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What to Look for in a Recipe for Bariatric Surgery Patients

Whether you are considering bariatric surgery or have already had it, you could probably benefit from preparing and eating more meals at home. This can be a struggle if you have never considered yourself a “cook”, but planning ahead can make achieving this goal a lot easier.

Having a collection of bariatric friendly recipes is key. There are plenty of cookbooks, blogs and Pinterest boards full of recipes and inspiration. All of these resources can feel overwhelming, but the following tips can guide you in determining if a recipe is right for you. Get ready to try new foods, experiment with flavors and spices, and remember to always focus on protein!

Tip #1: Try new things!

Before you have surgery is a good time to start your recipe collection. Borrowing cookbooks from the library and trying different recipes can be very helpful. Make note of what you like, what phase of the bariatric diet it would be most appropriate for, and how easy it was to prepare.

Cooking for a family with a lot of different tastes? Get them in on the action! Have each person choose one new thing to try from your collection of after–bariatric surgery recipes.  Don’t worry if some recipes are described as being geared towards a specific surgery.  In many cases, a recipe said to be appropriate for the gastric sleeve will still work for the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Tip #2: Find familiar tastes in new ways

Often people say they don’t feel hungry after surgery, but that doesn’t mean a craving doesn’t hit every now and again. Sometimes a craving for a “not so great choice” can be satisfied with a healthy alternative.  As an example, if you find yourself craving pizza, making something that has flavors in common with pizza could help.  

Playing with spices is a great way to explore new tastes. Spices can produce bold flavors without adding calories. Don’t be afraid of bariatric friendly recipes that use spices that you are not familiar with. Before surgery is a great time to experiment and try new things. Find recipes that will give you options after bariatric surgery.  

Tip #3: Protein, protein, protein is critical to bariatric recipes

After meeting with your care providers, you have probably heard a lot about the importance of getting enough protein. Your focus after surgery should be on the protein content of each bariatric recipe. We encourage people to add protein to every meal and snack. Before surgery is a good time to start making this a habit. Look for bariatric surgery recipes that showcase protein.

Remember, protein doesn’t always mean meat. Explore other foods that are high in protein such as Greek style yogurts (be sure to keep the Sugars to ≤ 15 gm), cottage cheese, natural peanut and nut butters, egg-based dishes, and a variety of high-protein whole grains such as quinoa. In a lot of cases, you can turn a recipe into a bariatric friendly recipe with the right protein substitute.  We recommend our patients aim for 60-80 grams of protein per day. Using that range as a guide can help you decide if the recipe will offer you the amount of protein you need to meet your goal.

Protein Powder

In the first few weeks after surgery, full liquids, puree and soft foods are recommended .  As you can imagine, getting enough protein in these bariatric recipes can be a challenge. It is not unusual to need to supplement your diet with protein powder. Finding bariatric recipes with pleasing flavors can help when you add a protein supplement powder. We suggest our patients find a high quality whey protein isolate powder that is unflavored. Ask your care providers for a list of suggested protein powders that they or other patients have used.  With an unflavored protein powder you can mix it into just about everything! This is a great way to ensure you are getting your recommended grams of protein in every day right from the start.  

Most importantly, have fun! Be adventurous when trying new foods and flavors. After weight loss surgery, eating can feel like a chore. You can resist that feeling by putting some fun into your routine. Enjoy finding new bariatric friendly recipes, get you family and friends in on the action, experiment with unique flavors and remember to always focus on the protein!


Author: Danielle Meyer, MS RD CSO

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