5 items every bariatric surgery patient should have in their arsenal

Ever since I started this journey to better health, I’ve come to rely on a few items to make sure that I feel good all the time. They help me all the time and I think they could work for you as well.

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This is what helps me stay on track. Hope it helps you as well! (Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash)
  1. Oatly Oatmilk – Even before I had my gastric sleeve operation, I had problems with lactose intolerance. Oatly is what gets me through most days. I can have it in my cereal, in my coffee, even in my mashed potatoes. I think it tastes better than “normal” milk and it has the added bonus of not making me feel ill.
  2. Skinnytaste meal plans – I don’t use them every week, but I use them often enough that I know Gina’s recipes are awesome. Some of my favourites include honey sriracha chicken and broccoli bowls, braised chicken thighs with mushrooms and leeks, corn, tomato and avocado salad, and fish florentine.
  3. A water bottle – Granted, mine is the model that H&M was selling around two years ago, but this one is ideal as well. It’s how I make sure I reach my daily water goal. I fill it every morning and sip on it until it’s empty, refill it. Repeat. Our surgeons and nutritionists know what they’re talking about when they warn about dehydration.
  4. A good pair of sneakers – I’ve been using Nike React the last few months and they’re super comfortable. What’s most important is that you find a pair that work for your feet and that make you want to walk and get those steps in every day.
  5. StepsApp (or something similar) – How do I make sure I get my steps in every day? My StepsApp. If you prefer another app, go for it. But this is the one that keeps me on top of my daily step goal.

So these are five things that I feel like I can’t be without in order to reach my goal. What about you? What are you doing to stay on top of things post-operation?

Stop saying surgery is the easy way out.

66696865_10217030565510334_6110022785982005248_nThose of us who opt for bariatric surgery have gone through *before* we finally make the decision to go through surgery. It’s not a decision we take lightly. Hell, it’s not on the radar for most of us who have been struggling with our weight for years — we keep thinking if we just keep exercising, changing our diets, etc… we’ll lose the weight that everyone else says is so easy to lose. We often don’t consider that there are underlying reasons for why we have a hard time losing weight despite our own efforts.

And a lot of doctors get this.

And the ones who do are the ones who tell us that surgery is the best option for us.

Some doctors don’t get it.

But apparently not everyone who is a medical professional gets this.

This morning, I happened to log onto Facebook and see a post from a friend who happens to be a medical professional who implied that everyone would rather take pills or have surgery than make lifestyle changes and that post pissed me off to no end. Why? The person who posted it knows that I’ve struggled with my weight due to a lot of health reasons that have nothing to do with simply lifestyle changes.

For six years, I:

  • took blood pressure and heart pills that made me feel worse
  • went to a therapist because I was dealing with work-related stress and felt like shit
  • worked out 3 days/week, at home and at the gym because of a knee injury and because I had a desk job and needed to move more
  • made dietary changes
  • found out I had a congenital heart problem that had gone undiagnosed since childhood
  • was dealing with polycystic ovarian syndrome and Swedish gynaecologists who didn’t take it seriously — I even had one who told me it was all in my head and refused to give me a prescription for the medicine that I needed–which, according to my cardiologist, could have possibly exacerbated the undiagnosed heart problem–despite having a confirmed diagnosis from another gynaecologist who was an expert in the field
  • was in the stroke/diabetes risk zone because of so many relatives on both sides of my family had had strokes and diabetes as well as dealing with long-term work-related stress
  • was dealing with a work situation in which I had two managers who were making my work life hell
  • was unable to sleep properly
  • began self-medicating because I couldn’t figure out what else to do

For two years I met with a dietician and a physiotherapist to deal with my knee problem and that involved daily exercise and lifestyle changes. Did it help me magically lose weight?

Of course not.

I was also insulin resistant and, according to my dietician and my surgeon, everything I was doing that my previous dietician had prescribed was actually making things worse.

If I were Courtney Love, I’d say that someday you will ache like I ache but I wouldn’t wish the shit I had to deal with on *anyone*.

Stop being judgmental…because you’re wrong.

When I decided after thinking about it for close to five years to have bariatric surgery, one of my doctor friends tried to talk me out of it. She only pointed out the worst case scenarios and behaved as though I should just keep on struggling even though it wasn’t working.

I decided, instead to listen to several friends and relatives who’d had the same surgery, and I also listened to my surgeon who–after analysing all my blood tests and other results–assured me that this was the best option for me if I did NOT want to take medication for the rest of my life.

Stop telling us we cheated or took the easy way out.

If you knew what we go through in the year that we prepare for the surgery, you wouldn’t have the gall to imply that this is easy. It’s not.

I didn’t cheat or take the easy way out. None of us who are serious about this think we’re getting a shortcut. We know we have to make lifestyle changes and we do it. We know that we’re going to go through hell learning to eat again while we go through the healing process–whether it’s the pain or the complications that sometimes occur or just trying to get used to how fast or slow we can eat and drink and figuring out what food our new stomachs can actually tolerate.

But you don’t think about that. You just think we’re “cheating” because you never head to deal with this.

What you should do instead.

Instead of being judgmental, how about supporting your friends and patients who choose to make this decision. Listen to them when they tell you what they’re going through. Stop talking over them and actually open your ears and your mind to what they’re telling you. Not everyone who chooses this surgery is looking for an easy way out. Most of us have been suffering for years and felt that no one has listened to us or even been interested enough to hear what we’re saying.

 

 

Catching up – March edition

It’s been a long time since I posted. Some of you know already why. My brother died on January 2nd and it really threw me for a loop. Close to three months later and I am still feeling a little lost and just going through the days, heading to my freelance projects and doing what needs to be done, but not really feeling completely like myself.

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Soon I will be in Matera again. Hopefully, it will help me feel whole again as a person and a writer as it did after my dad’s death. 

But a few things are happening that at least give me something to look forward to. First, I am going to Matera, Italy for a writer’s retreat 10-15 April. I can’t wait. I need to be in the company of writers, I need to be in Matera and feel the love and warmth of that wonderful town. I have not written a word of fiction since my brother died and I feel incomplete not being able to write fiction.

And in May I will celebrate 20 years of being married to my wonderful guy. Just think: we started off as that couple everyone thought would only be a summer fling. We’ve been together as a couple now since 1993 and got married in 1999. And I absolutely adore him.

Weightwise, I am in a stall and I am not stressing about it. I know that, since January, I have not always been as vigilant about what I eat as I should be. However, my clothes continue to feel looser so my body is still redistributing things. I am getting back on track though. And I am hoping that now that I am seeing a grief counselor to deal with my brother’s passing that this will help me regain the structure I’ve lost.

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Friday lunch at Pom & Flora on Odengatan in Vasatan, Stockholm

One thing though that makes me happy is that I am only around 15 pounds from my goal weight. And I feel good physically, even if mentally I feel a mess. One thing at least that has made me happy is discovering Turmeric Tonic at Pom & Flora, a café here in Stockholm. It was zingy (thanks to the ginger in it) and not too sweet. And today’s lunch–Thai style vegan sweet potato soup with chickpeas and glass noodles–was delicious!

So, no, I have not forgotten about my blog…I’ve just been dealing with my own emotions and trying to come to grips with the fact that one of my favorite people in the world–my younger brother–is no longer with us.

Bear with me. I promise I will be back to normal soonish.

Five tips for traveling when you’re sleeved

Ever since I had my gastric sleeve operation in January, I’ve had to learn how to do things a little differently. This is especially true for eating on the move. Whether I’m taking the commuter train to my in-laws’ house or heading out of town for a long weekend, I try to plan ahead so that I have everything I need. Here are five tips that can help when you’re traveling. As long as I remember to do these five things, I find traveling while sleeved to be pretty stress-free. 

Take healthy snacks with you

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Be prepared – take healthy snacks wherever you go. (Photo by Juan José Valencia Antía on Unsplash)

Sure, it’s nice to splurge a little when you’re on vacation but when you’re en route, the last thing you want is to deal with stomach issues caused by making the wrong food choices. Plan ahead. You already know what your new stomach can tolerate. Pack some healthy snacks in small zip-loc bags or mini plastic containers so you never have to worry about that moment when hunger pangs strike. My favourite travel snacks?

  • pistachios or almonds
  • yoghurt and fruit
  • popcorn cakes (I usually eat a Swedish brand, but Skinnypop’s popcorn cakes are tasty and available in the US)
  • KIND protein bars–my favourite is crunchy peanut butter
  • crisp bread with cheese, veggies or spread

The most important thing is to have something at hand.  You know you’ll need to eat every 3 hours. It may take a while for food service to start on your flight. Why let yourself get hangry (who wants to be hungry and angry? Not me!) when it’s so easy to avoid?

Don’t forget your medicine and vitamins

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Don’t leave home without them! (Photo by Iren Moroz/shutterstock)

How many times have you forgotten to pack your medicine or vitamins? My advice? Get yourself a travel pill case and fill it with everything you need. I have one that has the days of the week on it. I picked it up at my local pharmacy. You can also find them at Target or Walmart.

They come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are more stylish than others. Mine is pretty basic. I was mostly concerned with having one that could hold a month’s worth of medicine and vitamins since I was heading to the US on vacation. But you can find them in weekly sizes too.

Stay hydrated

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Staying hydrated is super important. (Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash)

I’m sure this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to become dehydrated from not drinking enough water. It’s especially easy to do this when you’re already stressed about the long queues at the airport or train station. Sleeve patients need to drink 64 to 96 ounces of water per day, so let’s make sure we stay hydrated.

  • Once you’ve gone through the security check, buy a bottle or two of spring water or bring your own empty bottle and fill it at a water fountain.
  • Remember to avoid sugary and carbonated drinks.
  • Coffee and tea count towards your fluid intake.

Opt for the special dietary meals on flights whenever possible

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Remember to pre-order a special meal. (Photo by diy13/shutterstock)

When I flew to the US in July, I made sure to order a low-sugar meal on British Airways at the same time as I booked my ticket. The special dietary meal was included in the price of my ticket and had to be ordered up to 24 hours in advance. Most airlines offer the same service on flights where meal are served, so make sure you request a special meal if you’re having problems digesting gluten, need a diabetic meal or prefer a vegetarian/vegan meal. DO NOT make the mistake of waiting until you’re on your flight to request a special meal. These meals need to be pre-ordered.

Forgot to pre-order your meal? If you’re leaving from a major airline, you should be able to find restaurants in the terminals once you’ve gone through security. When I’ve flown from Stockholm to Philadelphia via London-Heathrow and forgotten to pre-order a special meal, I’ve picked up lactose-free and/or gluten-free meals to take on my flights from Wagamama, Gordon Ramsay Plane Food and other restaurants in Terminal 5. I’ve also been able to get delicious and healthy options that worked with my sleeve from Healthy Gourmet and La Tapenade at Philadelphia International Airport.

Use your bariatric patient special diet request card at restaurants

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A sample special diet request card (Photo credit: http://www.connectionwls.com)

I can’t guarantee that every restaurant will honour it, but most of the time I’ve been able to get a smaller portion (and sometimes even a price reduction) by showing my bariatric patient special diet request card which I received from the hospital where my surgery was performed. This card explains that I am a bariatric surgery patient and that it is recommended that I have smaller portions due to the reduced size of my stomach. I’ve used it while traveling here in Europe and in the US and most times it’s been accepted. Some restaurants will allow you to order from the children’s menu if you show them the card, but most times the children’s menu doesn’t have healthy enough options on it.

If a restaurant refuses to honour your card and you’re staying somewhere where you’ll have access to a refrigerator, ask them to put half of your meal in a takeaway container. I did this while I was in the US on occasions where I either forgot the card at my mother’s house or I forgot to show it when placing my order.

If you don’t have a bariatric patient special diet request card, ask your nutritionist or doctor to provide you with one. It definitely comes in handy.

What about you? Are you a seasoned pro at travelling with your new stomach? What are some of your favourite tips and tricks for staying on track while traveling? 

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Popsugar and YouTube are helping me get fit

Now that I am freelancing and working from home, I have more time to focus on feeling stronger and getting fit. Part of this is walking more, but I am also taking other steps to feel stronger.

One of those ways is exercising more. I recently began checking out POPSUGAR Fitness on YouTube and their 10-minute workout videos. Since I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk writing, these are perfect for me when I need to take a break and move my body but don’t want to go out for a long walk yet.

via GIPHY

 

I can’t say that I am an enthusiastic exerciser. I used to work out a lot, more from necessity than anything else. That’s why it’s imperative that any exercise I do feels fun or doesn’t feel like a chore. I’ve found three that I’ve tried and really like.

10-Minute No Equipment Flat Belly Workout

 

The 10-Minute No Equipment Flat Belly Workout is good for beginners and more experienced exercisers. The modifications for beginners are great, even for someone like me who’s got a bum knee. I’ve done this workout twice so far and it’s challenging enough that I don’t get bored, but not so challenging that it feels impossible. This is definitely a doable workout and you get a nice burn afterwards.

Tightest Arms in Town 10-Minute Workout

I’ve done the  Tightest Arms in Town 10-Minute Workout twice as well and it’s fun. Yes, your arms will be tired afterwards. Yes, you’ll feel a burn…and I am pretty sure you will like it. I know I did. 🙂

10-Minute Toned Booty & Thigh Workout

I’ve only tried the 10-Minute Toned Booty & Thigh Workout once so far, but I like it. It will definitely be repeated. My booty and thighs were seriously tired by the time I was finished, so those ten minutes were not wasted. 🙂

If you’re going to work out at home, make sure you have a good yoga mat and some hand weights.

A few other POPSUGAR Fitness 10-minute workouts that I am going to try:

I also found Ashley Graham’s Curvy Girl Fit Club from netaporter.com and Tracy Anderson 10-minute workout from goop which I think I’ll try as well. I like having variety, so having different ones to try will keep me from getting bored.

The great thing with creating my own routine to follow is that I can easily fit two or three videos workouts into my day without feeling like it’s impossible. And now that I am doing NaNoWriMo and spending even more time at my computer as I try to get my daily word count goal in, these fitness videos are a welcome break when I feel like all that plotting and character development is making me loopy.

What are you doing to get toned post-op?

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Catching up: I know…it’s been a while

I know…it’s been a while

It’s been a long time since I updated here, and I am sorry for that. Life got in the way.  After a stressful spring, a somewhat restful summer that inevitably became yet another stressful autumn, I decided I’d had enough. It culminated in me deciding to resign from my position and focus on freelancing and fiction writing again. This is my first week of writing full-time and so far, so good. I am still open to finding another full-time job, but right now I am enjoying being in charge of my own time and being able to choose the projects that I work on and the people I work with.

How am I doing?

How am I doing? Update

I’m getting there… 🙂

My weight loss has been a bit slower than I’d expected, but I expect some of this was due to the stress I was under and not having enough time to exercise as I should. Now that I am freelancing, I have more space in my schedule and I’ve already booked two yoga passes for this week and gone on two long walks. Next week, I’ll be returning to strength training.

Back to meal planning

Another good thing about working from home is that I can focus on planning my meals again. I lost focus of it during the summer and never really got back into it. I started again last weekend and made Skinnytaste’s turkey meatball stroganoff (though I substituted chicken for turkey since my local supermarket was out of ground turkey) in my slow cooker. If you haven’t tried this recipe, you really should! It’s delicious.

I’ve already got a few dishes planned for next week:

Buying winter clothes

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My new winter parka (Photo: lindex.com)

Since I’ve lost quite a lot of weight, most of my winter clothes are now too big. I was hoping I could continue using the same winter coat (which I bought last year at H&M and loved) but it fits like a sack now. I’ve added it to the donation bag, along with an autumn-weather coat I purchased a few years ago from ASOS, and several pairs of jeans that are in excellent condition but that slide off my hips now.

Yesterday I went to H&M to look for another winter coat. I tried on three, but none of them really spoke to me and said they wanted to follow me home. I ended up going to Lindex and found a green parka that looks exactly like the one I’m donating. Plus, it’s got sherpa fleece in the hood and lining. I love it! 🙂

I also stocked up on socks, since you can never have too many pairs of socks.

I’ve already got two pairs of great winter boots, so I don’t need to worry about those. But I need to find some thicker pull-on pants for the weekends and another pair of jeans. That’s a project for next week.

And how are you?

How’s it going for you? Have you reached your next major weight loss goal following surgery? Hit a stall? Or what’s your favourite workout? Drop me a line! 🙂 I am still trying to figure out what mine is (or will be) any tips you have will make me a very happy camper.

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Time flies — it’s time for a late-July update

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I’ve just come back from my hometown of Philadelphia. (Photo by Fredy Martinez on Unsplash)

Sorry I haven’t been very good about updating here. Most of the spring was pretty hectic and I’ve been feeling a bit disorganised and unfocussed lately. I could blame it on the heat, but that would be dishonest. The craziness of my spring bled into my summer and then suddenly it was time for me to fly to the US for a three-week vacation. It was all a bit of a whirlwind. Now I am back and I am jet lagged.

Things I have learned so far this summer:

  • My sleeved stomach is still too sensitive for very spicy or fiery food
  • Avocados and almonds are great for getting rid of leg cramps caused by magnesium and potassium deficiencies
  • Instead of craving candy, I now crave parmesan cheese
  • My surgery scars still sometimes feel sensitive or itch — apparently will be the case for a few more months
  • Honest T Moroccan Mint Green Tea makes me happy — unfortunately, now that I am back in Sweden, I can’t find it in any stores here so I will have to make it myself
  • Guacamole is still one of my favourite snacks
  • I can walk long distances again without having knee pain or back spasms
  • As much as I love cheesesteaks, my stomach still can’t handle them — maybe next year
  • I worked out in a gym while I was in Philadelphia and it felt good
  • My weight loss stalls when I don’t get enough calories in
  • I hate the way most protein shakes taste — they actually make me nauseous
  • Peanut butter flavoured Kind bars make good snacks when travelling
  • My peanut butter craving is still alive and well

So what else is new? Well, since my surgery in January, I’ve lost 56 pounds, which means I’ve nearly reached my end of July/beginning of August goal. In fact, I am only 2 pounds away from it and that makes me very happy.

My goal for August and onwards? To be better about keeping you updated and to start working out at the gym again since I’ve mostly only been walking a lot and working out at home.

Now if I could only get rid of this jet lag…

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A little update and a little clothes shopping

one pot salsa verde chicken and riceHow am I doing? Update-7

Ever since I started this weight loss journey, one of the things that I hadn’t really thought about much was that sooner or later I would have to buy new clothing. Realistically, I knew that losing weight would mean either going through everything in my closet and seeing if I’d saved anything that was once too small…or daring to go into stores and see if I’d lost enough weight to buy smaller sizes. It was going to happen sooner or later, right?

But…even when the scale doesn’t always seem to be budging much, I’ve begun to notice differences in how my clothes fit. My favourite t-shirts and sweaters are now very loose and all most too big to continue wearing to work. My favourite pairs of skinny jeans now feel a bit too saggy. But…I don’t really want to spend a lot of money on new clothing when I know that I will probably lose more weight very soon.

I’ve made a few purchases so that I can have shirts and pants to wear to work. At the weekends, now that it’s getting warm here in Stockholm, I’ve mostly worn in lightweight pants and t-shirts. The shirts and pants below I found at Lindex. I was able to buy them in an XL — and they’re a little loose.

 

I’ve focused too on finding underwire-free bras since the underwire rubs on my surgery scars and feels uncomfortable. I found some at KappAhl and will buy a few more when I’m in the US in July. I also bought these in XL.

 

And then I bought some pants, two blouses and a spring jacket from H&M. Again, the nice thing was that–even though these were still part of their plus-size range, I was able to buy them two sizes smaller than what I wore pre-surgery.

I’m pretty satisfied with how things are going, even if weight loss in May has been a little slower than expected. I won’t complain. My surgeon and nutritionist say I am right on track, so that’s all that matters.

By the way, my husband and I are trying a new recipe today, one pot salsa verde chicken and rice. It’s from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen. I’ll keep you posted, but I think it’s going to be delicious.

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Hair today…gone tomorrow?

Now that I’ve hit the three-month mark since I had my gastric sleeve operation, I’ve started to notice a few things:

  • I always seem to go through a weight loss stall the week before my period starts
  • My stomach does not like fried eggs so much, it prefers omelettes and scrambled eggs
  • My hair is starting to shed…a lot

I’ve learned to accept the weight loss stalls. Now that I’ve noticed they always seem to be in conjunction with the oncoming start of my period, I don’t bother to panic. I met with my surgeon and nutritionist last week and was assured that my weight loss was right on track and to keep on doing what I am doing, so yay me. 🙂

My stomach not liking fried eggs right now is also something I can deal with, even though I do appreciate perfectly fried eggs. At least it likes scrambled eggs and omelettes–which happen to be my favorite sort of eggs.

My hair though…well, this is not the first time I’ve gone through hair loss.

Back when I was around 27 or 28 and my PCOS problems were at their worst, clumps of hair fell out. I woke up one morning to a big clump of hair on my pillow. I also went through a period of hair loss when I had an allergic reaction to birth control pills. It took several years for my hair to regain anything close to its original thickness and coverage. Luckily, a nurse at my local health clinic recommended some hair vitamins that helped when things were at their worst.

But now, due to losing so much weight, I am going through it again. I haven’t bothered to get into a panic about it, though it did take me by surprise yesterday morning when I washed my hair and I saw just how much hair I was shedding.

It was a lot more than normal.

It was enough that it made me realize that it’s time to start taking hair vitamins again.  Luckily, I’ve already been using a shampoo and conditioner for fragile hair, so I think that will help a bit too.

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I just started using the Coriander Strength Source range from L’Oréal Botanicals Fresh Care. I like how it makes my hair feel.

 

 

In the meantime, I am looking into how I should cut my hair so that I won’t think so much about how much hair I am shedding. I know it’s only temporary, but still…

Maybe one of these styles will be perfect for me?

Have you experienced hair loss or excessive hair shedding since losing weight? Which products are you using to help with slowing it down? And which hairstyle do you think I should try?

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#mealprepsunday or what I made this week

Now that I am a little over two months into my gastric sleeve life, I’ve had a chance to figure out some truths about myself.

  • I hate having to think too much about what to eat for lunch
  • When I come home from work, I am usually already very hungry and…
  • If I am already very hungry, I don’t want to stand in front of the stove preparing dinner

So that’s when meal prepping has been a lifesaver. I’ve talked about this before, but I think it’s important enough to revisit. The worst thing for me when I am trying to lose weight is trying to figure out what to have for dinner (and then opting to just pick up takeaway instead) or going to the grocery store when I am already hungry. I get “Eyes Bigger than Stomach” syndrome. I buy too much of things I probably already have. I also buy items that I don’t actually want or need because my hunger takes over and convinces me I need them.

This is one of the reasons why I nearly always order home delivery of my groceries from a service available here in Sweden called MatHem. I’ve gotten in the habit of browsing through my cookbooks or checking out the latest recipes from my favorite food bloggers, settling on a few ideas and then ordering whatever I need to prep at least two meals that I can stretch over the week as lunch or dinner. I also make sure I have whatever snacks I need like crisp bread, yoghurt, cottage cheese, etc so that I don’t give in to my donut cravings.

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I’ve managed to withstand any donut cravings. 🙂 (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

If you’re trying to lose weight or you just want to make life a little easier, meal prepping is a great way to stay on track and simplify your life. I admit I am not always the most consistent meal prepper, but when I do I feel so much calmer. I don’t have to worry about whether there’s something in the fridge I can throw together or warm up because I already know what I made. I can easily put together a lunch box, knowing I already have food that I like (and that’s good for me) prepared.

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I made cashew nut curry with halloumi and broccoli for dinner (and lunch). My husband loved it. (Photo credit: Amy at the Cook Report)

So what’s on my menu this week? Cashew Nut Curry with Halloumi and Broccoli from the Cook Report. and a modified version of Slow Cooker Turkey 3-Bean Chili (I made it with ground pork and two type of beans) from Skinnytaste. I’ll probably make one more recipe this week. I’m thinking about Turkey Meatball Stroganoff (also from Skinnytaste).

Looking for meal prep ideas? Check out these blogs and sites:

Or do you already meal prep for the week? I’d love to hear about your favorite meal prep ideas!

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