One of the first things you’ll learn about the bariatric process is that protein is king. After surgery, you’ll eat protein before any other type of food. It’s for good reason too. Protein not only helps your body heal, but it also helps your body have the energy to function. You can find protein in a variety of sources, including plants, dairy and meat. You may wonder how to eat more protein to prepare for bariatric surgery. Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! One of the first habits you should change before bariatric surgery is eating your protein first.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of protein, I want to first talk about the pre-op bariatric process. For many people, the bariatric-surgery process takes three months to a year to complete. You have doctor appointments, tests, clearances and maybe have a weight loss requirement. Each program and insurance company requires different things, so it’s hard to say exactly what you’ll need. If you are serious about having this bariatric surgery, I want to challenge you to start changing some habits now while you’re pre-op.
There are several reasons why I suggest changing your habits now before surgery. First off, when I was going through the pre-op journey, I started changing my habits. I believe I was able to stick to my lifestyle changes and turn them into habits after surgery because I did so much work before surgery. So by developing these habits now, you’re setting yourself up for success after surgery.
Believe me, surgery is stressful enough on your body. You just had your insides rearranged, and it can take some to adjust. Meanwhile, your hormones go crazy, and you often feel like you’re on a rollercoaster of emotions. It will be so much easier to cement these bariatric habits now without the wave of hormones causing havoc to your mind and body.
The final reason I’m going to mention is that many of these habits will help you lose weight. The less you weigh at surgery, the fewer the chance for complications. Even if weight loss isn’t a requirement for you, it’s in your best interest to try to lose a little weight before surgery.
How to Eat More Protein
Now that we’ve discussed why it’s important to make changes while you’re pre-op, let’s talk about a habit that’s going to sustain you well for the rest of your life: how to eat more protein. Protein should always be the main star of your plate. I like to call protein the king because it takes precedence over every other type of food on your plate. One way you can eat more protein is by eating your protein first. This ensures that you get the protein you need before you get too full. After bariatric surgery you can only eat very little, so you have to make the most of it by eating protein first. If you start with your vegetables or carbohydrates, you may not be able to finish your protein. For this reason, eating your protein first ensures you eat more protein.
A second way to eat more protein is to drink it! Yes, protein shakes are quite popular these days. My favorite protein shakes are from Bariatric Advantage. I love the company and the flavors of their high protein meal replacement nutritional drinks the best. When choosing a protein shake, it’s best to use a whey protein isolate versus a whey protein concentrate. While isolates are processed further, they contain less fat and more protein per serving. Also, check the fat and sugar content of your protein shakes. Those with too high fat and/or sugar can make you sick after surgery.
A third way to eat more protein is to replace your lower-protein snacks with higher protein ones. Things like chips and pretzel may be good to munch on, but they don’t provide the protein you need. Try low-sugar Greek yogurt, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs or fruit with peanut butter instead. You’ll decrease the number of simple carbs from your diet plus boost your protein intake at the same time.
Why Protein is King
King Protein is here! Yes, I refer to protein as the king because it’s the focus of every meal and snack I eat. It takes precedence over every other type of food I eat. But why is it so important? Well, there are several reasons. According to the Skinny Ms. Web site, protein reduces excess body fat, builds muscle, increases satiety, boosts metabolism and aids in recovery. Whew. Who knew protein did so much? To put it simply, protein will boost your weight loss.
Additionally, Healthline describes the biological process protein has on your body. They state that protein increases PYY, which is a hormone that makes you feel full. So the more PYY in your body, the less hungry you’ll be. Protein also decreases ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes you feel hungry. I always think of it as a little Gremlin monster in my stomach demanding food. Protein reduces the ghrelin, making you less hungry.
For bariatric surgery patients especially, protein is especially important. As Virtua Health explains after bariatric surgery protein helps with proper wound healing and helps the body function. Protein helps strengthen your hair, skin, nails and bones. It also supports metabolism and helps burn fat instead of muscle. As you can tell, eating your protein is super important and one of the best habits you can start before surgery.
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Sources of Plant Protein
When people think of protein, they typically think of meats, but I was surprised to learn how many plants contain protein. While you’ll probably get more bang for your buck by eating meat-based protein, plant-based protein is a good option for increasing your intake with a variety of foods. Some examples of plant protein are:
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- Chia seeds
- Oat bran
Sources of Dairy Protein
Dairy protein is also a very popular way to get protein. Pretty much anything made with milk will have some sort of protein in it. Pro tip – Add powdered milk to sauces and soups to boost the protein content. Also, I am a cheese lover, so eating any form of cheese to get my protein is perfectly fine with me! Some sources of dairy protein include:
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Egg whites
- Cheddar cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Protein ice cream
- Laughing Cow cheese
- Swiss cheese
Sources of Meat Protein
Now typically when people think of protein, they think of steak and chicken. Meat protein seems to be the most popular type of protein, as it’s readily available, can be prepared a variety of ways, and packs a lot of protein in a small amount. Plus, if you add it to some dairy- or plant-based proteins, you’re going to meet your protein goal for the day. Some examples of meat-based protein are:
- Chicken breast
- Chicken thighs
- Ground turkey
- Ground beef
- Ground chicken
- Canned fish
Eat More Protein!
The answer to how to eat more protein is to eat protein first. Make sure all of your meals and snacks start with protein. Protein helps your body heal after surgery and encourages it to burn fat instead of muscle. It keeps your hair, skin, nails and bones strong and healthy. You can find protein in a variety of plant, dairy and meat sources. One of the first habits you should change before bariatric surgery is eating protein first. This will ensure you are used to having protein as your first food at a meal and can continue that habit after surgery.
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Eat more protein by first making sure you’re eating protein first. Before you devour the carbohydrates or vegetables on your plate, make sure you’ve eaten your protein. Second, supplement your protein intake with protein shakes. Just watch that they aren’t high in sugar or fat. Third, increase your protein intake by substituting protein-packed foods, like cheese, nuts or beef jerky for other snacks like chips, pretzels or cookies.