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Nutrition and Diet Guidelines: Two Months Before Surgery

Because bariatric surgery changes your anatomy, it will require you to develop healthy habits that last a lifetime if you want to maintain weight loss. The sooner you start, the more prepared you’ll be for surgery, recovery, and the rest of your post-operative journey.

Start with these simple changes:

  • Eat your meals slowly, taking 20 – 30 minutes to finish. This keeps your portions in check and allows you to enjoy your food more.
  • Eat a small, protein- and fiber-rich meal or snack every three to four hours to stabilize blood sugar, maintain energy, and prevent overeating.
  • Don’t eat while watching TV, driving, or using electronic devices, which can result in mindless eating. When you limit distractions, you can focus more on hunger and fullness cues and avoid overeating.
  • Try to drink 64 ounces of zero-calorie liquids a day. Hydration is key to optimal health, improving brain function, regulating hunger, increasing energy, and more. You’ll know you’re hydrated enough if your urine is pale yellow or clear. You should also avoid caffeinated and carbonated beverages.
  • Get your family involved by letting them have a say in weekly meal planning, preparing meals together, and getting them on board with healthier living.

The Plate Method

Following this simple eating “formula” can greatly help with portion control. After surgery, you’ll continue to follow the plate method (during Stage IV), but with smaller portions. By starting now, you’ll be more successful transitioning to smaller portions later.

Your pre-operative plate should contain:

  • 3 – 4 oz of lean protein (about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand)
  • 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup (or two pieces) of whole grains, fruit, or starchy vegetables

You can also use healthy oils, like olive and avocado oils, for cooking and as a salad dressing.

Bariatric Surgery Plate Method

Grocery Shopping

Healthy eating starts at the grocery store. And healthy shopping starts with a well-planned grocery list. Follow these tips to make sure your food shopping trip goes smoothly:

  • Plan every meal and snack for each day and write the items you’ll need on your list.
  • Include your family in meal planning. If they have a say in the weekly menu, they may be more likely to not only support your weight loss journey, but also decide to eat healthier themselves.
  • Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. You’ll be less tempted to stray from your list.
  • Don’t forget about spices and herbs. You can use them freely and they add much more interest to your food.
  • Fresh or frozen produce is best. Rinse canned varieties, or buy cans that state “no salt added.”
  • Prepared produce can be more expensive, but if you’re short on time to prepare fruits and vegetables yourself, things like sliced apples, baby carrots, bagged salads, and spiralized zucchini can be huge timesavers.
  • Items like string cheese, nuts, hummus, and low-fat plain yogurt are great snacks to have on hand.

Cooking and Meal Prep

  • If you don’t have time to cook each night, find time on the weekends or on your days off to meal prep. Prepping can involve chopping vegetables, marinating meat, or cooking complete meals so you all you have to do is heat them up later. Whichever you choose, each meal should include a lean protein and vegetables.
  • Portion out snacks like fruit, nuts, seeds, and boiled eggs into easy grab-and-go containers.
  • Keep “rescue foods,” such as nuts, protein bars, and lean jerky in the car or at your desk for hunger emergencies.
  • Cook with healthy oils, such as avocado and olive oils, or nonstick cooking sprays instead of butter and oils like canola or vegetable.
  • Try one to two new recipes a week so you don’t get bored with the same meals.
  • Prepare produce in various ways. For instance, trying broccoli steamed and roasted. Also consider using vegetables as a substitute for starchy foods like potatoes and pasta.

Dining Out

  • Try to plan ahead by looking at a restaurant’s menu online before heading out.
  • Skip any pre-meal snacks provided by the restaurant, such as rolls or chips. It’s very easy to overeat these items.
  • Choose main dishes that are steamed, grilled, or broiled instead of breaded or fried. If you’re unsure, ask your waiter for clarification on how a meal is prepared.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions, such as steamed vegetables instead of fries.
  • If the restaurant serves large portions, ask for a half portion, share the meal with a friend, or ask for a to-go box immediately so you can box up half of the meal as soon as it comes to the table.
  • If you’re afraid of overeating, or if you’re unable to substitute for healthier sides, choose a la carte items over ordering a full meal.

On the Go

  • Nothing can sabotage your diet easier than getting hungry when you’re out running errands or on the road. Prepare for those moments by keeping non-perishable snacks in your car, purse, or bag.
  • On road trips, pack a cooler with containers full of cheese, veggies, and nuts.
  • If you must stop at fast food restaurants, arm yourself beforehand by researching what you can order, such as salads, grilled chicken, and healthier sides.

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