#44 How to Eat for the Long Haul after Bariatric Surgery, Part 2

bariatric surgery success podcast beyond bariatric surgery podcast

HOST: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell 

Did you know that not all protein sources are alike? Some are better choices than others if you’ve had  bariatric surgery. In part two of eating for the long haul after bariatric surgery, let’s talk about five more specific tips that can make a difference in the success of your journey.

Hi, I’m registered dietitian nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell. You’re listening to the Bariatric Surgery Success podcast episode number 44. In part one of eating for the long haul, we talked about focusing on small bites, eating only until comfortably full versus stuffed, dividing your meals and total calories, keeping yourself accountable and eating protein first. 

Did you notice that a number of our tips in part one deal with being mindful and paying attention to details you may have ignored before? These tips work for everyone, not just if you’ve had surgery, even your family members. They’re strategies for building and keeping a healthy lifestyle. And remember, don’t think of the way you eat as a diet. It’s really a bariatric lifestyle of making behavior changes and tweaks in what you choose to eat so that you prevent weight regain, eat good food that the whole family can enjoy and make sure you don’t feel deprived. Real food, not diet food. 

Tip #6 Let’s do a deeper dive on protein. Not all protein sources are alike. Protein is made up of amino acids which are often called the building blocks of protein. There are nine essential amino acids we need from food. After bariatric surgery, your primary goal is to get high quality protein sources with these nine amino acids so that you meet your nutritional needs. Your need for quality protein is and always will be high while your need for calories is lower. There are many good protein sources from plants but because of your need for high quality protein with all nine amino acids and with lower calories and less carbs, animal-based proteins such as seafood and fish, poultry, beef, pork, eggs and dairy along with plant-based soy protein are better choices. These high quality protein sources are known as complete proteins because they contain all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs in the right amounts. Don’t miss those last four words…in the right amounts.

Plant-based proteins such as lentils, split peas, beans including pinto, black or kidney and nuts and seeds are considered to be incomplete proteins, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that your body needs. Yes, they contain protein but are higher in carbs although they do contain the type of carbs you want called complex carbs with fiber. Nuts and seeds are high in fat, but heart healthy fat typically. What to do? You can still work them in your diet as they are so nutritious but with a close eye on portion size and grams of carbs. Think of the protein in them as a bonus to the complex carb and fiber.

Tip # 7: For every 100 calories you eat, a minimum of 10 grams or 10% should come from lean, high quality protein sources. For example, let’s say you drink a protein shake with 200 calories. It should contain how many grams of protein? 20 at a minimum or 10 grams per 100 calories. So if the drink has 25 grams of protein, you would be in good shape. 

Tip #8: Ditch the grazing. You know what I mean. Picking up food to munch on it just because. Because it’s a bad day, someone was a jerk at work and made you mad, your favorite TV show is on, or some person made a rude remark that upset you. Unfortunately in this world, these things probably won’t stop happening so how you respond becomes much more important. What matters is you and your success…period. The problem with grazing for all of us (or emotional eating as I call it) is that we tend to feel even worse after we eat to cover our emotions. Plus what do you typically graze on? Not lean chicken or tuna but more likely chips or ice cream or some type of candy. Finding another outlet that doesn’t involve food is critical. Read a book, take a shower, walk, call a friend, just don’t graze or emotionally eat. 

Tip #9: Choose smart carbs and limit the total grams per day to 90-130 depending on how far out from surgery you are and what your dietitian suggests. Often at six months out, the carb suggestion will be around 90 grams a day working up to 130 grams over one year down the track. However this can vary with the surgery so a carb discussion with your dietitian is one to put on your list. Smart carbs mean vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and lentils that contain fiber and are referred to as complex carbs versus refined or empty-calories carbs that we mentioned above in grazing. You know the ones, the goodies we tend to reach for under stress. 

Tip #10 Focus on fluids to stay hydrated and to help prevent constipation. Do you remember your fluid needs? At least eight cups 64 ounces or 2 liters. And when? Before and after meals, not at the same time.

I know this seems like a lot to learn but you’ll get it in no time. Think of it for what it is…healthy eating with a bariatric spin on it to go the long haul. Be good to yourself. You’re worth it.


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