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
If you're like most people, you want to work smarter, not harder. We want the path of least resistance. And that’s okay! This is especially true when it comes to meeting your daily protein goal after weight loss surgery. Sure, it can be challenging, but it's not impossible! In this blog post, we will discuss five tips to help you plan better, so you can consistently achieve your protein goals.
1) Plan ahead. If you're having trouble consistently getting what you need, try to plan ahead. This is key! In fact, planning ahead is one of the first things I challenge my clients to practice before surgery. This ensures they are comfortable with the practice of planning for when it’s really vital... After surgery! Meal prepping, in addition to keeping quick and convenient options on hand, can be a tremendous help. Try to use a meal planning calendar and write down 4-6 protein-rich items you can have prepared or ready for you to grab or pack for the day. Then, if you consume all of what you have planned for, you’ve met your protein goal. This will eliminate the stress of having to come up with meals at the last minute or risk not having quality options available when you need them.
2) Know your goal. Before you tackle the first tip, it's important to know what your protein needs are. You should be provided with detailed information about this before and following surgery from your surgery team and dietitian. You generally want to aim for at least 60g of protein per day. This number can vary, and some people may need more depending on their weight, age, gender, or activity level. Knowing this ahead of time makes it easier to plan meals and snacks that meet those requirements.
3) Snack away. Forget everything you’ve heard about snacking as being bad (we’re not talking about mindless snacking which of course you’ll want to avoid). In fact, snacking can be a great way to add variety to your diet. After WLS, it can be hard to get all the protein you need each day in just three meals, so adding healthy snacks is a great way to make sure your body is getting all of the essential nutrients it needs. It's recommended you have small and frequent meals so that you also do not compromise the capacity of your stomach or alter the behavior of your hunger hormones which can occur if having larger and infrequent meals. Don't leave too much time between meals or snacks, and aim to have something every three hours.
In the beginning, you may be eating or sipping your meals more frequently. Going beyond this time frame can affect your blood sugar, leave you feeling low on energy, cause nausea from acid production from an empty stomach, or result in you not meeting your calorie needs for the day. Remember, snacks don’t have to be entirely different choices from your main meals, as you may need to finish that main meal if you were unable to at that time. You can easily add a protein supplement like a ready-to-drink shake, protein smoothies, protein bars, or protein waters to get that extra boost. After all, that’s what they’re there for!
4) Keep it interesting. Don't be afraid to get creative with your meals! Many people think that eating healthy means having boring meals, but that doesn't have to be the case. There are plenty of delicious and nutritious recipes out there that can help you meet your protein needs without sacrificing flavor and enjoyment of foods. Utilize bariatric cookbooks, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest for some interesting and healthy ideas that can be satisfying for your entire household or just you alone. Also remember you are not eating any type of special foods after surgery so don’t make it complicated. Ensure you choose healthy options you can tolerate and keep the guilty pleasures to a minimum.
5) Speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you're feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty meeting your protein goals, talk to a bariatric dietitian. They can provide personalized advice, recipes, sample meal plans, and guidance to help you reach your goals.
Following these tips can make meeting your protein goals a lot easier. With the right planning and preparation, you'll be well on your way to reaching your protein goals in no time. It gets easier as you practice, and soon, you’ll feel like a pro!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.