Sarah Muntel, RD

When I talk about diets after surgery with patients, I commonly hear, “That’s great, but I can’t do this, because I have kids.” Preparing meals that fit into your plan is one thing, trying to fit that in with your family is a challenge for sure. This is something that can be done, it just takes a little work and your whole family will benefit from the changes you will make.

  • Educate your family and try to make it a team effort. Get your family involved by letting them know what you need to do to be successful. Let them know the kinds of foods you will be eating and what they do for your body. Nutrition needs to be taught at a young age so children understand the importance. For example, eating protein is necessary after bariatric surgery to maintain your muscle mass. This is important for anyone! Having low-fat protein options can benefit everyone in your family. Eating vegetables and fruits provides your body with vitamins, minerals and fiber. These are important tips for everyone to follow.
  • Research together. Take a minute to look into new recipes that may fit into your plan. Go online, to your local library, or an old favorite cookbook and find new recipes for tasty vegetables, lean meats or fresh fruits. When your family is involved in some of the decisions, they are much more likely to eat these foods. Plan to try one or two new recipes each week. As you find some you like, add them to your regular menus.
  • Sneak in substitutions. Your family will not know the difference with a few substitutions you may have made. Try low-fat cheese, low-fat milk, and light sour cream, and I bet your family won’t even know it!
  • Realize it can’t happen overnight. It takes time to switch to a bariatric diet. Make one or two changes at a time and before you know it, you’ll be where you need to be. For example, try adding a sautéed vegetable to a meal or swap a dessert for fruit with light cool whip. You’ll be there before you know it!
  • Don’t make two meals, but add a bariatric option to what you normally cook. Here’s the thing, your family doesn’t have to follow a bariatric plan, but if the two can be integrated together pretty easily to make everyone happy. For example, on taco night, use lean ground beef with taco seasoning. Chop fresh veggies and serve with low-fat cheese and salsa. Your family can put their tacos in tortilla shells, and you can put yours in a lettuce wrap. For spaghetti night, prepare a sauce with tomato sauce, lean beef and fresh veggies. Your family can have pasta noodles. You can easily prepare spaghetti squash, which is a much lower carbohydrate choice. The whole family can then enjoy a salad with the meal. What to do for pizza night? Make your pizza on a zucchini or portabella mushroom. Top with tomato sauce and low-fat cheese.
  • Communicate. There are some things that may need to be “off limits” in your kitchen. Everyone has a favorite food and when others eat that food in front of them, it can be very difficult. If one of your favorites is mashed potatoes and gravy, agree not to have it in the house (unless you like mashed cauliflower, which is very good). Your family can choose to have that at other times when you aren’t around. Communication is the key for all patients and their families.
  • It really has to be about you…some of the time. All of the ideas above work really well if you have a great supportive family. For those of you who do, that’s great. For those of you who do not, you’re not alone. If you don’t have a family who is behind you, you must make sure your food stays on target. It may take a little more work, but you are worth it. You are as important as your family and your needs have to be met. If you decide to eat the foods your family eats, you will not be successful long term. Some people make two different meals in the evenings. While this is not the easiest option, it may be the option you have. It’s ok. You may need to start here, and you never know, by slowly integrating changes here and there, these two can merge quite nicely.

The bottom line is have fun, enjoy the ride and take time on this journey to develop a healthy lifestyle that you can live with long term. That’s what long term success is all about!

About the Author
Sarah Muntel, RD, is the Bariatric Coordinator at Community Bariatric Surgeons in Indianapolis, IN. She has 15 years of experience working with bariatric patients and loves to work with people as they change their lives and improve their health. Her favorite part of her job is her weekly Support Group. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. 

Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect the views of the OAC, the National Board of Directors or staff. Information contained in this blog post is not based on scientific research and has not been validated. The OAC does not endorse any merchandise mentioned in this blog post.