After bariatric surgery, a client's nutrition needs change for life.
Learning to eat for these new needs can be a huge challenge for not only patients but practitioners as well. Every patient has a unique experience and can tolerate different foods in varying quantities, so a personalized approach is necessary.
We sat down with bariatric nutrition expert Kristin Willard, Registered Dietitian and the founder of Bariatric Meal Prep, to learn about how she simplifies her client’s lives by creating personalized bariatric meal plans that her clients love.
Whether you’re a bariatric expert yourself, or new to the journey of a bariatric patient, you’re going to learn so much about what the process looks like and how it can be simplified.
Overcoming Protein Challenges
While bariatric patients don’t necessarily need a significantly higher amount of protein, it is still a high priority for them to prevent muscle loss when they’re losing weight. Stomach capacity is reduced to about one to one-and-a-half cups, but Kristin explained that bariatric meal planning isn’t just a matter of eating smaller versions of the same meals.
“Getting in enough protein is always one of the biggest focuses after surgery. It’s not necessarily that they need a lot more protein, but that, with the reduced stomach capacity, the protein takes up a larger percentage of their meals. Sometimes this will displace the carbs, simply because there isn’t enough room left over.”
Kristin starts by determining how much protein her client needs and then adds carbs and fat based on the remaining volume they can eat in a meal. She uses That Clean Life to focus on protein first when searching for recipes.
Focusing on Quality Carbs
With reduced stomach size, carbohydrate quality matters even more. Kristin focuses on choosing carbohydrate sources that are more nutrient-dense, like fruit.
“I love fruit because it gives them more of that instantaneous energy and fruit is pretty much the easiest food in the world to grab and eat. I like to use fruit for their snacks throughout the day.”
In meals, she emphasizes carbohydrate sources that bring along some extra protein like beans and quinoa.
“Every meal contains lean protein so I use beans or quinoa as the starch but they increase the overall protein content of the recipe too.”
Using That Clean Life, Kristin can keep track of daily nutrition totals in real-time when she adds a side dish to any meal.
Other carbs Kristin loves adding to meal plans are sweet potatoes, root veggies, squash, oats, and other whole grains. Since bariatric patients eat less food, she prefers to avoid less nutritious processed carbs when possible, while giving her clients room to enjoy treats too.
Finding Veggies That Are Well Tolerated
Immediately following surgery, bariatric patients eat a diet of purees before moving on to a soft diet and eventually being able to include more fibrous foods like veggies.
“In general, softer veggies like green beans and carrots work for most people after surgery but there’s such a wide variety in terms of which foods are tolerated.”
Kristin works one-on-one with her clients and since everyone’s body is totally different, no two meal plans look the same. Using That Clean Life allows her to save filters for different clients so she doesn’t need to type in all the foods they dislike or can’t tolerate when meal planning for them in the future.
Creating Plans That Help Her Clients Succeed
Since Kristin sees her clients one-on-one and every client is so different, giving verbal advice about how much protein to eat and what foods to avoid simply isn’t enough to help them thrive.
“People really want to see what it looks like, examples of what to eat, but unfortunately a lot of dietitians don’t have time to do meal planning. I include recipes and meal plans from That Clean Life with all my package options.”
Depending on what level of support her clients need, Kristin offers everything from sample plans and recipe books to fully customized meal plans depending on the package option they select.
“What I love about That Clean Life is that I can add my own recipes and have it automatically generate a grocery list and format it for printing. If I see a recipe I like in the software, I can modify it to reduce the portion size to the amount my client can handle or increase the amount of a certain macronutrient.”
In addition to meal planning for her clients, Kristin used That Clean Life to create a lead magnet to grow her email list and she sells four-week meal plans on her website for bariatric patients who may not need a personalized approach.
Through her Instagram, she's been able to connect with thousands of bariatric patients and become a trusted expert in this niche.
“It’s so rewarding to see the way their lives are changing off the scale. Patients who were on diabetes medication are able to get off of it. People tell me all the time how grateful they are to be able to go to Disneyland and go on rides with their kids or even just walk around without pain. One man even hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, which he couldn't have done before. I had a client who was able to drive a car for the first time! So many other tiny non-scale victories too, there’s a lot more to it than what’s happening on the scale."
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