How to Eat a Healthy Diet Without Leaving Your Taste Buds or Wallet Behind

October 2, 2012

by Margaret Furtado, MS, RD, LDN, RYT and Chef Joseph Ewing, BA Culinary Nutrition, AS Culinary Arts

Some or most of us are hurting from the past few years of financial struggle.  So for this year, let’s try cutting down on the cost of food, while still keeping the same quality of food, or even improving it.

Having healthy and delicious foods do not have to break the bank!  Trying for fresh produce is always great, but frozen produce is a good alternative, and is usually less expensive.  Stock your freezer with a few bags of frozen vegetables or fruit so you can have them available whenever you need them.  Also, many grocery stores have sales on frozen vegetables, such as “buy three for $5.00” and “buy one get one free.”

Another great tip for cutting costs is to buy meat in bulk, or in “family packs.”  Once you get them home, divide them up in zip-top sandwich bags and freeze them in portions that you will most likely use.  This is great to do with chicken, ground turkey, and even steaks and pork chops.  It saves time later, and will definitely save you some cash.

Here are some tips for saving some “dough” yet eating and living healthy for the New Year:

•  Eat In:  Try eating in more and dining out less.  It can save you a lot of money and a LOT of calories.  Restaurant foods tend to be high in fat, sugar and salt.   If you’re not sure how to cook a healthy meal, there are plenty of wonderful, weight-loss-surgery-appropriate recipes out there, including the recipes below.

•  Be Prepared: Prepare meals for yourself in larger batches so you can freeze them for later.  If you’re prepared, you will be less likely to eat foods that you shouldn’t eat or turn to nutritionally empty fast food and choices that aren’t well-tolerated after surgery.

•  Bottled Water: If you’re one of those people out there who loves to buy bottled water, consider purchasing a filter for your sink or a filter pitcher, and investing in a plastic water bottle.  This will save you so much money!  Also, it will be much better for our environment, so “going green” will mean more dollars in your pocket as well!  Another great thing about this is that you can find a bottle that has measurements printed on the side so that you can keep track of how much you are drinking to make sure that you reach your fluid requirements.

•  Protein: Always have a protein snack with you, and include protein in every meal as well.  If you’re always on-the-go, you can’t exactly carry a chicken leg in your pocket, so consider going to a health food store and purchase some high-quality protein bars and/or shakes with whey or soy protein isolate.  Check with your dietitian at your surgical center to help navigate the not-so-good from healthy protein supplements and bars.  If you can, include more whole-food sources of protein, like low fat cottage cheese or fat-free Greek yogurt that are chock-full of protein and calcium.   Also, try part-skim milk/low fat cheeses (e.g. Laughing Cow, Alpine Lace, Jarlsberg Lite, Veggie Slices (soy cheese), Cabot Lite).  Protein-laden snacks will not only help you meet your protein goal but will also help with hunger!

• Fiber: Keep in mind that your body can’t use fiber for calories, and fiber helps you to feel full, so it could help with weight loss and maintenance.  Fiber also may help keep your blood sugar stable, which could help minimize feeling overly-hungry due to low blood sugar.  Fiber may even help with cholesterol, as well as constipation (depending on the kind and amount of fiber).  Include whole grains, fresh fruits with skins on, like apples and pears, and eating a variety of vegetables and legumes to get some good quality fiber in your diet.

• Make a Grocery List: Make a list of what you are going to buy at the grocery store before you go.  This will eliminate impulse buying and help you stay focused on good foods to have around the house.

• Use a Slow Cooker: Slow cookers are a great time saver in the kitchen.  Toss all your ingredients in a crock pot and let it go.  When you get home from work, your home will smell great, and dinner will be ready, and you barely had to do anything!  This is also a great way to cook some foods in advance so you can have something healthy and tasty in your freezer or refrigerator for quick meals.
To start you on your road to success, here are two recipes from our new book The Complete Idiots Guide to Eating Well after Weight Loss Surgery (Penguin Books) that you and your whole family are sure to love!  Enjoy!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This stuffed pepper recipe is a great source of lean protein.  It also has a good dose of fiber to help that fullness feeling last longer!

Per Serving:
53 g
9 g
27 g
12 g
Saturated Fat
2 g
34 g
112 mg
7 g

Yield: 8 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serving Size: 1 pepper

1 [1/2] lbs. ground turkey
2 medium Vidalia onions
4 cloves garlic
5 tb. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tsp. Mrs. Dash Italian Medley;
4 cup wild rice
2 TB. fresh oregano
2 tsp. black pepper
4 cups canned low sodium roasted tomatoes
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
8 small bell peppers, tops and seeds removed

1.    Preheat oven to 350° F.
2.    Brown ground turkey in a sauté pan with the olive oil.
3.    When turkey is browned, add chopped onions and minced garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.
4.    Add Mrs. Dash seasoning, cooked wild rice, fresh oregano, black pepper, canned tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce, and mix until everything is evenly combined.
5.    Remove tops and seeds from bell peppers, and stuff with turkey and rice filling.
6.    Place peppers in a baking dish, and cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until peppers are tender.

Smoky Curried Corn Bisque

This recipe is a real nutritional winner, with a good helping of protein and bursting with flavor, to help possibly dull taste buds wake up again!  It’s also low in sodium and sugars, and is such a delicious way to add to your fluid goal for the day!

Per Serving:
25 g
5 g
13 g
6 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
3 g
367 mg
3 g

Yield: 8 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30  minutes
Serving Size: 1 bowl

2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 cup Vidalia onion, chopped;
1 TB. curry powder
[1/2] tsp. hot pepper sauce
[1/4] tsp. salt
[1/4] tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
2 (16 oz.) packages frozen corn, thawed, roasted in oven until slightly golden
2 cups low fat, low sodium chicken broth
2 cups low fat, low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup light coconut milk;
4 oz. smoked silken tofu;
3 oz. plain protein powder
1 tb. fresh cilantro, chopped;


1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about three minutes.
2. Add curry powder, hot sauce, salt and pepper and stir to coat the onions. Stir in corn, chicken and vegetable broths; increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
3. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender or food processor with tofu and protein powder  until everything is combined, but still has some texture (slightly lumpy).
4. Pour the soup into a clean pot, add coconut milk and heat through.

Margaret Furtado, MS, RD, LDN, RYT is a Dietitian/Author/Speaker Specializing in weight loss surgery; Hospital-based and private practice in nutrition. She is also a Yoga teacher and a Yahoo Health Blog Writer.
Joseph Ewing, BA Culinary Nutrition, AS Culinary Arts is a chef in the Pinelli Marra Restaurant Group in Rhode Island; Co-Author of CIG Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery; AS Culinary Arts & BS Culinary Nutrition.