Protein power (adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Protein has many functions in the body, including making body tissue, brain chemicals, hormones, and immune cells, and helping numerous other processes take place. Protein is an important nutrient for everyone, but it becomes more important after weight loss surgery when your calories are very low. To meet your protein needs when you are eating so little food, most of your food has to be a good source of protein. The purpose of ensuring adequate protein is to maintain these functions and not lose lean muscle mass.

The standard protein goal is 60–80 grams daily. Your dietitian may advise a higher protein goal based on your gender, size and exercise level.

Protein supplements are an important part of meeting your protein needs on the liquid diet prior to surgery and in the first few months post-op. There are many supplements and shakes to choose from, either in powder form or ready-to-drink premade shakes.

• Look for whey or soy protein isolate as the first ingredient.
• Make sure the drink has less than 3 grams of fat and 5 grams of sugar per 100 calories.
• Choose a drink with at least 20 grams protein for 8 ounces.

Tips and tricks for fighting flavor fatigue with protein shakes:
• Use sugar-free syrups or extracts to add flavors such as cinnamon or raspberry.
• Blend one teaspoon of peanut butter or banana into your shake.
• Make it into a “soft-serve” by putting it into the freezer for half an hour.
• Use unflavored protein powder with sugar-free Kool-Aid or Crystal Light.
• Use a cup with a lid to mask the odor.

There are many ways to fortify other foods to help meet your protein goal:
• Use nonfat dry milk powder with your skim milk or soups.
• Use Greek yogurt or cottage cheese as a base for dips and dressings.
• Add an egg white to your scrambled egg.

Foods that have at least 7 grams of protein per serving include:
• 1 ounce of meat, chicken or fish
• Half a veggie burger
• 1 egg
• ½ cup Greek yogurt
• ¼ cup cottage cheese
• 1 string cheese
• 3 ounces tofu
• ½ cup dried beans or peas
• ½ ounce beef jerky

An example of a post-op protein-centered meal plan:
Breakfast: 1 scrambled egg, ¼ cup cottage cheese
Lunch: 1 string cheese, 2 oz. tuna
Dinner: 6 oz. yogurt, ¼ c canned peaches
Supplement: 8 oz. protein drink made with skim milk