quantities that I can mix and match over the course of the week and have prepped and ready to go to throw in my lunch bag.
Here’s a few examples:
Eggs with sliced tomatoes
Cottage cheese with sliced peaches
Tempeh with hummus in a lettuce wrap
Kale and red cabbage salad with beans or hummus
Roasted root vegetables with grilled chicken
You are only limited by your imagination.
2. Experiment with home cooking
Food prep keeps things fun and interesting. Typically I will find a recipe on Pinterest that I will make as an entree to have for lunch or dinner for the week, or I will find some kind of plant-based salad to make that can be paired with a protein source or just enjoyed as a snack between meals. My pinterest account has a collection of bariatric friendly and plant-based recipes that I will adapt based on my current nutritional needs.
I am still recovering from my kidney surgery, so I have had to adapt my portions and my food to a reduced intake due to reduced exercise quantity and intensity. Eating at home really helps me to control what I take in, reduce the amount of sugar, salt and carbs I eat, and the quality of food. And home cooking doesn’t have to mean elaborate meals. Choosing one or two recipes a week keeps things interesting, and helps keep things simple. Use herbs and spices and find homemade recipes for things like salad dressing to avoid any additional additives outside of “real” food. Once you find recipes that are easy, you can adapt them to fit your own nutritional needs and your creativity.
3. Limit refined carbohydrates.
Actually, really just leave these out. I’m not an “everything in moderation” advocate. For most bariatric patients, refined carbohydrates is what got us into this mess. Sugar, flour, rice, pasta and the like. There are some people who can work these back into their diets, but I know how easy it can be to go back to old habits. My recommendation is to steer clear of processed foods and find whole food alternatives to your favorites. Bariatric Eating is a great resource for recipes to help keep those cravings at bay.
I have been experimenting with whole grains, like millet, quinoa, and freekah. I find that I can use them as a condiment. I will add a tablespoon or two to a salad to provide some density and add fiber and protein. It’s satisfying enough, but doesn’t trigger any cravings for me. I am intentionally avoiding food like edamame or chick pea pasta, because I know if will be a trigger for me. I am a realist, and I see how quickly I can gain weight if not following the bariatric diet recommendations. I don’t want to be that person who gained all their weight back and more after gastric bypass. I’ve just worked too hard for that. Everyone needs to find their own tolerance level.
4. Maintain consistent eating times and try not to skip meals
One of the most important things for me was to create a schedule/routine for myself around my meals. On a typical workday, I do a protein shake before my workouts, eat a small mid morning meal when I get to work, walk at lunchtime and then have a small lunch at 1ish, eat dinner around 6 and then have a shake before bed, or have my shake as a mid afternoon snack. This has worked well for me once I met my goal weight. I’m currently a few pounds higher than my goal weight which I attribute to being a limited activity, so I am reducing the number of snacks I have and really focusing on nutrient dense and lower calorie meals. It’s HARD, but sticking with the routine helps me from getting too far off the rails.
5. Balance your plate
I have always tried to have a good balance of protein, carbs and fat at each meal, but the fat typically comes from healthy sources like nuts and seeds, avocado, or olive oil. Carbs are never simple carbs – they are typically vegetables or fruit, and I stick with he lower glycemic fruit like melon and berries per bariatric recommendations. I do my food prep and thinking about variety and creating balanced meals. Very often food prep for me is just making sure everything is washed and chopped and ready to go for mix/match salads, stir fries, or snacking.
So there’s my bariatric take on the IIN clean eating recommendations. When working with clients, I stress that everyone has their individual needs and can typically figure out which foods work best for them, but I look forward with helping clients with those discoveries to encourage variety, simplicity, and health — whether they choose a plant-based approach or not.
Interested in setting up a free coaching session? Contact me and we’ll set something up. You will help me develop my coaching skills, and we can work to find some tips to help you achieve your health and fitness goals too.
Time flies when you are having fun. It’s the middle of August! How exactly did that happen? This means I am exactly a quarter of the way through with my Health Coach Training Program through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This quarter marks a few important milestones in the program:
The first test! It’s been quite a while since I have had to take any kind of a test with a consequence. We’ll have 4 during the course of this program, and we have to pass 2 of the 4 with a score of 70% as a graduation requirement. I am happy to report that this overachiever passed with flying colors. Quite honestly, the content of the program has held my interest, and by doing the assignments and participating in discussions, it’s definitely helped with retention.
Health Histories. We’re getting into the meat of the program. Meeting with potential clients (unofficially, as we can’t take on clients until the 6 month point). I mentioned when I started this blog that I would be looking for people who are interested in being my willing volunteers to help me try out my new skills as a health coach. I’ve now had a couple of meetings, one via phone and one in person, with one lined up for next week. Graduation requirements call for us to submit 6 health histories over the course of the program, but it’s anticipated we’ll do many more than that – to the tune of 2 a week over the course of the next 9 months.
So…everything is going according to plan.
Yesterday I took my show on the road and discovered a great coffee shop in Woodland, Morgan’s Mill. It was such a great atmosphere to meet with potential clients (and quite honestly, I may go there for my telecommute days just to get a change of scenery.
Yesterday also marked a first for me — my first matcha latte! (I am so un-hip!). As a bariatric patient, I need to be very careful about wasted calories and excess sugar, so I scoped out the offerings ahead of time. An iced matcha latte with unsweetened almond milk and sugar-free vanilla syrup was the accompaniment for my coaching session (pictured above).
This inspired me to come up with my own bariatric version — protein-packed too!
Really, this isn’t rocket science. I looked up a few things for inspiration on Pinterest, ordered myself some matcha powder off Amazon, and came up with my own recipe.
In a mason jar, pour the hot water over the matcha and shake or stir well.
Using a blender (I used my Nutribullet), combine almond milk, the matcha mixture, protein powder, Torani, and blend well.
Fill the mason jar full of ice, and pour blended latte over ice.
The finished product has 29 grams of protein, 11 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of fat but is a satisfying and hydrating drink for these hot summer days. You can read more about the health benefits of matcha, high in anti-oxidants. Great way to start the day!
Again, this recipe isn’t rocket science, so definitely explore your own variations using your favorite protein powder or by modifying the liquid contents. Matcha is pretty strong, so you may want to start with a smaller amount and adjust for taste.