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Cooking for One after Bariatric Surgery
Back to School, Back to Meal Planning: Blog Series Part 7
Cooking for One after Bariatric Surgery
Check out the blogs we’ve covered so far in this series:
Back to School, Back to Meal Planning (survey results and tips to meal plan faster)
Mindset and cooking for one
Oh yes, here we are again starting with a conversation around mindset!
When it comes to cooking for one after bariatric surgery, there is a big mental roadblock to work through.
WHY would I cook when it’s just me?
It doesn’t feel worth it. It will go to waste. It’s too much work.
All of these thoughts and feelings are valid. It’s also true no one is counting on you to cook dinner so the built in accountability is not there.
Before we talk about a few different approaches to cooking for one, we have to talk about your why. WHY would you cook for just you?
Well. Because it matters to have a filling and satisfying meal. Studies do show patients who successfully lose and maintain weight loss report not grazing and eating a structured meal pattern. Stopping to eat a meal is not just about fueling your body but to take a break, sit, eat and feel nourished.
You matter enough to make a meal for. You matter enough to take a break, eat and feel well nourished. Cooking for you is worth it, because you are worth it.
Spend some time working through those mental roadblocks and then ask yourself how many times is realistic for you to expect to cook for yourself. We all struggle to cook at the end of a long day. It’s okay to take nights off. But even then, work in what you will do for an actual meal when you aren’t necessarily cooking.
The big question when Cooking for One
After the mind work, the next big question when making a strategy for cooking at home for one person is:
What is your opinion of eating leftovers?
For some, leftovers are okay for just one meal but after that they cannot imagine eating it again.
For others, they don’t mind eating it for another meal.
And for many others, they don’t like leftovers at all.
This is the starting point before moving forward with menu planning. If you can get comfortable with leftovers, that will certainly help your strategy. If there are some foods you will eat as leftovers but others you will not, name it. Write out what you are willing to eat for another lunch or dinner the next day.
If you are okay with some leftovers
There are a couple strategies I would use if someone was cooking for one person after bariatric surgery and okay with some leftovers.
Most recipes make around 4 servings. Typically recipes use one pound of meat which loses 25% of its weight in cooking.
That means 16 ounces of ground beef becomes 12 ounces of ground beef. That would make four meals at 3 ounces each.
Note: you might eat more or less than that. That’s for you and your pouch to determine! Plus, this is not taking into account vegetables or other ingredients at the meal.
If most recipes make 4 servings, its fair to say many patients would be okay eating that meal twice but probably not four times.
One thing you can do is eat it twice and freeze the other two servings. I recommend a vacuum sealer with the smaller sized freezer bags. Freeze each of the leftovers into separate bags to provide two different frozen meals.
This is a form of batch cooking which I dove into last week quite a bit. I shared a video on that blog post of a lesson inside the Cooking for One video course available to members. In that video I made a large pot of Italian Chili and then use a silicone muffin pan to divide it up and freeze into chunks. Then I moved the chunks to a large ziploc bag.
If you are not a fan of leftovers
I can certainly understand if you don’t tend to cook because you don’t want to make a lot of food for one person, and you don’t like leftovers.
My encouragement would also be not to allow that as an excuse.
It is a common and easy habit to fall into to eat meals like deli meat and cheese or a can of tuna because its simple and cooking more doesn’t feel worth the effort. It’s very understandable.
The trouble is, that can get in the way of your goals after bariatric surgery. It may turn into a grazing pattern or not fill you up enough at your meal that you end up grazing more later.
It really does matter to sit and have a satisfying, filling meal at your meal times.
So how can we make cooking feel more worthwhile when you are only eating a little of it?
My tip here is to use one package of lean meat and separate it out for different meals. You can buy one pound of ground beef and use half the package to make two burger patties and seal and save the rest for taco meat the next night. You can take it further and make three meals or whatever you might need to decrease leftovers.
You can also ask for smaller amounts at the butcher counter. You can order one chicken breast or half a pound of ground beef.
The good news is, making less food does go faster. Less meat will cook faster and require a little less clean up. And yes, you are worth making a meal for!
Wasting produce…true and tricky
So far we have mainly address the meats. For one, because they are the main focus when bariatric patients need to have protein based meals. For two, because it’s the most expensive ingredient.
The other tricky area is produce. We all hate to see produce go bad!
While it can be tricky, don’t give up on working through it either. Like nearly everything in life, the more you do it, the more you learn. You might have food waste as a result of learning but chalk it up to a lesson. WRITE IT DOWN (unless your memory is better than mine) when something spoiled before you went through it.
Produce items that can come in a single are a great option. You can buy one zucchini or one bell pepper. A bag of spinach, however, is harder to get through.
Consider this when it comes to recipes. If a recipe calls for baby spinach and you don’t tend to use that much, you have my permission to skip the ingredient. Yes. It is okay to omit veggies if you can’t buy a smaller amount and you know it will waste.
Look for vegetables that are smallest in size (hunt for the smallest onion, zucchini, cucumber, etc).
When you only need half of the vegetable, consider how you will use the other half and cut it for that purpose right then. For example, if I use half a diced bell pepper I will cut the rest into strips. I am more likely to eat strips of bell pepper than remember to use the rest of the diced pepper.
You can also focus on the meat entree and use less expensive vegetables that you know you’ll eat. Canned green beans or baby carrots are an acceptable side dish to your turkey burger patty.
Some vegetables do freeze well, so don’t be afraid to vacuum seal veggies too. Its recommend to blanch them first (put in boiling water for 2 minutes and then into an ice bath). Asparagus and onion have done well for me. Have you tried any?
Cooking for one after bariatric surgery isn’t easy, but it’s worth it
That is my take home message. Whatever roadblocks might be holding you back, name them and see what you can do to consider that but move forward.
For more on this topic, check out the Premier Access Members course on Cooking for One.
Stay tuned, last blog in the series is next week!
Let’s wrap up the Back to School: Back to Meal Planning series with a conversation on meals to keep in your freezer!