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Now That I've Had Gastric Sleeve Surgery, What Do I Eat?

Michelle is a bariatric patient. She enjoys writing to help educate others about the pros & cons of this life-altering decision.

So You've Had Bariatric Surgery, Now What Do You Eat?

If you're like many bariatric patients, you go through a lengthy pre-operative phase including appointment with a dietician, a psychological evaluation, a medically supervised diet, lab-work and medical testing. Then, you finally get approved by the insurance company for the surgical procedure. Next, you begin your pre-operative diet, which differs by surgeon. Post-operatively you are instructed to sip liquids in very small amounts and to walk every hour or so.

Fast forward to discharge... You are given instructions on advancing to clear liquids. You then transition to full liquids, pureed then soft foods, and eventually regularly textured items while primarily focusing on protein.

If you're like myself and many other bariatric patients, this is where the confusion sets in. You are basically on your own in terms of meal planning. Of course, appetite and portion size are greatly diminished at this stage. Initially it is easy to fill up on something like one egg, a few bites of tuna, etc.

It has been 11 years since I started the process of getting approval for bariatric surgery. (I am a work in progress. If you're curious about my journey through multiple procedures, you can read my article My Roller Coaster Ride Through Weight Loss Surgery So Far). It can get really monotonous eating the same foods all the time. I have spent countless hours researching online forums, blogs, books and picking the brains of fellow patients for ideas of foods to eat. In this article, I will share some high protein foods as well as some of my favorite resources for recipes!

The Bariatric Food Pyramid is a handy reference to help you stay focused on losing weight and being healthy.

The Bariatric Food Pyramid is a handy reference to help you stay focused on losing weight and being healthy.

Healthy Sources of Protein

MeatsDairyNuts & SeedsBeansOther Sources

Beef

Milk

Almonds

Pinto

Egg

Poultry

Cottage Cheese

Walnuts

Kidney

Peas

Pork

Greek Yogurt

Pumpkin Seeds

Chickpeas

Chia Seeds

Fish, Shellfish

Swiss, Colby Jack

Sunflower Seeds

Soybeans

Protein Powders

Why Is Protein So Important Anyway?

Protein is a fundamental component in bodily structures such as blood, cartilage, muscles and bone. It is used to build and repair tissues. Protein plays a major role in both hormone and enzyme production.

It is critical to obtain a suitable intake of protein to meet the body's needs because it is not stored in the body until it is needed. After weight loss surgery, it is imperative to consume sufficient amounts in order to avoid protein deficiency.

Amino acids are the essential building blocks of protein. There are nine essential amino acids which our bodies do not naturally produce and can only be obtained through dietary means. Protein sources should be diverse in order to ensure that all of the amino acids are incorporated into the diet.

Protein shakes and smoothies are quick, easy ways to obtain protein. They can be made with any protein powder you prefer. Spinach is a great source of fiber and vitamins, which adds no flavor to smoothies.

Protein shakes and smoothies are quick, easy ways to obtain protein. They can be made with any protein powder you prefer. Spinach is a great source of fiber and vitamins, which adds no flavor to smoothies.

Now That I Know Some Healthy Protein Sources, How Do I Vary My Diet To Avoid Boredom?

Undergoing bariatric surgery is a body and mind altering process. It is not a quick fix. You will have to focus on protein first foods for LIFE. Otherwise, you will regain what you lose or even fail to reach your health goals in the first place. Food boredom can be a factor in noncompliance with this lifestyle. It is important to vary your diet to keep it interesting and satisfying.

One easy way to vary your daily intake of protein is with the use of spices and sauces to change the flavor of meats. You can use marinades or gravies to moisten the meat, as well as give it new and exciting taste. A plain chicken breast is not as appetizing as a lemon pepper or teriyaki one. Be sure to read food labels and avoid unnecessary sugars as this increases carbohydrate and calorie counts.

Another way to vary your meals is by mixing food groups together in dishes such as casseroles. Carbohydrates are to be used in small quantities, so now some creative thinking comes into play. Faux noodles for Italian recipes can be made from vegetables such as zucchini or spaghetti squash. Shepherd's Pie can be made by substituting mashed cauliflower for potatoes. Ground beef can be added to just about any vegetable along with some heavy cream and cheese then baked til golden brown and delicious!

Eating a myriad of vegetables will help prevent boredom while improving your nutritive status. Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. Cucumber slices and romaine lettuce leaves can be used in place of bread for "sandwiches." Zucchini can be used to make fritters, au gratin, cheesy "breadsticks" and much more! Stir-fried vegetables come in frozen bags with a great variety already chopped together for added convenience.

Chili and vegetable beef soup are both high-protein, low-fat, and easy meals that incorporate both meat and vegetables in one dish.

Crustless Quiches are a great way to use eggs and leftover veggies for quick protein bites.

Crustless Quiches are a great way to use eggs and leftover veggies for quick protein bites.

Here Are Some Websites Where I Have Found Awesome Bariatric-Friendly Recipes!

As I previously mentioned, I have spent a vast amount of time researching bariatric procedures as well as recipes to expand my repertoire. I am listing some of my favorite, most-frequently-referred-to sites, and I hope you find them just as useful as I have. (I am not getting any commission or payment from any of these sites. These are sites that I actually use and recommend!)

  • Bariatric Eating - This website has literally thousands of recipes from breakfast to dessert (No Bake Strawberry Cheese Pie = #swoon). The site is managed by bariatric patients who offer support as well as protein products including powders, protein bars, vitamins and more. They also have a Facebook support page by the same name where you can interact with newbies to seasoned veterans in the bariatric patient universe.
  • Joy Filled Eats - While not strictly bariatric, this site features keto, low-carb, gluten and sugar free options. I found that I love roasted Brussels Sprouts thanks to this site!
  • Low Carb Yum - Dedicated to the low-carb lifestyle, every recipe fits into our dietary needs. Check out their Chili Mac recipe.
  • That Low Carb Life - Cheddar Bacon and Ranch Smothered Chicken... Need I say more?
  • The World According to EggFace - A blog devoted to the post-operative weight loss lifestyle. If you scroll down the left side, there is a search box where you can find recipes. The Crustless Quiche recipes really helped expand my breakfast options.
This is me, before and after bariatric surgery!

This is me, before and after bariatric surgery!

Now that you've read this article, I hope that you've found my tips and resources helpful in your journey towards improved health and wellness. Please feel free to comment below, or look me up on social media. Having a support system is integral to achieve and maintain weight loss after bariatric surgery. I'd love to hear about your weight loss journey! We can do this!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.