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What Size Should My Food Portions Be After Weight Loss Surgery?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Maintaining your weight after weight loss surgery depends largely on how much food you eat in the months and years after surgery. But limiting your food intake is sometimes easier said than done.

After bariatric surgery, your stomach is much smaller and holds less food than it once could. Eating too much after a procedure such as gastric sleeve or gastric bypass could stretch your new stomach pouch, leading to weight gain over time. You can avoid this by understanding proper portion sizes and getting the tools you need to stay on track.

Use these general guidelines to visualize what a single serving of food looks like:

  • Use your fist to measure one serving of fruits or vegetables.
  • Consider the palm of your hand (or a deck of cards) when measuring a serving of meat, fish or poultry.
  • Snacks should be no larger than one cupped handful.
  • One serving of cheese is about the size of your thumb.

Here are some other tips to help you cut back while still feeling full and staying on track with your weight loss goals.

Eat your protein first.

After weight loss surgery, you need to learn to rely on your pouch and the feeling of fullness you’ll get after eating. To eat less and feel fuller, be sure to eat your protein first. Carb-heavy foods like pasta, bread and rice aren’t as filling and can lead you to overeat. On the other hand, lean sources of protein such as chicken are much more satisfying and will keep you feeling full longer than carbs will.

Veggies second.

Build your plate with four to six ounces of protein (again, about the size of a deck of cards) and half a cup of a vegetable or chopped salad. Choose veggies that are lower in carbohydrates — or lower on the glycemic index —  such as broccoli, cauliflower, squash, spinach and cucumber. Eat about half of your protein first, followed by half of your vegetable. Then alternate bites of protein and vegetables until you recognize that you are starting to feel full.

Pay attention to how you feel.

You should stop eating just when you begin to feel full. Eating even a few bites beyond that may leave you feeling miserable and could result in stretching your pouch over time. Always focus on eating to satisfaction, which means no grazing throughout the day. Eating just a bite or two here and there won’t leave you feeling satisfied. Learn to recognize the feeling of satiety and trust your body to tell you when you’ve had enough.

Don’t drink while you eat.

Soft foods, soups and liquids empty out of your pouch much more quickly than solids, which means you’ll feel hungry sooner. Solid foods will remain in your stomach longer, resulting in prolonged satiety. If you drink with your meals or within 30 minutes of a meal, the water or liquid will wash the food out of your stomach, causing you to feel hungry sooner.

Drink a full glass of water about 30 minutes before eating and avoid drinking with meals and for at least two hours after eating. When you begin feeling hungry again, start sipping water to help minimize hunger between meals.

Measure your portions.

In the first weeks and months after weight loss surgery, it’s extremely important to use measuring cups and food scales during food prep. Most of us are poor judges when it comes to estimating a cup of this or four ounces of that. Use the tools you have in your kitchen to help keep portion sizes accurate. Over time you’ll learn what appropriate portion sizes look like and how listen to your body to avoid overeating.

Use smaller plates or portion control plates.

Large dinner plates generally hold far more food that you need for one healthy portion. Start using smaller plates to keep your portion size in check. Take it a step further with a handy portion-control plate, designed with lines to help you measure carbs/starches, proteins, veggies and even sauces.

If you have had or are considering bariatric surgery, turn to your bariatric team to learn more about how you can adapt your portion sizes to your new pouch. Remember, you’re not in this alone. If you have questions about what or how much you should be eating, never hesitate to reach out to your bariatric support team.