While there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet plan, learning easy, realistic and time-saving cooking techniques before surgery can help you be successful in your weight loss journey after your bariatric surgery.
“Depending on what kind of surgery you get, it’s mostly going to be eating small, frequent meals,” says Dr. Michelle Pearlman, physician nutrition specialist at the University of Miami Health System. “Eating a couple of ounces every 2 to 3 hours, separating liquids from solids, and introducing more solid foods as you get further away from your surgery.”
Sticking to the basics
Often when patients return to their old eating habits and become more sedentary, they gradually regain their weight. “I see a lot of patients, 5, 10, or 15 years after bariatric surgery, who have actually gained a significant amount of weight back,” she says. “Sometimes it’s even close to their pre-surgery weight.”
To continue the success of weight loss maintenance years after surgery, your are going to have some dietary and lifestyle changes. “It doesn’t matter what surgery you get if you don’t learn these basic nutrition principles.”
Good dietary habits include:
- eating small portions every 3 hours
- prioritizing lean protein
- consuming a carbohydrate only if you’re still hungry with each meal
- keeping each meal around four ounces
- avoiding liquids with calories
- consuming liquids in between meals and not during meals
- daily protein goals remain approximately 60-80 grams per protein per day, around 1000 calories per day but may be more or less depending on the patient
- 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week
Be prepared before stress occurs
“A lot of patients I see don’t eat because they’re starving,” she says. “They eat because they’re stressed or there’s some other trigger that makes them eat.”
You might feel the urge to deal with stress by returning to old eating habits. But remember why you started on this journey: to be a healthier you. Whether the stress is coming from work, a relationship, or home life, how you choose to work through those stressors is critical to your weight loss success after bariatric surgery.
Meal prepping for sustained change
Meal preparation at home is essential for weight loss in order to stay within the recommended daily calories and portion sizes. Try not to fall back on eating out when your time is limited. Instead, try utilizing cooking equipment like pressure cookers, instant pots, indoor grills and air fryers, all of which can prepare several meals at once.
Using food storage containers with embedded compartments is useful so that portion sizes are kept within the recommended allotment. Food that will be eaten within a few days can be stored in the refrigerator and any additional pre-made food can be stored in the freezer for later in the week. All of this means you have more time to enjoy other aspects of life outside of cooking!
Mitigate your cravings
Pre-cut, wash, and portion fresh vegetables and fruit in small containers so that they are grab-and-go snacks. This tactic helps reduce consumption of high sugar snacks and desserts when cravings come into play.
Got cravings? Eat plain Greek yogurt, which is rich in calcium, protein and probiotics, with one serving of nuts or berries is an option to help with curb your sugar needs. Get single-serving containers of calorie-dense foods like guacamole, hummus or nut butters. It will help you control portions and they are easy to grab when you are on the go.
Don't be too strict with yourself. Extremely restrictive diets and complete avoidance of certain food groups may lead to more cravings and subsequent binging.
Track your food intake
Tracking foods and liquids in an app can help. As you are able to tolerate larger volumes and more diversified foods after surgery, keeping a record of goal calories and protein intake per day will be important. Apple’s Appstore and Google’s Playstore offer many apps for tracking nutrition intake. Talk to your doctor and figure out which one works best for you.
Flavor is great, just avoid the sweets
Using seasonings to flavor food instead of creamy and/or sugar-rich sauces and marinades is the ideal way to add variety to your dishes while limiting calories. It is important, however, to read the ingredient list and limit seasonings that contain added sugar.
Each person has their own unique physiology making weight loss more personal than it already is. If you’re struggling with weight loss, work with a physician to create a personalized approach to managing your weight. These tips, though, can create a solid foundation for you to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Learn more about weight loss surgery options and get an expert’s input to determine if you’re a good candidate for such life-changing procedures.
Cara Tremols is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.
Want more tips on healthy eating?
When it comes to losing weight and turning your health around, small dietary choices can make a big difference.