10 Day Habit Refresh
Day Three: Protein Textures
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Three questions we’ll answer about each habit in this series
In this series I will answer three questions about each of the habits:
What benefit does this habit bring a post-op patient?
How might the lack of this habit effect a post-op patient?
How can you best build up this habit in the post-op daily life?
What benefit does paying attention to protein textures bring a post-op patient?
Let’s talk out what I mean by protein textures.
We talked yesterday about protein as a macronutrient and all the benefits it provides. Compared to carbohydrates, protein keeps hunger at bay longer and compared to fat, protein brings a lower calorie amount.
When a post-op patient focuses on protein at each meal, they have more hunger control. We are going to add another layer to the two habits we have talked about so far, a consistent meal structure focused on protein.
Today we are taking it a step further and talking about why the texture of the protein matters.
For sake of this discussion, we are going to divide protein textures into three categories: liquid, soft and solid.
My guess is that you can name what a liquid protein is.
If you answered “protein shakes” then ding ding ding!
Protein in liquid form is going to be protein in a drinkable form. Therefore any protein shake or protein rich liquid is going to fall in this category.
Liquid protein is most suitable in the healing phase after surgery when we can begin getting in protein nutrition but without as much stress on an inflamed and healing stomach.
While there are some instances when protein shakes are still added into the post-op life, once a patient is pass the healing phase it is more beneficial to start moving towards a food based protein.
(Protein shakes tend to bring up a lot of questions. I do have a course on the Do’s and Don’ts of protein or you can comment with question below. Even bariatric dietitians approach protein shakes slightly different which to me says it’s not the most simple conversation!)
Softer textured food proteins are the ones you think of in the soft phase of your healing diet.
Scrambled eggs, beans, shaved deli meat, flakey fish, dark meat poultry, tuna salad and so on.
Soft protein foods are a great way to start the transition from the liquid protein stage to food protein. It still keeps stress a little lower on the healing stomach and gives the patient a bit more grace as they figure out the bite sizes, speed and stopping point of meals after surgery.
The trick here is to not stick to this phase longer than what is needed. Softer textures do go down easier but they also tend to leave the pouch more quickly, which means you are hungry sooner. You can also eat more of a soft protein than a solid protein which means your post-op restriction is not as strong as it could be. Which leads us to the final protein texture category.
Solid textured proteins are probably already coming to your mind by now!
Chicken breast, pork chop, lean hamburger meat, lean steak, lean pork tenderloin, turkey breast and so on.
These dense proteins are the final destination point on the post-op diet progression and hopefully where a post-op patient can camp out. An ideal post-op bariatric eating plan will focus on these protein sources and pairing them with vegetables.
This is the big benefit of focusing on protein textures. A patient who has a consistent meal structure, focused on a solid textured protein is really maximizing the power of their post-op pouch! Hunger control, portion control and weight control are sure to come.
*Disclaimer: Zero patients are perfect so while we have talked about three awesome habits so far (and have seven more to go) the point is not to be perfect at all of it. Instead, it is to educate yourself, do your best, and pay attention to what you notice in your mind and body.
🍏 When solid protein doesn’t feel good
If this brings up the question/concern/issue for you that those solid meats are the ones that are the hardest for you, let’s talk it out.
There will be more discussion tomorrow on bite sizes and speed which will connect to this topic big time.
There are a few different scenarios for how strongly a patient is avoiding solid protein and it is worth getting to the bottom of the struggle.
If you are newer post-op and starting to notice that you prefer soft protein more, getting back to basics with small bites and going slowly should help you move forward to these more solid proteins.
If, however, you are further post-op and have a really strong aversion to solid protein (you cannot stand it) it may be a longer road for you to get back to these foods. My encouragement is not to give up. When a food has made you feel poorly for a very long time, the brain will have strong connections with that food sounding terrible.
Consider working with a dietitian and/or psychologist at the same time to help you work through the food aversions. Small bites and going slowly is definitely part of the equation but it may also take finding peace at your mealtime (soothing music, removing distractions, taking deep breaths) to slowly start incorporating solid proteins back into your diet.
How might the lack of this habit effect a post-op patient?
It does happen often that a patient comes in to see a bariatric dietitian and has been eating mostly soups, yogurts, crackers and protein shakes.
They may be seeing weight loss but wonder themselves if this is healthy and if they can keep going on this way.
Let’s play it out.
If a patient is eating primarily liquid and soft textures beyond their healing diet they may develop food aversions. An aversion is defined as a strong dislike or disinclination. A limited diet of the same foods might either make the foods they are eating all the time start sounding worse and worse, or they are avoiding other foods so much they begin to build a fear of that food.
More trouble comes when hunger starts to come back the further a patient gets from his or her surgery. Their tuna salad lunch everyday isn’t cutting it anymore and afternoon snacking is getting harder to control. Grazing may become a daily habit because the meals aren’t keeping them satisfied.
How can you best build this habit in the post-op life?
I touched on this a bit before but let’s summarize.
If you are consuming more liquid and soft protein foods but are cleared for more solid proteins, it’s time to start progressing your protein choices.
It takes focusing on small bites (black bean sized, sometimes smaller) and pausing in between your bites. Ask yourself in between each bite if you feel satisfied and if you’re ready to stop.
If you feel you’ve developed a strong aversion to solid protein (cannot stand it, sounds terrible, please don’t make me) consider working with a dietitian and/or psychologist if you feel the food aversion has gotten stronger than your ability to work through it.
In some cases a patient might be eating more liquid and soft protein foods because they are more convenient. It is easy to have a pre-made shake and take a tuna kit to work. For this, the goal would be more focused on meal planning to make sure solid protein is conveniently available at the scheduled meal time.
Stay tuned for Day 4 in our Habit Refresh Series: Bite Sizes and Speed!