March 2024

Bariatric Surgery Doesn’t Mean You Have To Eat Mush

You’ve stepped into the decision to undergo bariatric surgery. Congratulations! You’ve taken a huge step towards improving your health and wellbeing. However, this great step comes with a commitment to a few lifelong nutrition requirements integral to your post-bariatric surgery meal plan. And these may just have you staring blankly into your pantry and fridge, wondering if food will always be this bland and boring. Can you still enjoy food after weight loss surgery?

If you are nodding your head as you read this, then know you are not alone. We often hear the lament that food is boring after surgery. The good news? This is simply not true! With a dash of flavourful ingredients, a pinch of planning and a sprinkle of culinary tricks up your sleeve, food after weight loss surgery can taste delicious.

Post Bariatric Surgery Meal Plan

In the initial weeks after surgery, you’ll follow a progressive diet to allow your new pouch or stomach to heal. This starts with liquids, advances to pureed foods, and then soft foods that are easy to chew and swallow. As you progress through your stages, you might ask yourself how much you can eat after gastric sleeve or bypass surgery. As you recover and heal, your dietitian will guide you in slowly increasing your meal size and incorporating more textures into your post-bariatric surgery meal plan until you reach the solid food stage. This is your forever stage and an opportunity to explore new foods - discovering healthy ingredients you’ve never tried before, experimenting with 101 ways to cook protein, or experiencing an aha moment when you can transform a recipe to meet your dietary needs. But the basic goals remain:

  • eat small, frequent protein-focussed meals
  • sip water often
  • leave 30 minutes between having a drink and eating food
  • chew thoroughly
  • stop eating once you reach the portion size you’ve been assigned by your team for your current stage

When navigating the question of what you can eat after bariatric surgery, it can be easy to fall into a routine of flavourless purees, bland proteins and a lack of variety. Sometimes, you might feel like you don’t know where to start. Or, maybe creating a flavourful, exciting meal might seem too time-consuming to fit into your busy life. But there are a few simple changes that you can make to make your food taste amazing without being time-consuming.

The Art of Taste and Flavour

Food is something that we interact with constantly. And we enjoy it most when it excites all five senses - taste, sight, sound, touch and smell. This sensory experience helps us to feel more satisfied and experience enjoyment. We should enjoy food! Truly delicious food is a balance of taste, flavour and texture. And once you know how to create these elements, you can make anything taste incredible - even a pumpkin puree!

Taste refers to sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami. These five elements work together to enhance or soften each other to create a flavour-balanced meal that you will love.

Sweetness: is more than just adding sugar to make food sweeter. Sweetness balances other taste elements and enhances the flavour of a dish. You don’t just need to add sugar or natural sugar alternatives - like honey or maple syrup - to make food sweeter. There are all sorts of ways to add sweetness to your meals. Some examples of adding sweetness to your meals at different stages post bariatric surgery can be:

  • In the liquid stage, try infusing your water with cucumber or berries.
  • During the puree stage roast pumpkin (or any veggie) instead of boiling it. Roasting your veggies will instantly make a puree more tasty, and that’s before you add spices like cumin and garnishes like natural Greek yoghurt!
  • In the soft stage, add soft fruits to breakfasts and snacks or try ricotta cheese as a topping.
  • Experiment using vegetables like beetroot, carrots, zucchini and sweet potatoes in cakes and slices. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Sourness: Sourness is also known as adding acidity to food. This is the drizzle of lemon over baked veggies, the splash of red wine vinegar in salad dressings or the spoon of natural Greek yoghurt added to a soup or puree. These sour elements cut through fat and sugar, adding brightness and balance to a meal.

Saltiness: Anything without salt tastes pretty bland, which is why nearly every dish benefits from a small pinch of salt. Add a little pinch to your meals - about ¼ of a teaspoon. Just don’t go overboard and ensure you use natural sea salt, not table salt - there are many exciting ways to boost the flavour of a meal, such as using herbs and spices without too much salt. You can also add saltiness to your dishes by adding soy sauce, olives, anchovies or capers.

Bitterness: Bitterness helps balance sweetness and adds complexity to meals. Kale, rocket, cocoa powder and 70% dark chocolate are all ingredients that add bitterness to a dish. Adding dark chocolate to a Mole (pronounced moh-ley) sauce is an excellent example of using bitterness to add character to this Mexican sauce. Try this Mole recipe from BBC Good Food. This recipe is great to add to a soft food diet for bariatric surgery patients.

Umami: Umami describes a dish's rich, savoury, satisfying taste that leaves us wanting more. This taste was discovered by Japanese scientists in 1908, and umami literally translates to ‘delicious taste’. Ingredients that add umami to a dish include seaweed, miso, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and parmesan cheese. Roasting and caramelising also add umami.

Add big flavour without adding calories:
This is where the fun begins! Including herbs, spices and aromatics like garlic in your dishes is a surefire way of bringing a dish from bland to sensational. The best part is that you can apply these at all post-bariatric surgery meal plan stages. Experiment with different combinations of herbs and spices, and take inspiration from different cuisines and recipe books. Spices, garlic, and onions keep well in the pantry for a long time, and ingredients like miso paste, capers, anchovies, and preserved lemon will keep in the fridge for months. Ingredients like these, which have a long shelf life and are absolute flavour boosters, are pretty versatile and great to have on hand. If you want some inspiration, here are food ideas after weight loss surgery:

  • Roast veggies in the oven with a little bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of rosemary salt.
  • Add a tsp of spice to a puree - for example, add ground cumin and ground coriander plus a pinch of salt to a roast cauliflower puree. Or, to really get a savoury flavour going, add a tsp of miso paste to a mushroom puree.
  • Marinate your meat in garlic, fresh herbs and olive oil before you cook it. For example, rub chicken thighs with garlic, sage and olive oil and sit in the fridge for 15 mins before you cook it. If you don’t have fresh herbs available, try dried herbs. A mix of 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander and ½ tsp smoked paprika plus a pinch of salt is also a great alternative.

The options are endless, and there is no right answer when it comes to adding herbs and spices to your meals.

Not sure you can pull all this off on your own?

Keep an eye out for our upcoming, game-changing BN Cooking program. A bespoke and unique series of online video modules and their companion cooking guide and recipe book, Not a Bariatric Cookbook.

Learn the nutritional implications of each stage and how to thrive with Bariatric Nutritionist Jacqui Lewis. Our expert chefs, Adam Rice and Adam Moore, will walk you through their time-saving cooking techniques, pantry and kitchen setup, and menu planning hacks.

Embark on a journey where nutrition and cooking meet. Learn how to make everyday food come to life with ease every time.The companion cooking guide is your go-to in the kitchen. It is full of support for every stage and includes over 80 nutrient-dense, flavour-packed recipes. You'll delight in serving a variety of food you and your family will love.

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