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Don’t Restrict, Replace – Bariatric Edition

I think that restriction sucks. It’s so hard to spend our lives restricting everything. 
Don’t eat unhealthy fat. Don’t eat unhealthy carbs. Don’t eat too much sugar. Don’t drink alcohol. 
Don’t Don’t Don’t. I am tired of all the things we are not supposed to do. I am tired of constantly restricting everything. There has to be some sort of “happy medium”. I don’t think that severely restricting even works. Sure, it works in the beginning because we are motivated and eager to make the right changes but as time goes on, our motivation starts to leave the building and we start to allow those foods back into our lives. 
What happens then? Well, we are eating the restricted foods and feeling guilty about it because they are on the “no go” list.
Instead of restricting food, let’s talk about healthy replacement food ideas!
I know it’s not easy to diet and I know that diets don’t work but what we should be striving for is a sustainable way of eating that gives us the nutrients we require while maintaining our weight or losing a few lbs. Most of the people who read my blogs are not trying to gain weight. So for today’s purpose, I am talking about weight loss and improved health.
Post-op clients always text or call me with the following question. 
“Sheri, can I have ____ food”? If “said food” is not the best option (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, corn, etc.), I will tell them the following: “look, you CAN have _____ but SHOULD you have it”? I feel terrible restricting them from having their favorite potatoes and gravy!  
My new plan moving forward is going to be to offer suggestions to “replace” their favorite foods with better options. Do you know what I do when I want to eat potatoes and gravy? I mash up cauliflower or carrots and top those with gravy. Sometimes I will put gravy on my Brussel sprouts. I know that the potatoes will make me crave more potatoes. I know that for me carbs lead me to more carbs. It is a slippery slope for me.
If it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving or some special event – EAT THAT FOOD THAT YOU LOVE. But if it’s just a regular Tuesday, then step away from the mashed potatoes or cookies or cakes. This is the time to replace your beloved foods with something that is in line with your goals.
Some of my favorite replacements …..
I swap regular pasta for low carb options such as “miracle noodles” – you can find them on Amazon. There are many different types of low carb and no carb kinds of pasta on the market today. Try one of them and see for yourself. I top them with the spaghetti sauce that I make at home or I serve them in homemade Pho or soup.
I do love mashed potatoes …. Instead of feeling sad for myself, I make myself a little bowl of mashed cauliflower and top it with butter, salt, and pepper. This is a perfect replacement for my potatoes and it takes about 5 minutes to prepare them beside whatever dish I am preparing for dinner in my household.
Cookies – who doesn’t love cookies? When I am feeling deprived of the yumminess of cookies, I will prepare some homemade peanut butter cookies. It takes me less than 10 minutes to prepare them and 10 minutes to bake them. I use peanut butter with no sugar added (one cup), sugar substitute (one cup) and one egg. Mix the ingredients and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let them cool and enjoy!
Ice-Cream. Who doesn’t love ice-cream? Ice-cream hates me. It makes me FAT. If I look at ice-cream, I gain 10 pounds. I also have tummy troubles when I eat ice-cream. Instead of never eating ice-cream again, I make sorbet in my food processor. Frozen fruit to the RESCUE!! Get your favorite fruit, freeze and blend until in a food processor or a heavy-duty blender.
Tortillas! There are tons of low carb options for tortillas today. I don’t even miss tortillas anymore because when I first stopped eating them a few years ago, I replaced them with big lettuce leaves. Now when I do occasionally eat a tortilla, I miss the crunch of the lettuce leaves. Having said that, there are TONS of low carb tortilla options on the market today. There weren’t any good options a few years ago. 
Lettuce leaves again are my replacement for hamburger buns. I am now so used to the crunchy lettuce bun that I don’t even miss the regular ones any longer.
Pho! Do you know what Pho is? It’s a delicious Vietnamese soup. The base is a gorgeous beef or chicken broth and it is filled with rice noodles, beef or chicken, and sprouts. When I go out for Pho, I order it with meat or chicken and sprouts. I ask my server to “skip the noodles and put mushrooms in mine”. If I make it at home, I use “miracle noodles” or “low carb noodle options”. 
Who misses bread? I stopped eating it back a few years ago but sometimes I truly miss a good slice or two of bread. I have some low carb bread in my freezer. It’s expensive and the taste is “so so” but it is still a replacement. I also replace my regular bread with “chaffles”. If you don’t know what a chaffle is, it’s a small waffle made out of 1/2 a cup of mozzarella cheese and one egg. You take a baby waffle iron and split your egg/ cheese mixture into two and make yourself two chaffles. You can use those instead of using regular bread for a sandwich.
Coke, who misses coke? Or any soft drink for that matter. If I get a real hankering for sodas, I drink water. It works. Next time you are craving your favorite soda, drink a glass of water and watch the craving disappear. If I give in to the craving and drink the soda, it wakes up my “soda beast”. All I can think about is getting MORE soda, plus it makes me even thirstier. If the water doesn’t hit the spot (and it does 99% of the time), I will break out my soda stream and make some soda water and add a touch of sugar-free crystal light flavoring to my soda water. This replacement works every time. 
Chocolate – who loves chocolate? I see a lot of hands up lol. When I see chocolate, my heart skips a beat but I KNOW that it raises my blood sugars and puts me into a tailspin! If I eat chocolate, I want more chocolate and it starts me on a sugar binge. Dark Chocolate to the rescue! An excellent quality dark chocolate fills that gap. I eat just a few squares and it allows me to get my chocolate fix without eating too much sugar.
The examples above are just a few of the changes I have made over the years. Instead of cutting your favorite foods out of your life and restricting yourself, try to find a suitable replacement. With time, you may even find that you prefer your replacement over the food you once missed so much. 
If you have some food replacements that you use that helps you along your healthy eating journey, share them with us. 
Together we are stronger! 

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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