What should my diet look like after bariatric surgery?

This is one of the top questions that weight loss surgery patients ask, but it’s also one of the hardest ones to answer, because every bariatric team and dietician will have their own variation on this. And some people may need to follow a diet plan that is specifically tailored to their needs.

However, having said that, I thought I’d write down a few guidelines that seem to apply in most cases:

  • Portion size for each meal should be 85 – 170 grams of food. This is avoid stretching out the new stomach pouch. With this size of portion, people might need to have upto 6 meals a day. Some people might be able to eat slightly bigger portions, so might get by on 3 meals a day.
  • Calorie intake should be around 800-1200 calories per day. This is during the weight-loss phase.
  • Protein intake should be around 60-80 grams a day. This is to help guard against muscle loss, and help with feeling fuller and less hungry between meals.
  • Carbohydrate intake should be as low as possible. Some people suggest that the carbohydrate weight should be lower than the protein weight, but that can lead to a fairly restrictive diet.
  • Fat intake should be a minimum of 20 grams a day. This should be mostly unsaturated fats.

The main thing is to keep an eye on portion size. It’s actually really hard to judge the right size of a meal, so it might be worth using some scales or measuring spoons or cups. Also choose side plates to limit the amount of food on the plate.

Aim to have at least 50% of the plate as protein, and try to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible. It’s OK to have a small amount of carbs as well, but these should be limited as they often high in calories but don’t provide much nutrition.

Order of eating

When eating a meal, it’s best to try and eat the different food types on the place in the following order:

  1. Protein
  2. Vegetables
  3. Carbohydrates (Potatoes, Rice, Pasta)

The order is important, as we want to consume the most important food types first, in case we get full and need to stop eating. We start eating the protein first, to feel fuller and protect our muscles. We eat the vegetables second, to get all the healthy vitamins and minerals. We then have the carbs last of all, that is if we’re not feeling full.

Tracking calories, protein, carbs, and fat

The easiest way to find out how many calories, protein, carbs and fat a food has is to check the packaging that the food arrived in. Some restaurants also publish the nutritional information on their menus.

Another way is to use a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal (or other similar apps) that have a huge database of foods and their related nutritional information. I like to use the barcode scanner to help find the correct product quickly and easily. The reports also let me know if I’m hitting my goals.

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