Planning Bariatric Christmas Menus

Steph Wagner MS, RDN

December 11, 2023

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Crafting a Bariatric-Friendly Christmas Menu

A Strategic Guide for Planning Ahead

‘Tis the season for joy, festivities, and, of course, tempting holiday dishes. If you’ve undergone bariatric surgery,  planning a bariatric-friendly Christmas menu is key to navigating the holiday season successfully, whether you’re traveling or hosting a celebration.

But fear not, dear reader. You don’t need to perfect it. Have an outline, a plan and tentative idea of how you’ll focus on protein. Then put your focus on the things you enjoy most about the holidays that aren’t food related. The rest will work out!

To help you plan ahead a bit more, this video will talk through the “day of” the big event including if you’re hosting or traveling.

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of my 2023 Holiday Planner!

2023 holiday planner from bariatric food coach dietitian steph wagner



Understanding Your Unique Dietary Needs

Before we dive into strategies for planning a bariatric Christmas menu, it’s essential to grasp your individual dietary needs post-surgery. Whether you’ve had Gastric Bypass or Gastric Sleeve, knowing your program’s guidelines is a biggie. If you need more help, consider unlocking all the insights with Bariatric Food Coach Premier Access.

In essence, bariatric patients thrive on a protein-focused diet with non-starchy vegetables for added fiber. Steering clear of sugary, fatty, and carbohydrate-heavy dishes is the key, especially during the festive season. **Don’t run away! No one is perfect. This is a very generalized comment about bariatric eating. Stick with me!

Communicating with your fam jam

Before the Season sweeps away and you feel behind on Christmas cards/shopping/wrapping touch base with your family about the plans. Be open and honest but with as many words as you feel are best for you. Instead of stating you’re “on a diet,” highlight the positive impact of your surgery on your health. Share your journey with phrases like, “It’s a challenging time of year, but I’m committed to focusing on all the wonderful things of the year that aren’t related to food.”

If you’re hosting, start that chat early about what you’ll be making. You get to call the shots on the protein (turkey, ham) and can add in some veggies so you know you’ll have them. If the rest of the family wants to bring the heavy dishes, that’s their choice! Control your controllables :)

If you’re traveling, don’t say “what can I bring” which opens you up to anything. Instead say, would you rather I bring this or this. Just like we do with kids, only give choices you are okay with them making.

Also consider the other meals while you’ll be a guest somewhere. If you’re staying more than one night, offer to make a meal. This is helpful to your host but also helps you have a meal to control and some leftovers too.

Bringing Bariatric Brilliance to the Christmas Table

Ensuring a bariatric-friendly option at Christmas gatherings is foolproof when you offer to bring a dish. Take control of the ingredients, guaranteeing it aligns with your dietary needs. Use this opportunity to introduce healthier alternatives. Swap traditional mashed potatoes for cauliflower mash or opt for a Pumpkin Whip instead of a sugary dessert.

 Mastering the Art of Polite Decline

Equip yourself with positive phrases to gracefully decline certain foods. Consider the compliment, decline, and redirect approach:

– “Thank you for making this! None for me right now. What else have you been up to lately?”
– “It all smells amazing! I’ll make a plate in a bit. Did you catch the parade this morning?”
– “I’m so full from my meal, but thank you for your hard work! How’s your holiday season been?”

Watch my full video on how to politely declining food here! 

Embracing the Social Aspect

Remember, Christmas is more than just food. Shift the focus to quality time with loved ones, engaging in conversations, playing games, or partaking in activities. By highlighting the social aspect, you can relish the holiday season without feeling deprived.

You can also step outside when you need to. If you start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or angry (it’s a lot of time with family…) then a step outside will allow fresh, cold air to your face which engages your parasympathetic nervous system. This system helps you move to a more calm state.

Staying True to Your Goals

Amidst the holiday spirit, remember why you began your bariatric journey. Reflect on the progress made and the positive changes experienced since surgery. This reflection serves as a powerful motivator to stay on track and politely decline foods that don’t align with your bariatric diet.

The holidays don’t have to be simply endured. You CAN enjoy the Season and also know that it will pass. You won’t break anything over the holidays and you can get back to a better rhythm when the celebrations have passed.

Seeking Support

If the holiday food struggle feels overwhelming, seek support. Reach out to friends, family, or communities like BFC Premier Access, where individuals share insights, encouragement, and cheer each other on.

Navigating Christmas with Confidence

Saying no to holiday foods after bariatric surgery requires planning and good communication. By understanding your dietary needs, communicating tactfully, offering bariatric-friendly options, and focusing on the social aspect, you can navigate the Christmas season without compromising your progress.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and seeking support when needed is a strength. With these strategies, you can confidently enjoy a bariatric-friendly Christmas, celebrating the season while staying true to your health goals. Cheers to a happy and healthy holiday!


Leave a comment and let us know how you’re planning your Bariatric Christmas menu!

2 thoughts on “Planning Bariatric Christmas Menus”

  1. Thanks for all the helpful tips. This will be my first Christmas post WLS, and I find this to be very useful; specifically, declining politely. I wouldn’t want my host(s) to think that I no longer enjoy their cooking because there’s less food on my plate.

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