Celebrating Thanksgiving After Bariatric Surgery

For many people, our favorite holidays are often associated with the foods that go with them. A Christmas ham, grilling for the Fourth of July, candy on Halloween — and of course, the Thanksgiving turkey.

But if you have recently undergone bariatric surgery and are in recovery, you may be a bit unsure about how to celebrate the holiday season.

During your first 5 weeks after surgery, your meals will most likely be minimal — no more than 2 to 4 tablespoons of food. But just because your food intake is small, that doesn’t mean it can’t taste good.

Whether you are preparing a dish for yourself or want to whip something up for a loved one who has undergone bariatric surgery, here are recipes everyone can be thankful for during the recovery process.

1 to 2 Weeks After Bariatric Surgery

For the first 14 days after bariatric surgery, you will most likely be on a full liquid diet.

During this phase — and throughout your entire post-op recovery — protein is a key player in what you eat and/or drink. Protein is an important part of both the weight loss and the healing process. This is why protein shakes are particularly effective at this stage and throughout your recovery from bariatric surgery.

While protein shakes may not seem that exciting, there are many different ways to pack them full of flavor. Spice up your diet for the holiday — literally — with this cinnamon roll protein shake recipe that’s as easy as it is tasty.

2 to 4 Weeks After Bariatric Surgery

If it has been 2 to 4 weeks since your bariatric surgery, you may have moved into the "soft diet" stage of recovery — also called the puree diet. If Thanksgiving falls during this time, you will have more options and can incorporate more food blends.

For a dish that captures the spirit of Thanksgiving that the whole family will love, try this butternut squash soup recipe. This is a versatile main course or side dish that fits into your post-op diet while also fitting right in with the rest of the holiday meal.

Or, if you find yourself craving that traditional turkey, you can try cream of turkey soup instead.

5 to 6 Weeks After Bariatric Surgery

Around 5 to 6 weeks post-surgery, you can begin to expand your diet to include whole foods and tougher food textures. Protein is still key, but you no longer have to eat solely liquid foods.

With the option to eat grains, soft vegetables, or soft fruits, a hearty stew is a healthy and delicious addition to your Thanksgiving table. This pheasant stew mixes flavors as well as textures, making it great for your post-surgery diet.

Another simple dish for this phase of bariatric surgery recovery is a roasted pumpkin and sweet potato pilaf. With a balance of sweet and savory, this meal can help you ease into more solid foods while enjoying some autumn veggies.

7 Weeks After Bariatric Surgery

If Thanksgiving falls more than 7 weeks after your bariatric surgery, you may have already begun your post-surgery diet. This diet will feel more "normal" — but remember to continue centering protein at each meal.

While you may not need to worry as much about the foods you're eating, try to keep in mind that your mental and physical relationship with food may have changed.

Following bariatric surgery, it may not take as long for you to feel "full" which can lead to overeating and discomfort — especially during the holidays. Take it slow, and begin with smaller portions to better recognize when you are full.

What to Drink — and What Not to Drink

After bariatric surgery, your body will be much more sensitive, so keep an eye on the contents of not only what you eat, but what you drink too. Certain drinks can upset your stomach while you heal.

Keep these recommendations in mind while recovering:

Limiting your sugar intake will also help you feel your best this holiday season.  When you quickly consume foods or drinks that are high in sugar they enter — or dump — into your small intestine. This is called dumping syndrome and can cause dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, heart palpitations, and sweating.

No one wants an upset stomach during the holidays, but monitoring what you consume — and planning ahead — will help you enjoy the upcoming holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving From Chester County Hospital!

While you may have to make some adjustments to your holiday meal following bariatric surgery, many Thanksgiving traditions don’t have to change.

You can still watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, football game, or the dog show. You can still find moments to reflect on all the things that you are grateful for. And you can still spend the holiday with the people you love.

 Learn more about Penn Bariatric and Weight Loss Surgery at Chester County Hospital, or reach out to your primary care provider or specialist for information about your options.

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