The fifth and final phase bariatric patients progress through after surgery is the regular bariatric diet. We’ve already examined clear and full liquids, as well as pureed and soft foods. Your new normal starts now. It’s important to go slow, as your new stomach needs time to adjust to foods. You have the rest of your life to experiment and see which foods work with your stomach and which may not. Protein is king now, and you’ll chew your foods well. I’ve also provided some recipes for meals I eat regularly now. Being able to eat a regular bariatric diet means you focus on protein and stay hydrated.
Purpose of the Regular Bariatric Diet
The purpose of the regular bariatric diet is to establish a new normal eating pattern. Often, obesity leads us to eating food too quickly and eating too many calories. Surgery gives you chance to start over, reestablish how you eat and what you eat. Your stomach is now ready for solid foods, as you have been prepping it with liquids, purees and soft foods. It’s okay to try new foods now, but go slowly. Your stomach may not like certain foods, especially when you’re only a few months post-op.
As you start to explore what your new stomach can handle and how well you tolerate certain foods, you’ll want to take note of any signs of fullness. Some people belch, hiccup or even sneeze when they get full. Pay attention to your body, and stop eating at the first sign of fullness. Stopping when you are full will prevent any uncomfortable feeling that comes with overeating. I find that overeating as a sleeve patient is far more uncomfortable and sometimes painful than it was before surgery. I see it as a blessing because it keeps me in check to avoid that feeling.
Protein is King!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: protein is king! It is so important for bariatric patients, as it’s a nutrient our bodies can’t produce or store on its own. According to Penn Medicine, a patient should get at least 60 to 80 grams of protein a day. Always start your meals and snacks by eating protein first. There are several reasons we eat protein first, including:
- Aids in proper wound healing
- Helps burn fat instead of muscle
- Keeps hair, skin and nails strong
- Provides energy to the body
- Keeping your muscle mass helps lessen loose skin
It’s so important to eat your protein first. Because our stomachs are much smaller, we have to make sure we meet our protein goals each day. If you decide to eat your carbs and vegetables first, you’re likely going to get full before you can get to your protein. You’re missing an opportunity to consume the protein you need. For this reason, it’s important to eat your protein first. It’s okay to leave food on your plate. Our stomachs are much smaller, so save anything you can’t eat for the next meal.
Tips for the Regular Bariatric Diet
There are several strategies you can use to help you adjust to your new regular bariatric diet. A lot of the strategies are ones we’ve discussed in the previous phases, however, they are good techniques worth repeating. As your new life starts, you’re going to have to learn to adopt these techniques for optimal success with your bariatric lifestyle.
The first tip is to always remember to chew well. Your stomach opening is much smaller now, so food needs to be chewed extremely well to pass through. I always know if I haven’t chewed well enough because it’s physically painful! It’s very uncomfortable, so chewing well with every bite is the first tip.
Avoid Drinking with Meals
Secondly, don’t drink with your meals. Wait 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after your meal to drink water. Again, this technique has to do with the size of our stomachs. We need to consume that protein, and if we fill our bellies with liquids, we won’t be able to meet our protein goals. Drinking too soon after eating washes the foods through your stomach, so you don’t feel full for as long. Since you are chewing your food well, you won’t feel the need for much liquid while you’re eating. I also find it painful to drink too soon after eating. Therefore, your second tip is to wait 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after your meals to drink.
Your third tip is to eat your protein first, then your vegetables and then your fruit or carbohydrates. The reason for this tip is because as we’ve discussed we need to eat protein first to make sure that we are consuming enough. Eating your vegetables second fills you with fiber and helps you stay fuller longer. If you are still hungry, eat either your fruit or carbs. Fruit and carbs both turn into sugar once we start digesting them, so try not to have both at a meal. I find if I eat too many carbs, I gain weight. I try to avoid carbs, but if I do have them, it’s always whole-grains. So your third tip is to eat in the proper order to ensure you’re using your tool properly.
Lastly, your fourth tip is to drink water, and drink some more water. Find ways to consume water, like adding a flavor enhancer or a lemon or lime wedge. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to drink. It’s so easy to get dehydrated after surgery, as a lot of the time you just don’t feel like drinking. However, it’s important that you maintain a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day. It helps flush out toxins and prevents dehydration. Therefore, your last tip is to drink water.
Regular Bariatric Diet Recipes
Cooking really starts to be fun again at this phase. It’s almost a game to see how much protein I can squeeze into a meal while still being delicious. The following recipes are five of my go-to’s, and I have them quite often. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Chicken Crust Pizza
- 3 4.5 oz cans chicken breast packed in water
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese part-skim
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- favorite pizza toppings
- Preheat oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit. Place parchment paper over cookie sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- Open the cans of chicken and drain the water. Place in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
- Add 1 egg
- Add seasonings
- Mix well with hands. Pour mixture onto parchment paper, and spread as thin as possible without creating holes. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Top with 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Add your favorite pizza toppings. Bake for 10 to 15 more minutes.
- Once the cheese is melted and slightly golden brown, let rest for a few minutes. Cut into 8 slices and enjoy!
Poor Man’s Cheesesteak
- 1 pound ground beef, turkey or chicken (Your choice)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 8 oz mushrooms canned or fresh
- 1 small red pepper, diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Add ground meat to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes
- Remove skillet from heat. Place meat into a bowl or plate and set aside.
- Add oil to skillet. When hot, add onions and cook until they start to caramelize, about 5 minutes
- Add mushrooms and peppers to the onions. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until veggies are soft
- Add cooked meat back into pan. Toss with the veggies well to combine
- Turn down the heat and add the tomato sauce. Stir well to combine
- Add the mozzarella cheese on top and place cover on pan. Remove from heat and let cheese melt, about two to three minutes.
- Divide into servings and enjoy straight from the bowl!
Chicken Zoodle Alfredo
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1/4 cup water or chicken broth
- 16 oz Zucchini Noodles Or 2-3 large zucchinis, spiraled at home
- 1 16 oz jar reduced-fat Alfredo sauce
- 2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese Plus extra for topping
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. While it heats, season both sides of the chicken tenders with salt, pepper, paprika and Italian seasoning
- Carefully place the chicken tenders in the hot skillet. It should sizzle. If it doesn't sizzle, let it heat some more.
- Cook the chicken until it's golden brown and the sides are white. Flip the chicken and cook on other side until golden brown and cooked through. Add a little water if it gets too dry.
- Remove the chicken from the pan. Reduce the heat. Add the water (or broth) and scrape the bottom of the pan to get up bits that may have stuck.
- Add the spiraled zucchini to the pan. Saute for a few moments to soften slightly.
- Add the chicken back to the pan. Pour in the Alfredo sauce and stir well to combine. Allow the sauce to heat up thoroughly, stirring often.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and stir well.
- Serve with extra Parmesan cheese on top.
- 1/2 pound bacon or turkey bacon, diced, about 8 slices or breakfast meat of choice
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced canned or fresh
- 6 eggs large or extra-large
- 1/4 cup non-fat milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup Colby cheese or cheese of choice
- Heat a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the bacon or turkey bacon and cook through, about seven minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
- Pour the excess grease away, but don't wipe pan. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and stir occasionally until it starts to soften, about five minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until vegetables are soften, about three to five minutes.
- Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk together. Add the milk and whisk well.
- Add the bacon back to the pan. Pour the eggs over top of the bacon and vegetable mixture. Move around in the pan frequently. You want the eggs to cook, but not get brown.
- Flip the eggs to cook the other side. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheese on top, cover with a lid, and remove from heat.
- Let the cheese melt for a few minutes. Divide into servings.
Italian Sub Roll-Ups
- 2 Slices Salami
- 2 Slices Capicola Ham
- 2 Slices Provolone Cheese
- Drizzle of Italian Dressing
- 2 tsp sweet peppers divided
- Place one slice of salami, one slice of ham, and one slice of cheese on top of each other.
- Drizzle with a little Italian dressing and 1 tsp sweet peppers
- Roll up into a log. Insert toothpick in center to keep together.
- Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Stay focused on consuming protein and eating 60 to 80 grams each day. Keep drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day to avoid dehydration. Chew extremely well and try only one new food at at time to see how your body handles it. It can take some time for our bodies to adjust to certain foods, so if it doesn’t agree with you the first time, try again in a few months. Being able to eat a regular bariatric diet means you focus on protein and stay hydrated. You’ll eat this way for the rest of your life, so learn to get creative and enjoy your new tool. I believe in you!
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1. Our bodies can’t produce or store protein
2. Aids in proper wound healing
3. Helps burn fat instead of muscle
4. Keeps hair, skin and nails strong
5. Provides energy to the body
6. More muscle mass means less loose skin