There are around eleventy-billion purveyors of bariatric supplements and foods on the Internet. But as someone who has spent her lifetime eating "diet foods," I don't plan on stocking my pantry with "cookies," and "puddings" and "soups" and other prefab "foods."
Why are these freak-show foods so prevalent?
Is it because bariatric surgery patients are jonesing for cheesecake and caramel macchiatos?
I am determined to make my post-op food as clean as I possibly can, and I know that runs counter to some people's reliance on boxed and canned and bottled bariatric foods. So here's my list of clean favorites. First stop:
Premade protein shakes
Before I even had my surgery in February, I had a couple weeks of a pre-op diet that relied increasingly on protein shakes. We'll get into protein powders in a bit, but the easiest way to down a bunch of protein is to grab a premade protein shake in a cardboard carton. And there are loads of gross ones out there (OK, gross to me). I tried a few varieties of one super popular brand (Premier), and quickly found them way too sweet. I know some people absolutely love them, but after surgery my disdain for sweet stuff got even stronger. It's kinda crazy -- before surgery I didn't really have a sweet tooth per se; it was more of a "food tooth." But after surgery? EVERYTHING is too sweet, especially foods that have artificial sweeteners or stevia. So now I either go without any sweetening or add a little honey, agave or sugar (usually just a teaspoon in my tea).
Anyway -- the only premade protein shakes I can put up right now (I say that because my tastes are in a constant state of flux) with are Orgain Clean Protein. They have 20 grams of protein and are much cleaner than a lot of brands. There is some stevia, but it's not overkill.
Protein powders: Whey and vegan
I'm narrowing this list to whey and plant-based because I want to keep things simple. I don't mess with soy, and my dietitian told me that whey is the best absorbed protein source. I'm throwing in vegan protein because there are times my pouch is cranky and doesn't want the foamy texture that whey produces.
Man, I have been on a visionquest with protein powders! I made a lot of smoothies before surgery and already had a big collection of protein powders, but all bets were off after surgery. Protein powders that I used to like I now despised. Once again -- too sweet, too much aftertaste. So I was on the hunt for naturally sweetened protein powders that didn't contain stevia.
Chocolate: Whey to Go! Who knew! One of my old, old favorites fit the bill perfectly. I hadn't bought Whey to Go in years, but I checked the label and BINGO! no stevia. It's sweetened with beet sugar and has 9 grams of sugar per serving. It's a little higher in added sugar than my dietitian recommends, but I hadn't been drinking ANY protein shakes, so I'm not sweating the extra few grams of sugar. There's 20 grams of protein and a relatively short list of ingredients. And it's fairly low cost -- some proteins are ridiculously overpriced (I'm looking at you, Shakeology). The chocolate flavor has a nice depth of flavor, so I haven't had to hit the bag of cocoa powder to amp it up.
Vanilla: Garden of Life Organic Whey Protein was the first stevia-free whey protein powder I found, probably because it says "no stevia" right on the front label. This protein has 21 grams of organic whey concentrate and 11 grams of sugar, 9 of them added, which is a little high, but again, I'm not sweating it since my overall calorie level is so low for the day. It's really clean tasting, and while it isn't labeled vanilla, there is vanilla in it, so it's like a light vanilla. It's really good mixed with frozen fruit as it lets the fruit really shine through. I made a great smoothie with frozen mango, chilled green tea and a serving of this.
Chocolate: Apparently Aloha protein powder has reformulated its recipe since the first time I tried it because I really like it now! Sometimes plant-based protein works better for me when my pouch needs something simple. It doesn't tend to foam up as much as whey-based protein powder. Aloha has a nice dark chocolate flavor while only having 4 grams of sugar from coconut sugar. It also uses monkfruit, which doesn't seem as "aftertasty" as stevia. There's 18 grams of protein that comes from pea, pumpkin seed and hemp, and you can buy it online or at Target.
I don't have any favorite plant-based vanilla protein powders yet, but if I do find one, I'll update this list.
Other proteins: Collagen and Genepro
Collagen is a little controversial because a lot of dietitians don't think collagen peptides are a good protein source, but I use it pretty regularly because it disappears into any liquid hot or cold, and doesn't add any flavor. Many mornings my breakfast will be a cup of tea with a little honey and two scoops of collagen peptides. Hey, even if it isn't the highest quality protein, my cup of tea gives me 18 grams of protein from collagen, which is supposed to be great for your hair, skin, nails and joints, and all of those can use a little help. I haven't tried a lot of collagen brands, so I just stick with Vital Proteins collagen peptides, which you can find nearly all over. It also comes in single-serve packets, which are great for traveling. On our last road trip, I brought a bunch of packets with me and stirred them into coffee, tea and soup. Are there better brands you like? Lemme know in the comments.
Even more controversial is Genepro protein powder. A tiny little scoop -- 1 tablespoon -- purports to give you the equivalent of 30 grams of protein. But many people refuse to believe the claims made by the manufacturer because the serving size is so tiny. It's unflavored, mixes really well into hot or cold liquids and is great if you're low on protein for the day. I just don't know whether I'm getting 30 grams of protein or 15 or what!
I was going to go into vitamins and other things but I'll save those for another day -- this is plenty of food for thought.