Tricks to Getting Enough Protein after Bariatric Surgery
Protein is an essential nutrient for anyone looking to maintain a healthy weight. Too often, we don’t get enough protein; or we get enough protein, but we eat too much of the other bad stuff that goes with it. After any surgery, eating enough protein is helpful for a quicker recovery. It is particularly important after bariatric surgery when caloric intake is very limited, especially in the first few months after surgery. The typical bariatric patient needs between 60 and 80 grams of protein every day. However, with 70 to 80% of the stomach not receiving food after a sleeve or bypass procedure, is becomes truly difficult, if not impossible, to get that from regular food alone.
On the flipside, not getting enough protein usually leads to over-eating, loss of lean muscle mass and generally longer recovery with a greater chance of complications. Protein really is the key to the postoperative bariatric diet.
How do we make sure we get enough protein?
Protein comes in many forms — even some poor dietary choices such as processed foods or fatty meats may have a good amount of protein. So, how do we make sure that we have the right proteins while also sticking to our weight-loss diet?
- First, any breads or other grain-based foods should be whole-grain. Not fortified or enriched white bread, or even multi grain – unless the multi-grains are also true whole-grain like whole wheat, whole oats etc. Whole grains contain protein which help fill you up and make those carbs work for you, rather than detract from the diet.
- Beans and legumes are a great source of protein, and when prepared properly, offer real nutritional value, as well. Chickpeas, green peas, lentils, are just a few that offer excellent nutrition along with good protein.
- Lean cuts of beef, skinless white chicken, turkey and especially seafood can pack a delicious and healthy protein punch. Be sure not to dress your lean meats with tons of salt or sauce as that will mitigate its benefits.
How you eat and drink will make the biggest difference in whether you get enough protein or not. How?
- Don’t drink anything at least 30-45 minutes before, during your meal and about 30 minutes after your meal.
- Eat your protein such as eggs, lean meat, beans, cottage cheese before anything else in your meal.
- Don’t wait until you are extremely hungry. Extreme hunger will tempt you to snack on things that are not healthy for you.
- Bonus substitution tip! Replace your regular yogurt with Greek yogurt which can more than double your protein intake (up to 20g) per serving
So, it is important to remember that protein is the key building block to a successful post-operative lifestyle. Take a minute each day to think about the protein that you will be consuming – make sure it is lean and healthy and conforms to your bariatric lifestyle. Then be sure that you are getting your recommended protein levels each and every day to optimize your weight loss and keep you strong and on track toward your goals. Of course, if you ever have any questions about protein, or any other nutritional considerations, we encourage you to contact us at any time.