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Health Team

Chef: Holiday cooking tips for weight loss surgery patients help everyone

Posted December 23, 2016

— It's the easiest time of year to pack on a few pounds, but, for many Americans, weight problems can become a serious health issue.

Many people with extra pounds turn to weight loss surgery to improve their wellbeing. After bariatric surgery, though, it can be hard to find satisfying meals that aren't too rich.

Ryan Conklin, an executive chef at Rex Healthcare, is teaching weight loss surgery patients how to cook healthy dishes that can help anyone. His turkey sausage and vegetable stuffed zucchini is just one of many recipes he makes for patients in the kitchen at the Rex Bariatric Center.

All the recipes are approved for pre and post-op weight loss surgery patients by healthcare officials. "It's important that there's no extra fat in the pan -- that's important," said Chef Conklin as he sears the turkey sausage.

The dish includes yellow squash, celery, onions, carrot, fresh parsley, sage and thyme, and it's the perfect holiday recipe for Linda Hester.

The 64-year-old lost about 120 pounds after she had weight loss surgery four years ago, and, to accommodate her now smaller stomach and special nutritive needs, she's always looking for new recipes. "I actually prepare meals ahead of time," said Hester. "I put them in individual containers and put them in the freezer."

According to bariatric dietitian Mary Gray Hutchison, a diet rich in vegetables is best for weight loss surgery patients. "Vegetable-rich diets are much higher in phyto-nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, which keeps us full," said Hutchinson.

That's why Chef Conklin uses cauliflower as a substitute for breading when he makes holiday stuffing. "We do a lot of swaps in our cooking classes," said Hutchinson. "Cauliflower has become the 'go to' in our kitchen, because you can swap it out for foods like rice and potatoes."

Hutchinson and Conklin also say that fresh herbs are a great way to add flavor without adding extra salt. These meals are not just handy for bariatric patients -- they can help anyone who is seeking a healthy eating lifestyle that can help them lose weight and keep it off.

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