Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
“Can I still eat pizza?” “What about burgers?” When you’re thinking about having bariatric surgery or have recently undergone this procedure, certain foods can be considered "off limits"... However, some healthy swaps like the ones I’ve put together here can make some of your favorite foods not only healthier but perhaps even tastier than the originals.
1) Fried tenders. Crispy fried and breaded chicken tenders, pork chops, and fish filets are delicious but quite high in fat. For a lower fat (but just as crispy) version, try dipping them in beaten egg whites, dredging them with almond flour mixed with a little cornstarch, and then seasoning with your favorite herbs and spices. Air fry the tenders until fully cooked and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
2) Burgers. If you love burgers but need to lower carbs, swap the hamburger bun for lettuce. For a crunchy cover to your juicy burger, wrap the uncooked burger in egg roll wrapper and air fry it! For a vegetarian option, swap the burger for a large portobello mushroom. Brush the mushroom top and bottom with olive oil and season with steak seasoning or everything bagel seasoning. Grill until cooked through and dark brown.
3) Pizza. Swap the usual pizza crust for a cauliflower crust OR make a personal high protein, high fiber pizza using a low carb street taco size tortilla. Place the pizza in a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread pizza sauce over the tortilla. Top with grated reduced fat cheese (such as mozzarella or pepper jack), turkey pepperoni, yellow and red bell pepper strips, sliced olives, and mushrooms. Top with more grated cheese and bake until cheese is melted and tortilla is crisp on the edges.
4) Spaghetti. Craving spaghetti? Replace spaghetti pasta with spiralized zucchini or yellow squash. Spaghetti squash also makes a nutritious, lower carb, higher fiber substitute as well. Better yet, try the exotic bottle gourd as a substitute for spaghetti. You can find bottle gourd, known as “upo”, at most Asian stores.
5) Coffee. If you need caffeine in the morning but want to get your protein in as well, swap your regular morning brew for a coffee-flavored, caffeine-containing protein shake. Most protein shakes can be warmed up, but do not boil! For a larger volume of coffee and a stronger coffee flavor without too much caffeine, top off your caffeine-infused protein shake with more decaf coffee.
6) Ice cream. I scream, you scream for ice cream! For a homemade no sugar added, higher protein treat, swap regular ice cream for “nice cream”, made with bananas. Freeze a ripe banana and place in a food processor. Add a scoop of chocolate protein powder to the food processor. Process the banana and protein powder until it forms a smooth soft-serve ice cream. Scoop into cups, top with chopped walnuts, and enjoy!
7) Burritos. Salivating for a burrito bowl? Try swapping the fried tortilla bowl for an iceberg lettuce bowl. Top layered iceberg lettuce leaves with taco meat, salsa, reduced fat shredded cheese, light sour cream, a slice of avocado, and cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice and savor the flavors!
8) Hibachi. In the mood for hibachi? Swap white rice for brown rice or riced cauliflower. Cook brown rice in bone broth for added protein. Sauté skinless chicken breast (sliced into cubes) in sesame oil and season with low sodium soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and grated ginger. Add-in diced onions and zucchini. Serve over the riced cauliflower or brown rice.
9) Potatoes. For higher nutritional content, swap regular mashed white potatoes for purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, or purple yams. These healthier swaps have more fiber and antioxidants than white potatoes. Mashed cauliflower is a popular swap for white potatoes as well. It’s low carb and provides fiber. Try making your mashed cauliflower, purple potatoes, or sweet potatoes with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and butter for a boost of protein.
10) Birthday cake. For your special birthday treat, swap butter cake for angel food cake, which has fewer calories. Frost with light non-dairy frosting. It’s light, airy, and guilt-free!
Just because you are on a weight loss journey or have had bariatric surgery doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy your favorite foods. A few simple swaps can make the difference between enjoying food and feeling guilty or deprived!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.