How to Portion Your Meals After Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is an effective means to achieve long-term weight loss, but it requires a commitment to overhauling your diet and exercise habits. The dietary changes are of particular importance, as bariatric surgery works partially by restricting how much food your stomach can hold. The amount you can eat in one sitting after weight loss surgery depends on which bariatric procedure you choose, how far into your recovery you are, and the texture of the food you’re eating.

Meal Sizes After Bariatric Surgery

Once you’re back to eating solids, you’ll be able to enjoy most of the foods you did before surgery but in smaller amounts. Most surgeons recommend limiting your meals to three to six ounces to avoid stretching out your new anatomy and to avoid discomfort.

However, you may notice you can eat considerably more of certain foods than others without feeling overly full. While this may seem concerning, it’s not unusual depending on the food type. For example, you may only be able to eat three ounces of meat while an entire bottle of protein smoothie poses no issues. Liquids and soft foods aren’t as dense or tough as meats and solid foods, which makes them easier to consume.

Regardless of what your stomach can handle, focus on portion control when meal planning. Using small plates and measuring food with cups rather than eyeballing it can help you achieve this goal. How you divide your plate matters as well. Aim to fill half of it with your protein and the other half with fresh produce. High-fiber starches are ok as well, but they shouldn’t take up more than ¼ of your plate.

What Are Macros?

You’ll likely hear a lot about meeting your macronutrient needs, often shortened to macros, as you progress through your bariatric journey. Your macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fats. Your total calorie intake is important to track as well to achieve weight loss success. The following are the general nutrient guidelines for most bariatric patients:

  • 800-1200 calories per day.
  • 60+ grams of protein per day.
  • 60+ grams of carbs per day. Aim to consume the same number of carbs in grams as you do protein.
  • 20 grams of fat, preferably unsaturated fats.

How to Plan Well-Portioned Meals

Tracking calories and macros might seem overwhelming at first, but several apps make this an easy practice. Many allow you to scan the labels on foods, save common meals, or import recipes from online so you don’t have to manually enter all the nutrition information.

Meal planning is another great way to avoid hunger-driven decisions around mealtimes. If you already know what you’re going to eat, you’re less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack to satisfy a craving. Your meal plan should focus on your protein choice first, then your fruits and veggies, and save your fats for last. For example, breakfast can be an egg mixed with fresh veggies to make a scramble or an omelet with avocado slices on the side.

Are Snacks Off Limits?

Elimination diets are too restrictive to work in the long term. Bariatric patients often need snacks to meet their nutrition goals. Eating smaller meals with snacks in between allows you to obtain enough protein without exceeding the limits of your new stomach. Some good snack ideas include Greek yogurt, apple slices with peanut butter, fresh veggies and hummus, or turkey and cheese roll-ups.

How much weight you lose after bariatric surgery depends on how well you commit to your new diet and exercise recommendations. Investing in the right tools and learning portion sizes can simplify this process. It may seem daunting at first, but the improvements to your health are well worth the effort. Contact us to learn more about the life-altering benefits of bariatric surgery.


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