how many calories per day should a bariatric client eat ?
“Counting Calories is Fun” …. said no one ever.
This is one of the questions which I get asked every day from bariatric clients who are starting their journey but also from bariatric clients who are years post op. Let’s break it down and get into it so that you have a good idea where you should be in the very beginning and years after surgery.
The very first thing that we need to remember is that the goal of the post op nutritional plan is to optimize the very tiny portions of food which you will be consuming in order to get what your body needs to heal and to be healthy. In the beginning you will find that your portion size will be about 2 to 4 ounces and you will feel full or satisfied with this meal or snack. As time passes, your post operative swelling will diminish and you will be able to consume 4 to 6 ounces of food. It’s the type of foods that you consume that will support weight loss or hinder it.
Let’s Talk Protein – the big macronutrient.
Post bariatric surgery, the most important nutrient will be protein. You will focus on the protein content of food and eat those first. The best sources of proteins are going to be eggs, fish, chicken, meat, milk and cheese. You can also find protein in lentils and beans. Right after surgery it can be difficult for clients to digest red meat / pork, veal, lamb so choose the cuts that are the most tender. If you are having trouble hitting your protein goals, you can use a supplement like this one – Plant Protein You are aiming for 50 to 80 grams per day of protein. That’s your target. You won’t hit it in the beginning but you will work up to it with time and effort.
Carbohydrates can be found in fruits and vegetables. They don’t need to be found in the form of bread, pasta, rice, tortillas and crackers. Stay away from the refined ones and stick to the fresh ones. The refined ones can also be a food trigger for clients so keeping them out of your diet is the best way to avoid overeating carbohydrates. Try to include a serving of low carb vegetables in eat meal/ snack – such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, arugula. For every bite of protein, include a bite of vegetables. Chew a lot and slow down – take your time. Set a timer and what you cannot eat in 20 minutes, you can set aside for later.
The right kinds of fats help increase satiety, protect your health, maximize the metabolism and improve fat-soluble vitamin uptake. Don’t be fat phobic but choose the correct types of fats. Eat small amount coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and grass fed butter. Fat tastes good and it’s good for you.
So trying to decide how many calories you should actually be eating or drinking post bariatric surgery is difficult to estimate. On average a post op client will be consuming 800 to 1200 calories but every client recovers differently and those amounts are going to change with time and as well with weight loss. Patients who exercise post surgery will also be able to consume more calories while having the scale move in the right direction. The portion sizes will increase after the surgery and this is completely normal. Post operative swelling goes down and more space is made available in the new stomach.
Most clients go into the surgery with a “dieters dilemma or mentality” where they are constantly counting their calories and what we try to do is to shift away from that mentality and try to focus more on satiety levels and how the foods make us feel. Focusing on the quality of foods will be more important than the quantity of them. I like to say “eat to your appetite and not to a schedule”. Think about the reasons you are hungry and are they real hunger signals or is it coming from a place of boredom or nervousness ? The bariatric procedure is not the beginning of a new diet, it is the beginning of a new lifestyle. This new lifestyle should include include vegetables, and lean proteins, fruit, dairy and wholegrain. It should not include any refined food or processed foods that have labels – apples don’t come with labels and neither do avocados. See what I mean ?
Do you count calories ? Do you count macronutrients ? What is it that you do to break your plateaus or maintain your goal weight ? I would love to hear how you do it ! comment below 😉
About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery patients for over a decade and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.
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