When you’re thinking about weight loss surgery, you may hear the term floating around ‘protein first.’ What does that mean exactly? Why is protein after weight loss surgery an issue? Questions about your new diet in general are common, and particularly when it comes...
Meal Prep After Gastric Sleeve
Meal prepping is one of many ways to help sustain weight loss not only after gastric sleeve surgery, but any weight loss procedure. One of the biggest benefits of meal planning and prepping is that it allows you to stay on top of your nutrition intake. After gastric sleeve, the size of your stomach is reduced considerably. This means that getting in the right nutrition is extremely important to ensure optimal health and safe weight loss.
Meal prepping can also help you to keep to a more regular meal schedule, which is particularly important if you don’t feel hungry as often.
On top of this, having a planned meal schedule, and ready-meals you can utilise, will mean you can work on a less impulsive way of eating, if this is something you have struggled with in the past. It also means you can work more effectively with your dietitian to implement any other specialised eating or dietary changes required in your circumstances.
But just how do you meal prep after gastric sleeve successfully? Is there anything you need to know? In this article, we look at some of the best approaches to meal prep logistics.
Fridge, freezer or pantry?
You may find after your procedure you reach for less in your pantry, and more in your fridge, as your need for fresh food and high protein takes priority. However, it’s always a good idea to have a stock of items in the pantry for those days when something goes wrong, and you just don’t have time to prep or haven’t had a chance to get to the shops.
We know that protein is such an important nutrient to stay on top of after weight loss surgery. Canned items like legumes, tomato and tuna or salmon are great to keep on hand in your pantry. A can of tuna can be added to a small pre-prepped salad or vegetables for a tasty and very easy but nutritious meal.
Stocking your freezer with frozen fish, frozen vegetables, pre-portioned meats, and of course – meals you have cooked ahead is a great idea. Freezer-friendly meals could include soups, casseroles, baked goods and even complete meals.
When thinking about freezer storage, we can consider freezer size, convenience of defrosting and reducing the chance of ‘freezer burn.’ Light stackable plastic containers or ziplock bags work well as they take up less space and can be defrosted easily.
Meats can also be stored in containers between layers of freezer paper to prevent freezer burn. Make sure to label all your frozen foods with the name of the meal and date they went in.
Baked goods such as egg cups or high-protein muffins are also great to wrap and store in your freezer for when you need them.
When it comes to your fridge, it is not always about storing fully prepared meals. It is quick enough to throw together a salad, or some scrambled eggs or even a curry if you have the basics on hand. However, prepping the whole day’s meals in the morning or night before is a great approach.
You could assemble a couple of salads or an assortment of pre-cooked vegetables in individually portioned containers. Next, prepare and separately store dressing or sauce to throw over. (Those little dressing containers are a great idea for this!). When you’re ready to eat, simply choose your protein and throw it all together. Storing the items separately will mean your food keeps fresher for longer and ensures a tastier result.
It is important to note that all salad and vegetable items keep longer in your fridge stored separately.
When it comes to foods you have cooked as a complete meal and portioned out, in most cases it’s a good idea to only keep enough for one or two days of meals in the fridge. Any more than this, pop in the freezer and get out the morning you need them.
Again, make a habit of labelling your prepped food with the date and the meal.
More fridge ideas:
- Hard boiled eggs – perfect for salads or snacks
- Pre-roasted chicken – versatile and economical for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Importantly, freeze any chicken you’re not likely to eat in a couple of days.
- Unsweetened Yoghurt – add a little fruit or some nuts and you’re good to go!
- Pre-roasted vegetables – can provide a range of flavour and nutrients to add to your protein.
5 Top Tips for getting started with meal prep after gastric sleeve
- Try one day first before launching into a week.
- Find some recipes you’d love to try, write your shopping list and away you go.
- Choose easy to prepare recipes. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals for the coming week. Get out of the kitchen and look forward to the extra time you’ll have during the week.
- Use versatile ingredients. Cut down on your shopping list by using the same ingredients across as many meals as possible.
- Pick a prep day. If you have a day in mind, and plan for this day, you are less likely to move the day or forget about it all together.
Food quality guidelines
While pre-preparing food is fantastic, food safety should always be a high priority.
Proper storage of cooked food is really important to get right when you meal prep to prevent food poisoning as well as loss of nutrients.
According to the CSIRO’s refrigerated foods guidelines, a cooked meal should be placed into the refrigerator as soon as possible, especially if it contains meat. A very hot meal should be left out to cool for up to one hour. When reheating a refrigerated or frozen meal, ensure it is hot – above 75 degree Celcius. Divide large hot meals into smaller containers and cool in the fridge first to avoid condensation. When cool, wrap or cover the food. They also add, that if you don’t intend to eat the meal in the next three or four days, you should freeze it immediately.
Meal prep is really just about being prepared
If the thought of doing ‘meal prep’ has previously scared you, we hope these ideas can show you that it’s not necessarily about cooking and storing a whole week’s worth of food in containers. Mostly, it’s about thinking ahead, and this starts with planning out your week. Once you have your ideas for the week, look to find big and small ways you can make it easier on yourself to eat good food. This might be stocking your freezer full of go-to meals. Or it might be simply cooking enough for both lunch and dinner. Why not try it out, and share your fun with us over on our Facebook or Instagram pages.
Happy prepping sleevers!
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