african american family sat around dinner table

(Edited by: Janet Klein MS, RDN, CDN, CDCES)

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season is almost here! If you are a new bariatric patient, you will need to approach the holidays with a different mindset then in years passed. It’s important to remember that your body has new limits. You cannot overindulge like you used to or like others do on holidays. But that does not mean you cannot enjoy yourself!! The joy of the holidays should not be solely food focused. Instead of thinking negatively about the things you can’t have or do this year, focus on enjoying spending time with family and friends, celebrating traditions and making memories. No one wants to be in pain or feel uncomfortable at family events or have to leave early because of feeling sick.

If you are 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!) 
  • Broth based soup or low fat cream soup
  • Sugar free pudding or gelatin
  • Deli meat & cheese roll ups 
  • Low fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Fresh fruit or fruit cup
  • Mashed cauliflower  

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. Always remember your why – remind yourself the reasons you had bariatric surgery, how far you have come, and what you have been working so hard to achieve!

Be sure to stick to your usual eating routine prior to attending the event.  In other words, don’t try to save all of your calories for the party as you will be hungry, and it will make it easier to consume too much of the wrong foods.  Bring food that you can consume in case there isn’t anything available that works on your current stage of your post-op diet.

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 appropriate. Try to stick with (and eat in this order on your plate) high protein food choices (shrimp cocktail, turkey, ham, beef, pork, 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.  

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 use Greek yogurt or 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! There are lots of swaps to make the holidays a little bit healthier – look online for more ideas! 

Do your best to avoid alcoholic beverages which lowers your inhibitions, and can make you feel less in control of your eating habits while attending social events. Alcohol consumption adds excessive calories which can slow the rate of weight loss if it becomes addicting. Consider making a festive “mocktail” instead of drinking alcohol – look up low sugar recipes online so you can still participate in having a fun drink.  If you HAVE indulged in alcohol, it is important to remember that one drink can have the equivalent of drinking two or even three drinks since your bariatric surgery!  So, DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE EVEN WHEN CONSUMING ONLY ONE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE!  Be sure to follow any alcoholic consumption with water to stay hydrated!

Additional Tips for Holiday Eating 

  • Avoid drinking and eating at the same time to prevent increased pressure on the stomach and that overly full uncomfortable feeling, heartburn, or stomach pain.
  • If you do not want to be stuck with all the tempting leftovers after the holiday, send guests home with as much as you can so a one-day feast doesn’t turn into a weeklong overindulgence.
  • 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 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!

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
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. sugar free maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 cup ice cubes


Place all ingredients in blender and blend for 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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