Your diet will undergo a significant transformation after bariatric surgery. Your surgeon may have you start making changes before your surgery to help ensure you’re in the best health possible for the procedure. However, eating a bariatric diet is much more than simply eating fewer calories.
You will need to take a balanced approach to your meals to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients from your food. Your doctor will go over your specific dietary needs, but it’s up to you to fill your plate. If you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed by the bariatric diet, the following tips can help guide your meal choices.
- Pick your protein first. Getting enough protein is critical after bariatric surgery for several reasons. Protein helps boost your energy, prevent muscle wasting, and can reduce your hunger between meals and snacks. Be sure to eat your protein first, particularly as you adjust to your new anatomy. You won’t be able to eat as much, and you don’t want to fill up on less nutrition-dense foods before you get to your protein. Aim for a variety of lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, or lentils.
- Find ways to add fresh fruits and veggies. Most people fall short of the recommended number of servings for fruits and vegetables. This becomes an even greater challenge after bariatric surgery, as you can’t consume significant amounts of produce in one sitting. Instead, you can sneak fruits and veggies into your meals and snacks. You can add frozen fruit to Greek yogurt, incorporate sliced cucumbers in deli meat and cheese roll-ups, or use carrots and celery to dip in hummus.
- Keep healthy fats in mind. Bariatric diets are low-calorie and low-fat, but this doesn’t mean you have to eschew all fats. Your body needs healthy fats to absorb certain vitamins. Healthy fats also provide essential fatty acids that your body can’t produce. However, some fats are much healthier than others. Instead of frying your food in oil, consume healthy fats by garnishing your meals with them. Some examples include sprinkling nuts onto your salad or yogurt or adding sliced avocado to your meals.
- Be conscious of portion sizes. Your new anatomy will restrict how much food you can eat in one sitting, but it may take you a while to master your new portion sizes. Aim to consume 3 oz of protein, 1/3-1/2 cup of vegetables, and only a few tablespoons of starches per meal. Your hand is a good tool for estimating portion sizes. Your palm is equal to 3-4 oz of meat, a cupped hand is equal to ½ a cup, and your thumb is equal to a tablespoon.
- Divide your plate. As you progress through your recovery, you may notice you can eat more than you could during the first six months after surgery. However, eating more than your daily calorie recommendation can stretch out your new anatomy. Most people can eat 1/3-1 cup of food after the initial recovery phase. Divide your portions so that your plate is half protein, ¼ veggies, and ¼ fibrous starches.
Following your bariatric diet is critical for long term weight loss success. Understanding your portions and what your meals should look like on your plate can help you avoid overeating. Contact us to learn how weight loss surgery can improve your health.