Busy Schedule Got You Slacking on Your Protein? Try These Hacks!

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

There's nothing quite like the feeling of being hangry (hungry and angry) after weight loss surgery. And don’t forget about your daily protein goal. But, when you're on the go and prepping meals isn't exactly an option, it can be tough to find satisfying protein sources that won't sabotage your progress. Fear not; I've got some delicious, easy, and most importantly, QUICK protein choices that will keep your hunger at bay and help you to stay consistent in meeting that daily protein goal!

1) Tuna packets. Tuna is a great option to help sneak in a good amount of protein on the go! The most convenient option is tuna packets which come in various delicious flavors; ranch, Thai chili, lemon pepper, buffalo, you name it. Each pack provides at least 15g of protein and is relatively low in calories. The best part is that you can eat it straight out of the package or add it to fresh greens to make a healthy protein-packed salad.

2) Hard-boiled eggs. Looking for a super easy, nutritious, and versatile option? What about budget-friendly? Look no further than the hard-boiled egg! Tossing these oh-so-easy snacks into a mini cooler makes it simple for on-the-go snacking. Plus, pairing them with fruits or veggies gives you that double whammy of healthy complex carbs and fiber goodness. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! But it might be worth it to know that one egg provides 6g of protein which is not necessarily significant in helping meet your daily goals, but don’t let that deter you. Just ensure you have other high-protein choices planned throughout the day.

3) Protein shakes. If you’re reading this after WLS, you may think, “I am so sick of protein shakes”. I’ve heard it countless times. I get it – things become old news once you’ve had them for so long. But if you’re ready to give them another chance or just ready for a change-up from the ones you’ve had in the past, there are plenty more to try. Trust me. It’s worth it! Protein shakes are so accessible and convenient. Not to mention, they're low in calories and high in protein, making them perfect for WLS patients. And don’t forget the added vitamins and minerals most offer. The best part? You can buy them ready to drink or make one on your own in under five minutes – all you need is a scoop of protein powder, plant-based milk, and a blender. For the best bang for your buck (or calorie for your allowance), choose a protein supplement with at least 15g. For a bonus, look for one with at least 3g of fiber!

4) Kefir. If you haven’t tried kefir yet, now is the time! Often, it’s referred to as the “champagne of milk” due to its effervescence. Kefir is a fermented, lactose-free milk product that provides a significant amount of protein (around 10g or more) per serving while offering excellent gut health and digestion benefits. Keep a bottle in the fridge and pour it into a to-go bottle before heading out of the house or use it in your protein shakes if blending yourself. You can find kefir in various flavors, but plain is the lowest in added sugars. Remember, milk sugars are naturally occurring, so just aim to keep the added sugars low when making your choice.

5) Protein bars. Protein bars are a great option if you want something convenient that offers a substantial amount of protein. Personally, I’m pretty obsessed with them as an option for a late-night, guilt-free sweet treat. Not only are they loaded with protein, but they also come in various flavors and textures to suit every palate. Just be sure to check the label for sugar content, as some varieties can be surprisingly high in carbs. If your bar is plant-based, keep in mind it will likely be higher in carbs. But it will also be higher in fiber, which is a great reason to try plant-based. (We could all use a little help in the fiber department). Aim for one with at least 15g of protein; if you can find one with at least 4g of fiber, you have a winner!

6) Nut mixes. Nuts are a delicious and satisfying snack suitable for any time of the day. Almonds, cashews, and pistachios are excellent sources of protein, healthy fats, and dietary fiber. Often, you can find pre-portioned packs for convenience, but you’ll likely save a few bucks if you make your own mixes and divide them into portion-controlled containers yourself. Consume them in moderation as they're high in calories due to their fat content. But remember, it’s the healthy fats we need! Also, be aware trail mixes can be high in added sugars if they include dried fruit or pieces of chocolate. Aim for a nut-only mix that offers at least 7g of protein per serving.

7) Jerky. Beef jerky, turkey jerky, even salmon jerky – whatever your preference, jerky is an excellent option for a high-protein snack on the go, offering a significant amount of protein at around 10g or more per serving. It's lightweight, non-perishable, has a long shelf-life, and can be toted around easily, making it an easy choice! And talk about delicious flavors! Salty, sweet, spicy, whatever your preference, you’ll likely find something you love!

8) Yogurt. With its high protein content and tolerability, Greek yogurt is a go-to favorite for many post-WLS patients. It’s also super convenient and affordable! When it comes to yogurt, there are so many options to choose from in terms of flavors which makes them the ultimate sweet tooth fixer! Do you like lemon icebox pie? Key lime pie? Try a lemon or lime-flavored yogurt and top it with whipped cream! You’ll thank me later. For the lactose-intolerant crowd, there are also plant-based yogurt options available. Just be sure your yogurt has at least – or near – 7g protein per serving to get your calories worth and to help with your protein goal. And as always, watch out for the added sugars.

If you're looking to prevent deficiencies and improve your overall post-WLS nutrition, check out our 3 different multivitamin formulas designed to meet patients' changing needs and preferences after surgery:

While eating on the go can be frustrating after weight loss surgery, it's not impossible. With some creativity and planning, you can find quick and easy protein sources to keep you satisfied and on track with your weight loss goals. Remember to keep your protein intake in mind when choosing snacks, and opt for options that are low in sugar and easily portable. And most importantly, avoid the temptation to reach for high-carb, processed snacks like chips or candy. Your post-surgery body will thank you for it!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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