Meal prep is one of many ways that you can help sustain weight loss after gastric sleeve, or any weight loss procedure for that matter. Find out why planning for eating is important after gastric sleeve. And get lots of ideas on how to get meal prepping right. From what to prep, to storage tips. It’s not easy to begin with, but many patients say meal prep is an invaluable part of sustaining weight loss after surgery.
Why is meal prep important after gastric sleeve?
The gastric sleeve procedure reduces the size of your stomach to a sleeve shape. The anatomical changes result in a smaller stomach, which means you’ll have less room for food. It may also mean you are not as hungry as you were before. So why is meal prep invaluable here?
- It helps you get adequate nutrition. With a smaller stomach, you have less room for food or empty calories. Getting in the right nutrition is extremely important after gastric sleeve to ensure optimal health and safe weight loss. Planning and prepping help you balance your micros and macros and be intentional about your nutrition intake.
- Planning means you eat more regularly. Meal planning and prepping can also help you to keep to a more regular meal schedule. Regular small meals are particularly important when you don’t feel hungry as often. This goes hand in hand with adequate nutrient intake.
- Meal prep helps you work on impulsive habits. If poorer impulse control has been something you’ve struggled with in the past, meal prep helps you form new healthy habits. Allowing you to focus on training your body and mind to embrace healthier timing, quality, and portions of food.
- Track your meals. Planning meals means it’s easier to track meals. This helps you work in with your dietitian more effectively.
5 top tips for getting started with meal prep
- 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.
Meal prep storage: 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. These can come in handy for those days when something goes wrong, and you just don’t have time to prep. Or if you haven’t had a chance to shop.
So what might be a good idea to include in your pantry? Protein is 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.
Freezer-friendly meals could include soups, casseroles, baked goods and even complete meals you have cooked ahead. You can also stock your freezer with frozen fish, frozen vegetables, pre-portioned meats. 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.
An idea might be to assemble a couple of salads or an assortment of pre-cooked vegetables in individually portioned containers. Next, prepare and separately store healthy dressings or sauces 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.
What else can I prep and store in my fridge?
- Hard boiled eggs – perfect for salads or snacks. Keep them in their shells until you’re ready to use them to reduce smell in your fridge.
- 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 – veg can provide a range of flavours and nutrients to add to your protein.
Be mindful of food safety with meal prep
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.
Consider the CSIRO’s refrigerated foods guidelines when storing your food. A cooked meal should be placed into the fridge 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 Celscius. 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.
It doesn’t have to be bigger than Ben Hur
Meal prep isn’t 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 to eat good food. This might be stocking your freezer full of go-to meals. Or it might be simply prepping enough to carry you through a day or two. Your dietitian will have lots of tips (and probably some good recipes) to help you meal prep. If you haven’t seen them in a while, this might be a great reason to check in. Hopefully, this gives you a few ideas to serve as inspiration for your week ahead.
Disclaimer: This article is of a general nature for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice. A 1:1 consultation with a medical professional is always the best approach in order to receive accurate information which is tailored to your individual situation.
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