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How to eat a vegetarian diet after sleeve gastrectomy

Protein is all most talk about after weight loss surgery. There is a popular misconception that “meat” is the only real source of protein and so it’s impossible to follow a vegetarian diet after sleeve gastrectomy due to the lack of protein. But it’s not true! A vegetarian diet can be packed full of the nutrients you need, as well as satisfying and delicious – you just need to give it a little extra planning.

How much protein do I need?

The recommendations for protein is not as high as you might think. I’ve written about this before, here. The ASMBS recommends 60-110g of protein per day after weight loss surgery, but most people tend to eat about 60-80 grams each day. Vegetarian diets can be divided into a few different categories including: ovo (eggs), lacto (dairy), ovo-lacto (eggs and dairy) and vegan (plants only) diets. Eggs and dairy are great sources of protein, and contain lots of other vitamins and minerals as well. If you are eating eggs and dairy products, eating the recommended amount of protein is not to difficult. Problems arise with a vegan diet, although with careful planning, this can be adequate as well.

Other nutrients you need to be aware of…

It’s not all about the protein… Certain nutrients are more difficult to eat in the correct quantities when you’re eating a vegetarian diet after sleeve gastrectomy. Some of these nutrients are the common culprits for deficiencies after a sleeve, even if you are eating meat, so if you’re going vego they need extra attention and may need additional supplementation.

  • Iron – found in high amounts in meat but also in green leafy vegies and eggs.
  • Zinc – found in seafood and meat, but also in  beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.
  • Vitamin B12 (especially vegan diets) – found in meat, dairy, grains and mushrooms (although not as well absorbed).
  • Calcium (especially vegan diets) – found in high amounts in dairy foods as well as leafy greens, milk alternatives and almonds.
  • Omega-3 – found in fish but also in eggs and certain nuts (like walnuts).

Making sure you are eating a variety of foods, taking your supplements, should help to minimise the risk of deficiency when eating a vegetarian diet after sleeve gastrectomy.

Good vegetarian sources of protein

The following are sources of protein suitable for vegetarian diet after sleeve gastrectomy. I’ve included eggs and dairy there as well for those who wish to eat an ovo- or lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and listed the amounts next to them in bariatric-friendly portions so you know how much you’re eating in a typical day. Be sure to check labels though as these are averages and often amounts vary considerably between brands.



Tips for eating a vegetarian diet after sleeve gastrectomy:

  • The key is just keeping an eye on the balance of your meals. Always make sure you have a mix of protein and veg on your plate, and you’re not just having a plain carbohydrate like pasta or toast without any protein or veg to go with it.
  • Vary your meals throughout the day and week, include a variety of sources of protein so you are getting a mix of amino acids (the building blocks for your body).
  • Always make sure if you have a snack between meals that it contains a food with protein – it will fill you up as well as help increase the amount of protein you eat each day.
  • Follow all of the general tips for eating with a sleeve so you know you’re eating the right amount at each meal.
  • See your dietitian regularly for advice and check in with your GP for blood tests at least once every twelve months.
  • Make sure you are taking your supplements (this goes for anyone with a sleeve – vego or not!).



As you see, a vegetarian diet can be a part of a sleeved lifestyle although it will take a little attention and planning. Keep in mind that people who follow a vegetarian lifestyle have been shown to carry a lower body weight, have better cholesterol levels, have greater longevity, and have a lower risk of developing cancer. So consider giving tofu a try…you might like it!

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