Bariatric surgery requires making significant changes to your diet and lifestyle. Because you will be eating less food after your surgery, it’s important to choose foods that will provide the nutrients you need for healing and overall health. Protein is particularly important for bariatric surgery patients. After surgery, you may find you have difficulty digesting common protein-rich foods such as meat or chicken and may need to seek out different sources of protein.
The Importance of Protein
Immediately following surgery, consuming adequate amounts of protein can help promote healing, prevent infection and keep you from losing muscle mass as you lose weight. Protein is also needed for hair, bone and nail growth. A lack of protein in your diet can lead to hair loss, brittle nails, fluid retention and a weakened immune system. Protein also has the most dramatic effect on satiety, according to Joan Salge Blake, author of “Nutrition & You,” so eating high-protein meals and snacks can help keep you feeling full longer.
Immediately following surgery, you will be on a liquid diet, but you should still aim for 60 g of protein a day. Good sources of protein during this period include skim or 1% milk, Greek yogurt (plain, lemon or vanilla), small curd cottage cheese, diet pudding. As you begin to eat more solid foods, gradually work your way up to approximately 80 to 100 g of protein a day. According to the UCLA Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program, your individual protein goal should be 1.1 to 1.5 g per 2.2 lbs. of your ideal body weight. For example, if your ideal body weight is 150 lbs., your daily protein requirements would be 75 to 102 g. Keep a daily food journal to make sure that you are consuming enough protein.
As you progress to puree or semi-soft and solid foods be sure to include a good source of protein in every meal and choose protein-rich foods as snacks. Always eat the protein first to make sure you don’t get too full from other foods. Try to get most of your protein from whole food sources, such as chicken, seafood and low-fat dairy products. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans, hummus and certain vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach. Try snacking on lump crab meat, string cheese or low-sodium deli meat. You may need to experiment to find out which protein sources work best for you. For example, some bariatric patients can tolerate hard-boiled eggs, but not scrambled eggs.
Bariatric patients often rely on protein shakes to meet their daily protein needs. If you consume protein shakes, choose products that are high in protein and low in sugar. Also keep your protein to carbohydrate ratio to no more than 3:1. For example, no more than 5 g of carbohydrate in a protein shake that contains 15 g of protein.