What’s my Bariatric Portion? Post ops get hung up on portion and how much goes on their plate. Physically, it’s more about what’s on the plate, as that determines how much fits in the pouch!

Bariatric portion size

How many Bariatric Post ops does it take to eat a rotisserie chicken?
In the real world, recipes serve four unless stated otherwise. A Bariatric Portion is about half of a regular portion HOWEVER that doesn’t mean we have to finish it. How many a recipe serves or portion size is not as important as if it’s protein rich and low in carbs. After bariatric surgery we should be listening to the signals our body sends as the pouch will let us know when we’re done.

The ‘Clean Plate Club’
As a little girl in my Italian family, Mom fixed my plate and I couldn’t leave the table until I had eaten everything. Many of us grew up under similar parental rule and were released into the world on our path to obesity thinking Portion Size meant what was on the plate. Paired with the ‘no dessert unless you finish’ rule, we were doomed. What kind of logic goes into a reward of Strawberry Shortcake when we ate every bite, even if we didn’t want it.

burger vs. BURGER
We can’t rely on restaurants to determine our healthy portion either. Portions served have more than doubled over the last ten years and consumers expect large portions as representation of value. Hamburgers are currently suffering from gourmet excess and are giant fat and calorie bombs. Burger buns are butter filled brioche and have a sweetness from the addition of honey or sugar. A fully loaded half pound burger and fries is not a reasonable or healthy amount of food for anyone. Today’s entrees feature ten ounce portions of salmon and sixteen ounce steaks, a Dunkin bagel has over 500 calories before adding cream cheese and a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato has 40 grams of sugar. Even Good Choice chains like Panera Bread serve 1/2 sandwiches equal in calories and size to what used to be acceptable as a whole.

A pouch the size of an egg
After bariatric surgery, we are released into the world with a tiny pouch that holds about four ounces of food. We clutch the sheets of instructions for the care of this new tool that will help us to lose most of our excess body weight in just twelve months. That gives us a year to figure out why we were 300 pounds, learn new coping skills and make better food choices!  One would think that restriction alone would be enough to keep us on the right path, but the pouch is just a tool. You hear that so often but truth is we have a new standard. We have to learn to use it. We learn early on that we can eat a lot more soft squishy foods than firm dense proteins. We need help with what to put on our plates that will limit the calories we are able to eat.

Yes… its old news, but it works!
We know you’ve heard this before but this time try it! It is a good idea to use smaller plates, in a set of dishes the sandwich plates are perfect bariatric portion control plates. I’ve used sandwich plates for my supper for sixteen years. It is human nature (and proven in studies) that we put more on a large plate and then work to eat it all. Small portions fill a small plate and eliminate that ‘I’m on a diet’ feel to your meal. I have a collection of small but pretty mismatched plates that I have picked up for a dollar or two at Pier One and TJ Maxx over the years. I use them all the time. When people comment that the portions in my photos look large, and they always do, I laugh because my plates are just five inches across!

You are neither five nor Cinderella
No plastic Disney dishes or paper plates. You are a grown up and making a meal special discourages mindless eating. Treat yourself with dignity, use a nice plate. What does using a paper plate say about you! Ditto with the baby spoon. Come on, really? While I understand the point, these items make an intense learning curve less pleasant. You don’t need a bariatric plate with sections, bariatric forks with vibrating timers and lights or a special bariatric food template. Save your money for new skinny jeans.

How much chicken is 4 ounces?
We all have a pouch that holds four ounces – put two grilled chicken tenders on a sandwich plate – top with pico de gallo – add chopped baby spinach and tomato salad and we’re golden. For about five dollars you can pick up a digital scale, but I have a measuring device attached to my arm, it’s called a hand! The palm of my hand, not including my fingers, is about the same size and thickness of a 4 ounce piece of chicken, fish or steak. Pretty handy.

But how much on my plate?
As a guide, fix your plate with 4 to 6 ounces cooked solid protein with salsa or sauce and 1/2 cup lower carb vegetable or chopped salad. A good ‘real food’ example would be a four ounce piece of salmon and 3 asparagus spears roasted on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes. Top with some avocado that you’ve fork mashed with a little chili powder and diced tomato.

Eat 1/2 of your salmon ‘Protein First’, 1/2 the asparagus ‘Vegetable Second’ then go in for small alternating bites of protein and vegetable until you recognize you are at a soft fullness level. Then stop. Thinking about fullness while eating is very empowering.

Water Loading as a tool
When I was an early post op I would do something known as water loading to help me with head hunger. After my first 8 or 9 months post op we would go out to dinner with friends quite often and I would sip a big glass of ice water while everyone was drinking cocktails and diving into the bread basket. The cold water would shock my pouch and I could tell while drinking that I wouldn’t be able to eat much food. This kept me full and gave me something to do while waiting for my food. Once the plate landed in front of me, I would push the water out of reach; not another sip. Try this trick if you need strength or fullness to help you to not nibble or avoid foods you prefer not to eat.

15 almonds or two ounces
Pier One is a great place for bariatric friendly dinnerware! The clearance section always has a great selection of small plates and bowls. The best bariatric portion secret is a dish called a ramekin, which is a small white porcelain straight sided baking dish that holds 4 ounces. A bonus is that they are a dollar each! I use them for a handy measure when I don’t want to eat too much of something that is not a hard texture, like berries or cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. They are also great for individual portions of puddings, jello or small baked custards or fresh fruit crumbles. Never eat from the container, filling your porcelain ramekin to half with almonds would be 2 ounces and there is no temptation to keep eating from the container.

Think Before You Drink
Pour what you think is a cup of diet cranberry juice cocktail into one of your kitchen glasses. Then empty it into a glass ‘liquid’ measuring cup to see how you did. Most of us horribly underestimate how much liquid we pour because of the giant cups we carry around. My mother used to serve coffee in coffee cups – they were dainty and came with a saucer. I use mugs that are so large that you could use one to hand wash a t-shirt.

Portion Distortion, measure your food

During your trip to Pier One, pick up some tall skinny drinking glasses! It has also been shown that most people pour nearly twice as much juice in a short glass as the eye is a poor judge of volume in relation to height and width.

It’s all in my head!
Not all portion control strategies are about eating less. At a party, go for the cocktail shrimp or Swiss cheese! Fill up on the foods that cause little harm so you don’t eat those that do. I use a slightly ‘crazy’ trick in that I will negotiate with myself that I can have a bite of cheese biscuit but only AFTER I have eaten half of my steak. Of course once I have eaten steak I no longer want the biscuit. I am a tough negotiator with eyes bigger than my pouch and a short memory.

Try these tips! Once you have a pouch, obesity becomes a choice as it takes and a effort to eat around this built in portion control device. Change is hard but an open mind and a place to learn like our Support Group helps. It’s up to You!



31 thoughts on “Portion Distortion! Tips for Bariatric Portion & Serving Size

  1. Rheta says:

    Thank you for some wonderful information.  I had gastric bypass surgery May 5, 2014 and has lost about 110 lbs. I still have trouble figuring out the right portions and amen to what you said about restaurant portion sizes!  I laughed because I do eat from Disney princess bowls and baby spoons! Keep up the great work and I’m looking forward to reading more!

  2. Joan Narodowiec says:

    Thank you for again reinforcing the portion control. I was getting into trouble by trying to eye things and I was always feeling terrible. So I finally figured that I was doing and I’m not back on track with my portions. I use a salad plate, is that the same size as your sandwich plate? Thanks for the idea of going to Pier One. I want to get some fancy smaller dishes and glassware. P.S. I love your recipes too.

  3. Shirley Anderson says:

    Thanks for the valuable information. I had ruen Y surgery on Aug 29th, have lost 120 lbs, just 25 more to go to reach my goal.  My husband is preparing to have the surgery now. This will help me reach my goal and enable me to help him attain his goals. 

  4. Charity says:

    I profile 2oz rubber made cups with lids and during snack time only have 1 of those. I only pack for a week and keep at my desk at work. To get the visual eating everything off my plate I use tea saucer. Even then sometimes I can finish that. My surgery was 2years ago

  5. Lynda Lingg says:

    I’m so glad I found your article!  I’ve been trying to maintain a 180 lb weight loss (surgery 12/3/2012) but it’s been wobbling back and forth.  I’ve got a disk that’s blown out which is causing sciatica so it’s been hard to exercise.  I still want to lose 100 lbs more.  I’m hoping as I heal and remember my portion control that eventually I’ll be were I want to be.  Thank you so much for posting this!!

  6. Jean Haller says:

    What great reminders especially for the upcoming ‘eating’ season. After 5 years it is great to get reminders. I really likes the ramekin information. That will be as great tool to add to my arsenal.

  7. paula says:

    I am 18 months post op. I weigh, measure and portion everything I eat. I cannot eat 4 oz at a meal. I eat 2 oz protein and 2T – 1/4 cup veggies. My nutritionist told me I’m not eating enuf carbs. I’m so confused. I loved this info. Very helpful.

  8. Ginger says:

    Loved your suggestions. My eating is pretty much on track but wine consumption needs to decrease. I am having back surgery this week so hoping to get back on track there.

  9. Starr says:

    This is my first news letter and I think I’m going to live your ideas. My surgery was 6 wks ago, and still struggling with portion control and what foods are the best. Thanks Again Starr

  10. Faye says:

    Surgery was in 2004. No more support groups in our area & they were so helpful. Kept me honest. I panic when I get to 10 lbs over & quickly get back on track until this past fall. I went up to 20 lbs over & am having a hard time to get back on track. Found this newsletter & Wow! Thanks for the help. Just got my order in for the smoothies & beginning tomorrow, I AM back on track! Hope to lose that 20 lbs plus for a cushion.

  11. Jane says:

    I had gastric bypass in December of 2011. Down 185 lbs. Portion control is soooo important especially at restaurants!! Thanks for the tips. I use the desert plate also.

  12. Alana Atkins says:

    I am 12days post op gastric sleeve and start soft diet in 2 days. I am nervous about getting portions right and this article was great-thanks.

  13. Monica says:

    Thank you for this article it is great! I am post op 3 1/2 months gastric sleeve. Have lost 50 lbs. Have 50 more to reach my goal. I portion everything in containers first, then put on my plate. I keep them in my purse on the go. I pre-cook my meals in advance on the weekends for the week and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer. I pull out what I need for a meal or the day at work. I look at the weight in a package of anything and know how many servings I can get from it to put in my containers. My family knows about my container program so they know not to bother it. For breakfast daily I start with my protein shake as it starts my metabolism to wake up and get going with me! On the weekends I have a portion container measured breakfast. I keep all of my snacks in measured containers or snack bags so they are ready for me to pick and go! If I am going anywhere I pack my lunch kit with a meal, snacks, drinks so I won’t be tempted to stop at that fast food place or eat unhealthy. It gives me that security to keep me on track and not be tempted to get off track. I also keep a container in my car with good healthy things for me (nuts, no sugar added fruit cups, zero calorie drinks like powerade zero or dry drink packs of crystal light, koolaid, even protein drinks and shakes, as I can always stop for ice if needed. I am looking forward to getting me some Inspire protein shakes and productshe as well (they look so yummy) as well as having such a big variety of products to choose from.

    I walk daily for 30 minutes to an hour in the evening as it gives my metabolism that extra boost!

    So this is me and my program I use to portion control I hope it helps! I love this site ever since I joined, it has been an inspiration to me.

  14. Susan says:

    Thank you for the practical information. I get mixed messages from my surgeon’s nurse vs nutritionist vs others on portion size, calorie intake, et’ all. I am 10 weeks post-op from gastric sleeve. Have lost 55 pounds. Maintaining minimum 70-90 grams protein (chicken, tuna, crab, turkey, a little beef and lowfat cottage cheese), maximum of 1,100 calories daily and keep carbs and/or sugars to a very minimum. Using a salad plate or pre-measured plastic ware for meals at work and have avoided going out to restaurants (but when I do, I order boiled shrimp). I can eat 7-8 oz of food (protein first) at most meals without feeling like I overate and not inhibiting weight loss (it seems most eat much less than this so it has me a little worried). It’s getting cooler outside, so will begin walking soon. Blessings to all beginning and maintaining this new lifestyle journey.

  15. Alyssn says:

    I’m 3 weeks post op and having trouble with portion control. What I think is about right ends up being too much. Trying to eat a couple of bites then waiting a few minutes. It takes a little while to feel that full feeling and if I eat until I feel that, I’m so miserable I feel really sick. I had an egg this morning and ate half of it and stopped. Fed the other to my dog. That was plenty. I’m so glad I found this site. Thank you for the advice. Saw my surgeon yesterday he said I’m doing great. He removed lap band I had since 2011 with bad results, converted to gastric bypass, and repaired a very large abdominal hernia. Was a 5 hour surgery, with 13 incisions. I guess for 3 weeks with a loss of about 35lbs is very good! Y’all keep up the great work, the end results are very worth it.

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