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A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

When it comes to eating well, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success. The beauty of it is there are no rules and, you can’t really mess it up. The key is just to start, and to set aside a little bit of time each week to do it. There are so many ways to approach meal planning that, after practicing just once or twice, you’ll begin to find what works for you and your family too.
To help you get started, we’ve broken down some of the basics. We’ve even included two practice exercises to help you map out your next week’s worth of healthy meals!

Part I: Assess Your Eating Situation

Our eating situations can vary greatly from week to week depending on work schedules, after school activities, evening commitments, travel plans–the list goes on. Here are some things to consider as you assess your eating situation.
• How Many Meals You Need To Plan For. Take a few moments to think about what you have going on next week. Taking a quick inventory of everyone’s plans will quickly give you a rough idea of how many meals you’ll need to get through the week, and how much mileage you can get from each recipe.
• What You Have Time For. If you have a crazy busy week coming up, make a mental note to be on the lookout for quick, slow cooker or make-ahead meals that can served up in a hurry. We’re big fans of the cook once, eat twice (or thrice) approach.
• Your Food Mood. Things like the weather, a change in seasons, and food cravings can impact what sounds good on any given day. Thinking about these things beforehand will make recipe selection process faster and meal times easier on everyone.
• Your Grocery Budget. If you want to eat better for less (and who doesn’t) think seasonal produce and sales. Check out these 6 ways to meal plan for savings.

MEAL PLANNING PRACTICE: MAP OUT YOUR WEEKLY EATS

1. Grab a pen and paper. Write the days of the week on the left side of the page and the meals you want to plan across the top.
2. Sketch out your weekly eats. Vague descriptions like quick dinner, leftovers, or packable lunch are fine for now. Don’t forget to plan for leftovers and make note of special dietary restrictions here as well.
3. Tally them up. Note how many meals you’ll need, grouping together similar ones. For example: 2 quick dinners, 3 packable lunches…

Money Saving Tip: Peruse grocery store savings for sales and specials. Jot down any ideas of interest as a reminder to select the recipes using those ingredients.

Part II: Collect and Calander Your Recipes

Now the fun part! Once you know how many meals you’ll need, it’s time to find some healthy recipes and fill in your calendar for the week. Here are some tips to help.
• Create a master recipe list. Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favorites to fill in the gaps. • Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the rotation!
• Find a few new dishes to try. Finding delicious, healthy recipes isn’t hard–you just need to know where to look. Health-conscious cookbooks and food magazines are great but the internet can literally provide millions of healthy recipes at your fingertips.
Some of our favorite websites for healthy recipes include:
• The MyFitnessPal Blog – in addition to being delicious the recipes are super easy to add to your food diary
• Cooking Light
• Food Network – Healthy
• Clean Eating
• Eating Well
• Healthy food blogs like Skinnytaste, Eating Bird Food, Kath Eats, Cook Smarts, and Fannetastic Food–just to name a few
• Save and organize your recipes
For online recipes:
• Add them directly to your MyFitnessPal recipe box, either on the web or within the app. Our new recipe tool will even calculate the nutrition facts for easy logging later.
• Create a healthy recipe Pinterest board. Check out ours for meal inspiration
• Check out Paprika, Plan to Eat or ChefTap, or more basic note clipping apps like Evernote
For paper recipes:
• A simple, three-holed binder with some plastic sleeve inserts are great for organizing recipe cards and meals pulled from magazines
• Use bright colored tabs to flag favorite cookbook recipes

Recipe Planning with a Purpose

Overlap ingredients. Selecting recipes with like ingredients will minimize how much you have to buy.
Keep your eyes on the nutrition facts. Choose recipes that will help you meet your goals for the day.
Look at serving information. Note how many servings a recipe yields – especially if you’re feeding a family or plan to use up leftovers.

Create your meal calendar Regardless of what format you prefer, the key here is to fill in your calendar with specific meals. Meal planning pro and Cook Smarts founder, Jess Dang, says, “Good meal planning is like putting together a puzzle. Try to avoid selecting different recipes that don’t fit together or else you’ll be buying a lot of different ingredients. Select one, look at the ingredient list and let that help you select recipe #2, and so on.”
Whether you use a simple notecard, a printable template or prefer a digital version, it’s a good idea to keep a paper copy of your calendar in plain view. “Making your meal plan visual may hold you more accountable for executing on the cooking. Plus, your family isn’t constantly asking you, “What’s for dinner?” They can just refer to the board, ” adds Jess. If you need some ideas, check out Pinterest for visual meal planning boards.
If you prefer digital, create a sub-calendar for your meal plan in Google, Outlook or your calendar application of choice and share it with family members or roommates so everyone knows the plan.
Write your grocery list Save yourself some time and write your grocery list while you fill out your calendar–and don’t forget to jot down quantities for each ingredient. Before you head to the store take a quick inventory of what you have on hand and cross off the ingredients you don’t need to purchase.

Meal Planning Practice: Collect and Calendar Your Recipes

1. Start a master recipe list. Digital versions (like a note on your smartphone) are handy, easy to update and usually within arm’s reach!
2. Fill in your calendar. Pick some favorites from your master list and 1 or 2 new recipes to try.
3. Write your grocery list. While doing that, jot down ingredients for each recipe. Then, take stock of what you already have on hand before heading to the store.
4. Pick a time to shop. Once your shopping is done, you’re ready to tackle food prep. Stay tuned for our how-to post coming up next week.

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Overcoming and Preventing the Weight Loss Plateau

Have you had bariatric surgery?  Has your weight loss slowed or stopped?  Are you no longer seeing results, and don’t understand why? Well… you most likely need to learn how to stop weight-loss plateau. Weight loss, after bariatric surgery, is very significant early on; this typically occurs because the body is adapting to the lower calorie diet and is burning alternative energy sources. The body will first burn glycogen that is stored in the muscles and the liver (which causes a loss of water weight which is a significant amount of your overall weight loss), and the body then turns to fat and lean muscle mass. As your body burns muscle, your metabolism slows and this is typically what causes you to hit a plateau.  Before weight loss surgery, you still had quite a bit of muscle which is why it was so easy to lose weight shortly after your bariatric surgery. A person with lots of muscle mass will have a high metabolism, which means they will burn more calories throughout the day, even when just lying in bed, than a person with less muscle mass. As a lighter person, you no longer have as much muscle mass as you previously may have, so you may no longer be at a deficit with calories because of your lower metabolism.

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Holiday Gifts for the Bariatric Patient

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Micronutrients and You: Calcium and Bariatric Surgery Patients

After bariatric surgery, patients experience permanent changes to their digestive system in the way that nutrients are absorbed and processed. It’s important for both patients and their physicians to understand the role of ongoing nutritional support so they can maintain good health. This series of articles will focus on the importance of micronutrients for bariatric surgery patients. Specifically, the special needs they now have based on the surgical changes to their digestive systems, as well as the evidence-based products offered by Bariatric Advantage to support bariatric surgery patients in maintaining good nutrition and good health.

Calcium and Bariatric Surgery Patients

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. Ninety-nine percent of whole-body calcium is incorporated into the structure of bones and teeth. Calcium also plays a vital role in the body’s clotting capabilities. Lack of adequate calcium can contribute to poor bone health and other long term challenges.

When people do not get enough calcium, the body takes calcium from their bones. Over time, this “borrowing” of calcium can cause decrease bone health. Studies indicate that individuals who undergo bariatric surgery may be at risk for long-term challenges with bone health due to nutritional and other causes[1].

Getting Enough Calcium

Eating a calcium-rich diet is important. Calcium containing foods include dairy products, calcium-fortified products like soy and rice drinks, and leafy greens. In addition, experts recommend that individuals who have had bariatric surgery take calcium supplements to get enough of this important mineral. The recommended daily dose of calcium for bariatric patients is 1,200-2,000 mg a day, according to the guidelines published by the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, The Obesity Society, and The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Due to the changes that have been made to their digestive systems, bariatric surgery patients are at particular risk for challenges with specific absorption, including calcium and vitamin D. Bariatric surgeries may also increase bone turnover and loss of bone mass in patients, part of which is due to massive weight loss alone (which always results in the loss of some lean mass – including bone). Therefore, it is critical that bariatric patients regularly get adequate calcium to reduce the risk of deficiencies, bone loss, and to long-term health.

However, many types of commercially available calcium supplements may not be optimized for bariatric patients. Biologically, calcium from foods and some types of dietary supplements must become ionized in an acid medium in order to be absorbed in the small intestine. In bariatric patients, certain forms of calcium such as calcium carbonate (found in many over-the-counter vitamins) are not likely to be well-absorbed after surgery because they require interaction with hydrochloric acid which is limited after common procedures. After bariatric surgery, there is less contact of food with stomach acid, making it difficult to absorb calcium carbonate. For this reason, calcium citrate is generally recommended after bariatric surgery to support absorption[2].

Tips for Bariatric Patients

The following suggested guidelines can help bariatric surgery patients ensure that they are taking calcium supplements that will meet their needs for life:

  • First, consult with your physician to be sure you understand the guidelines for nutritional supplementation before and after your surgery, and for the rest of your life.
  • When selecting a supplement, look for one that uses calcium citrate, the form most commonly recommended after bariatric surgery to support absorption.
  • Make sure that your calcium supplement also contains Vitamin D
  • Some patients may prefer a form of calcium other than the traditional tablets that are swallowed. “Chewy bites” are a tasty option with the texture of a caramel candy, and are available in different flavors. Powders and chewable tablets are also popular choices for those who dislike swallowing pills.
  • It is best to look for options that are low in sugar or sugar-free.. Lactose-free options are also available.
  • Because bariatric patients generally need more supplemental calcium than adults who have not had this surgery, selecting a dose with a higher amount of calcium – say 500 mg versus 250 mg – means taking fewer pills and may make adherence easier.

To learn more about Bariatric Advantage’s new 500 mg Calcium Citrate Chewy Bite, the first to combine 500 mg Calcium Citrate and 500 IU of Vitamin D3 in one tasty, sugar-free soft chew, read the official press release here. To learn more about calcium and bariatric nutrition call 800.898.6888 or visit www.bariatricadvantage.com.

[1] Berarducci A, Haines K, Murr MM 2009 Incidence of bone loss, falls, and fractures after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for morbid obesity. Appl Nurs Res 22:35–41

[2] Goode LR, Brolin RE, Chowdhury HA, Shapses SA. Bone and gastric bypass surgery: effects of dietary calcium and vitamin D. Obes Res. 2004;12:40-47. [EL 2]

Reviewed and Prepared by:
The Science Desk
Bariatric Advantage

 

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