It’s that time of year again, the holiday season is quickly approaching. As a bariatric patient, you have to remember that your body has limits. You cannot overindulge like you used to or like others do on holidays. That does not mean you cannot enjoy yourself!! The joy of the holidays should not be solely food focused. It should be about spending time with family and friends, celebrating traditions and making memories. It is not worth it to be in pain and uncomfortable at social events or have to leave early because you feel sick. 

If you are pre-op or still in the early stages post-op, it is probably best for you to bring something that you can eat if you are not hosting the festivities. 

Ideas could be:

  • A protein shake (make it festive by doing a pumpkin pie protein shake- see recipe below!) 
  • Cheese stick 
  • Sugar free pudding/Jell-o 
  • Deli meat/cheese roll ups 
  • Low fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese  

If it will be your first holiday shortly after having surgery, there will be many more holidays in the future to look forward to where you will be able to expand your diet choices. It may also be helpful to eat before the event so that you are not hungry and it may be easier to turn down the food. 

If you are further out from your surgery date, you should be able to enjoy small amounts of some of the foods available, you just have to be smart about it! Use an appetizer plate instead of a large dinner plate to help keep your portions in check. Try to stick with (and eat in this order on your plate) high protein food choices (shrimp cocktail, turkey, ham, beef, etc.) add a non-starchy vegetable (salad, veggies with hummus/dip, green beans, roasted carrots, etc.) and then choose 1 of your favorite starches, as you will not have much room left! Remember your brain/eyes may want more but your stomach will not be able to handle it.  

Try not to linger in the kitchen or around the food, and move to another room/area to socialize so you do not have the visual stimulation or smells to tempt you. 

If you are hosting the holiday celebration, this gives you lots of control over the menu. There are tons of ways to lighten up classic comfort food dishes without compromising on taste! An example would be buying light ranch dip for your veggie platter instead of regular; or even better swapping plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for a higher protein, lower fat alternative that can work in any type of dip. You can also try this swap or use light sour cream to add creaminess and tang to mashed potatoes instead of the full fat versions. Low fat whipped cottage cheese can be used in place of ricotta cheese in lasagna or stuffed shells! 

If you are not hosting the party, offer to bring a healthy dish that will be something you can enjoy. You might be surprised how many people will appreciate the fact that there are healthier options at the table!

Don’t forget to be extremely careful when consuming alcoholic beverages. Remember that 1 drink has the equivalent of 3 as far as the effects of the alcohol. If you must indulge, better beverage choices are dry wine or non-carbonated sugar free mixed drinks. Keep in mind alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, and you may feel less in control of your feelings around food. Take your time, sip it slowly, and follow it up with water to stay hydrated.

Remember, food is not everything. The holidays are about spending time with loved ones and enjoying their company. You are on the path towards a healthier you- not everyone will understand it, and that’s okay. Don’t give up on yourself if you overindulge. Use it as a learning experience. Where did you go wrong? What can you do differently next time to prevent that from happening? Do some self-reflecting so you can be better prepared next time. It’s not always going to be an easy ride, but it will all be worth it! 

Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake Recipe


1 ½ Cup premade vanilla protein shake
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. sugar free maple syrup (optional)
1 cup ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and blend for 30-60 seconds until smooth.

Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Salas MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Salas, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-2830 or

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