A well planned vegetarian or vegan diet is a suitable lifestyle to follow after weight loss surgery. Vegetarian and vegan lifestyle patterns are typically rich in fibre and low in saturated fat, both of which are of advantage to our health.
After weight loss surgery meeting your daily protein requirements is an important aspect of your long-term health and weight loss success. Although not impossible, this is more challenging for those following vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, and it takes some extra planning and effort.
Vitamins and Minerals
Following weight loss surgery, it is more difficult to meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. This is due to a number of factors including a decreased total food intake, reduced digestive enzymes and reduced absorption. Key at risk nutrients, that may be more of an issue for vegetarian and vegan patterns of eating include B12, iron, calcium and zinc. It is important to take a high quality bariatric specific multivitamin every day, as well as additional calcium, iron and B12 (based on results from your regular biochemistry and advice from your dietitian).
Protein Following Weight Loss Surgery
Your minimum daily protein target after weight loss surgery is 60g.
If you would like more information on the protein content of common vegetarian and vegan foods, you can find them in our Protein Planner. Knowing the protein content of foods can help you to work out if you are meeting your minimum daily target.
To maximise your ability to reach your daily protein targets, aim to include a significant source of protein at each meal and snack.
To meet the minimum protein requirement of 60g per day, you need to consider how many times per day you eat:
- If you eat three times per day, each meal needs to contain an average of 20g of protein.
- If you eat 4 times per day (3 meals + 1 snack), each meal needs to contain on average 15g of protein.
- If you eat five times per day, each meal needs to contain on average 12g of protein.
- If you eat 6 times per day (3 meals + 3 snacks), each meal on average will need to contain 10g of protein.
Layering Protein Foods
Layering multiple protein sources in a meal can make it easier to meet your requirements, especially with the reduced capacity that follows weight loss surgery.
Examples of layering protein:
- Make a smoothie with higher protein dairy free milk (see our top picks below) + PB2 + a vegan protein powder (see our top picks below)
- Make a salad with quinoa + edamame + pepita seeds
- Make a curry with chickpeas + Greek yoghurt (or a dairy free alternative) + nutritional yeast
- Make a stir-fry with tofu + cashews + edamame
- Make vegetable patties with lentils + feta + eggs + hemp seeds
- Top soy yoghurt with hemp seeds + PB2.
Vegetarian and Vegan Meal and Snack Ideas
The following meal and snack ideas are a good starting point to help you build a balanced vegetarian or vegan meal plan, appropriate for your post-surgical needs. Note, where recipe links have been provided some suggested serve sizes may be larger than your capacity allows for. Always base your portion size on your individual needs and eat until satisfied, not full. In addition, some recipes include significant portions of carbohydrate sides, these portions can be reduced or omitted based on your requirements.
Create your meals with a vegetarian protein alternative base from the list below, combined with vegetables or salad, for example:
Selecting Commercial Products
Our Shopping Companion contains ‘Selection Criteria’ and ‘Top Picks’ for over 30 food categories. Some of the sections particularly useful for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet following weight loss surgery include:
Using Natural Protein Boosters
There are also natural ways to help the protein content of vegetarian foods, such as using hemp seeds or nutritional yeast flakes.
Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavour, and can be consumed raw, cooked or roasted. Try the following ways to include them in your diet:
- Sprinkle (whole or ground) on cereal and/or yoghurt
- Blend into smoothies
- Add to a home-made trail mix
- Add to protein balls, burger patties or chickpea fritters.
- Sprinkle, along with other seeds or nuts, on a salad.
Nutritional yeast comes in powder, granules or flakes, and is usually found in either the herb or health-food section of the supermarket or in a health-food store. It is used in cooking and provides a cheesy, nutty and/or savoury flavour.
- Nutritional yeast can be used in the following ways:
- Sprinkle over popcorn, pasta, salads or steamed vegetables
- Stir into soups or curries
- Add to scrambled eggs
- Add as a ‘cheese’ flavouring in sauces
- As a thickener for soups and sauce.
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