Bariatric Food Coaching: What’s a Bariatric Portion Size?

Steph Wagner

August 29, 2019

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Bariatric Portion Sizes

Blog article portion sizes after weight loss surgery

How much do I eat of this? How much does it make?


A very common question

“When a recipe says it makes 4 servings, how do I know what the size of the serving is?”

This is a very common question I get asked on my recipes, as well as recipes found online. How do you determine how much you are supposed to eat? What is the right bariatric portion size after so many months or years?

In my opinion, it’s a two part answer.

Part one – how much should you eat?

Part two – how much does this recipe make for planning purposes? 

How much should you eat

Every bariatric program differs greatly with portion sizes. Perhaps you were told to eat X many tablespoons early after surgery or that you should only eat half a cup so many months afterward.

In my practice, I don’t use set portion sizes. I find a blanket approach doesn’t provide enough wiggle room for individual cases. I prefer a more mindfulness approach to portions.

Instead, I recommend a ratio. Two bites of protein to one bite of vegetable. 

This rule of thumb is helpful no longer how long it’s been since your surgery. It can grow naturally as time goes on (which is normal by the way!)

Blog answering bariatric surgery questions including how many grams of protein carbohydrate and fat. block quote stating the tip eat 2 bites of protein 1 bite of vegetable eat slowly, stop at fullness

When I post that a recipes makes 4 servings, I am providing a guide to help someone know how much food to expect. I am not telling you how much you are supposed to eat of the recipe. (Ex: 4 servings means it can typically feed four people, not to eat one forth)

It’s helpful to know how much food to expect for planning purposes. Do you need to increase the recipe to feed more people? How many meals can you get out of this recipe? Use the servings as a guide to know how much food to plan for, but not a guide for how much you need to limit yourself to eating.

How much does the recipe make if I don’t know the bariatric portion size?

This is where a quick math equation can help you determine this for every recipe you find. Whether it’s on here or elsewhere.

Blog article portion sizes after bariatric surgey. Meat reduces by 25% after it's been cooked

So 4 ounces of chicken becomes 3 ounces of chicken after it’s been baked.

If a recipe calls for one pound of chicken, it would make four 3-ounce servings. 

Let me break it down quickly:

16 ounces in a pound

One pound of chicken or beef = 16 ounces

After cooking, 16 ounces x .75 = 12 ounces

12 ounces divided by 4 servings = 3 ounces in a serving

Blog article portion sizes after bariatric surgery, 4 ounces raw meat equals 3 ounces cooked meat

Keep it simple

I know it can easily feel confusing or overwhelming when calculations and numbers come at you. Food labels can also intimidating. When you start to feel overwhelmed by it all, try to keep it simple. (Members can watch my video course on reading nutrition labels after weight loss surgery for help!

Put protein on your plate first, and then a vegetable. (Sometimes it’s mixed together).

Eat two bites of protein to every bite of vegetable to fill up more on the protein. Pause in between your bites and listen to your natural cues of where to stop eating.

If you prefer to use a food scale I would weigh your food prior to eating, follow this method of 2:1 and stopping at fullness. Then weigh your food again. If you do this after a few meals you’ll have a better gauge at how much your pouch is typically comfortable with.

*Even this approach is to give you a visual gauge to know how much to put on your plate but keep in mind some proteins are more dense so you will fill up on a smaller amount of pork chop than you will fish, for example.

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4 thoughts on “Bariatric Food Coaching: What’s a Bariatric Portion Size?”

  1. So your recommendation is to weigh your food cooked for measuring? Just want to be clear.
    Thank you for such helpful and great information.

  2. You bet, if you are using a weigh your food method it would be best to weigh after being cooked because it will have lost weight.

  3. Hi could you talk a little bit about plant based protein portion size?
    I had my surgery in Dec 5 and before it I stop eating animal protein .

  4. My style is to listen to the natural cues of the pouch instead of a set portion size. I would coach a patient focus on the food with the best protein source at the meal, eat small bites and slowly, stop at the first sign of fullness. THe macros will be higher carb with plant based protein because of the nature of the protein source. Edamame and beans for example will have more carbohydrate and tofu will have more fat. Just something to keep in mind when your macros look differently.

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