July 2022

The Five Food Groups: Quality of Food vs Quantity

Balancing what you eat after having Bariatric Surgery can feel like a part-time job some days! Count protein intake, "check, " eat enough fibre, "check, " and get in all the essential nutrients….. Umm…. "Check?"

We need a lot to get right to lose weight, stay strong and healthy - and not a lot of space to fit it all! Some days it seems there's more room than others when we actually don't feel like eating much at all.

Quality food can equal better vitality

At the end of the day, this is where QUALITY matters - because there will always be a limit to the QUANTITY of food you can accommodate in a day from here on.

When we talk about the quality of food, think about "how much bang for your buck" can you get from each meal from a nutritional perspective.

There's a lot you can do using tiny tweaks to your buying habits that can really increase your intake of essential vitamins, minerals and "food compounds" that will over time show up in your overall health, resistance to illness and, more obviously, your enjoyment of life: your VITALITY! 

So what are the benefits of a varied, more whole food diet?

Food in its natural state has a lot to offer. Particularly as you look for a diet that will keep you feeling full, stave off cravings and help you to lose weight and keep it off. But on top of these "jobs", the food from the Five Food Groups offers a range of benefits and "health-promoting compounds" that really can change the game mentally and physically.

Let's take a look firstly at
The Bariatric Version of the Healthy Eating Pyramid
makes it a no-brainer to work out if you meet your needs.

Notice what is now first on the list Exercise, Supplements, Water

These are the key to your long-term health - WHY?
Exercise tones your nervous system, regulates blood pressure, reduces stress, and of course, has a bit to do with weight loss.

Water - well - your body is 70% water, so let's keep it that way -it helps to wash out toxins that are being released from your fat stores as they melt, so let's just push them out a bit faster with some water every day.

Supplements can act as an insurance policy for good health, and whilst a whole food diet contains all your essential nutrients, daily supplements may be a 'safety net' for those days that you feel less hungry and find yourself eating less. 

Next is your friend protein:

I've covered functionally what protein does for you after WLS in previous blogs, articles and podcasts (that's how important it is!), so let's look at what else it does over and above weight management.

Protein is your friend if you

  • Suffer Depression,
  • Anxiety,
  • Fatigue,
  • Iron Deficiency,
  • Muscle Loss,

The long chains of proteins found in meat, dairy, chicken, fish and legumes are broken into tiny pieces once in your digestive system. Then our magical machines, which we call our body, go to work sending these little packages to where they are needed.

Amino acids from protein are the critical nutrients necessary to make healthy neurotransmitters - and why is that important?
Our brains need neurotransmitters to function;

  • Serotonin,
  • Melatonin,
  • GABA,
  • Dopamine,
  • Phenylalanine,

to name just a few - all help us to feel mentally well. When protein is low - the mood is generally also affected.

Protein also maintains our hormones - and we all know what hormone imbalance can look and feel like - it's not fun at all! 

Fruit and Veggie Fix - PHYTOCHEMICALS

Fruit and veg are well known to benefit our health but do we really know why?!

Not only do they provide vitamins, fibre and water as well as satisfy our natural need for sugar, but plants also have all sorts of incredible additional compounds that are frankly the main reason they can absolutely change your life!

They are referred to as Phyto (plant) chemicals. And they can be game-changers when you include them in your Bariatric Diet. 

Let's take apples as one small example

Apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower cholesterol.

Apples contain a variety of phytochemicals, including quercetin, catechin, and a bunch of other strong antioxidants - the humble apple - packs all of this punch! Imagine what other foods in their natural state can do!

Here is a more comprehensive list of foods, their phytonutrients and what they can do for your long-term health -Phytonutrients

The main takeaways are:

  • Include a range of colours - they all have different benefits.
  • Include a variety of fruits and veg, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Go for quality - now you are limited on VOLUME, lets up the intensity on QUALITY
  • Food is an investment, and you are worth it. 

Here’s how to include more or the five food groups, and more of these amazing compounds every day

  • Swap out eggs and toast for eggs and veggies
  • Include some kind of fruit at every meal
  • Go wholemeal EVERYTHING
  • Eat at least one apple EVERY day
  • Eat a meat-free meal every day - include beans and lentils instead
  • Shop fresh food a few times a week
  • Support your local greengrocer: For better quality, more carefully selected fruit and veg
  • Be prepared: Chop up veggies and freeze in portion-sized bags ready to steam or roast
  • Create a pantry of staples: Lentils, chick peas, beans, and good quality pasta all at your fingertips
  • Swap out vegetable oil, canola oil and sunflower oil for homemade Ghee, olive oil or coconut oil

Small swaps every day will amount to a whole new contribution to your long-term health after gastric sleeve or bypass surgery. You’ve come this far, and invested time and energy into truly lying your best life - make a list now of the things you can do to increase your intake from the Healthy Food Pyramid daily!

Related articles from external organisations:

  • Diet - Cancer Australia Government
  • Phytonutrients - Healthline
  • Nutrition Services

We've done loads of previous protein blogs:

  • The Scoop on Collagen vs Whey Protein
  • Spotting Protein Deficiency & What to Do About Prevention
  • Why Protein Is Important After Bariatric Surgery And What To Eat
  • What’s All the Fuss About Protein?
  • Importance of Protein After WLS
  • Protein - What's the Big Deal?

Jacqui Lewis
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine

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