Low carb meal prep is a useful strategy to help you meet your health goals and stay on track after bariatric surgery.
But how do you start?
Today I am going to break down the meal prepping process and help you understand what components should go into a meal, so you can begin meal prepping on your own.
Step 1: Pick out your Protein
Including protein at every meal is key to achieving your daily protein goals and it will make you feel fuller longer. Protein options that are easy to prep ahead include:
- 1-4 oz roasted chicken
- 1-3 boiled eggs
- 1-4 oz canned tuna
- 1-4 oz deli meat
- 1-4 oz ground beef (I prefer grass fed)
Protein is the foundation of your meals after bariatric surgery because it’s so important in your recovery process and to help maintain your muscle mass.
Your portion size will depend on how long ago you had surgery. For instance, if you recently had surgery you may not be able to handle more than an ounce at a time. But if you are more than a one year post-op you can likely eat 3-4 oz at a time.
An ounce of protein is roughly the size of your thumb, whereas 3 oz is the size of a deck of cards.
If you are meal prepping, I suggest cooking anywhere between ½ lb to 1 lb of protein at a time. This way you can prepare multiple meals at once.
One of my favorite options for protein is chicken cacciatore.
Step 2: Choose Your Vegetable
The next important meal component is your vegetable. Ideally you want to pick a vegetable low in starch such as:
- Bell peppers
Once again, your portion size will depend on how far out you are from surgery. If you just had surgery, you may only be able to handle one small bite. However, if you are one year or more after surgery then you may be able to handle ⅓-½ cup portions.
Many bariatric post ops cannot tolerate raw vegetables immediately after surgery. If this is the case, then make sure you cook your vegetables thoroughly. Steaming is an easy option and tastes good too!
Some of the easiest veggies to prep ahead are steamed carrots, green beans, cauliflower or broccoli.
Step 3: Choose Your Healthy Carb
Did I just say carbs?
Even though carbs are limited after bariatric surgery, you can still enjoy a small amount of healthy carbs. However, if you are less than six months post-op you may not have enough room in your pouch yet for carbs. Please follow your surgeon’s guidelines on when to reintroduce carbs into your diet.
With that being said, if you are more than six months after surgery, it is usually suggested by health professionals to include some sort of healthy carb with your meals. What matters most is portion size.’
Based upon the bariatric plate method it’s suggested to have 2-3 tablespoons of a healthy carb during your meals. Some of my personal favorites include:
- Sweet potato
- Butternut Squash
- Steel Cut Oats
When you are including carbs in your meals, it’s important to continue to eat your protein first. If you feel satisfied with your meal and not hungry then you don’t always need to eat the carbs.
Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes taste great roasted. You can bake one of them and cut it into fourths to last you for four meals. Each fourth of a potato will likely be around 2-3 tablespoons. Make sure to buy medium size potatoes or smaller.
Step 4: Choose your Flavorizer
You gotta have flavor, right?
Adding flavor is where the magic happens. If you’re always eating the same thing then you may become bored and start craving foods that are not the best for your body.
To add flavor you need to add two things: Spices and fat.
Yep, I said fat. Adding some fat to your meals helps you feel more satisfied and may prevent cravings later on. As an extra bonus fat will help you absorb the fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A or K from your vegetables.
Typically you want to include 1-2 teaspoon of fat at each meal. This could include extra virgin olive oil, avocado, coconut oil or even butter.
As for the spices, I suggest keeping a variety of spices on hand. Blended spices such as curry, italian seasonings, cajun seasonings, or Chinese-five-spice make food preparation SO easy. You just sprinkle some on your food before you cook it to give it a boost of flavor.
If you want to add flavor to your meals (which I highly suggest) you can do it a couple different ways. If you are roasting your protein then coat your protein (like chicken) with spices prior to baking. You can also toss you veggies in olive oil and sprinkle with your choice of flavoring before roasting. It’s super easy!
If you are looking for a meal with flavor you will enjoy my Simple Low Carb Taco Soup.
Extra Low Carb Meal Prep Tips:
Your food items do not always need to be separate. You can layer your food for extra flavor such as sweet potatoes topped with roasted kale and salmon. An example of this is my Mini Savory Apple Turkey Burgers.
Or you can create a delicious soup using the exact same concepts: protein, veggies, healthy carb, and flavors.
Another easy option is to create a sheet pan meal. In sheet pan meals you bake your protein, vegetable and healthy carb at the same time to make preparing and cleaning up your meals easy.
The key is to still use the same portion size guidances. Aim for your meals to be 50% protein, 30% vegetable and 20% healthy carb.
Just like everything, low carb meal prepping takes practice and patience. Commit yourself to two low carb meal prep meals a week and work your way up from there.
Are you ready to start meal prepping?
If you need some guidance please check out my 1 week bariatric meal plan.