Do you second guess your portions by eye-balling them? Play a bit of Russian Roulette (hoping for the best), or methodically and consistently weigh and measure foods to ensure you get the right portion and proportion of macros for all your meals after WLS?
In the early days post-op I was a bit of a stickler for getting the scales out for every meal (I even considered buying a mini set to take out with me – sad or what? – I was not a Hollywood starlet seeking a new role or slimming down for a part, so I came to my senses and didn’t). Later and further down the road I dispensed with these scales and rituals for some meals believing I could now rely upon my own judgement as to what was an accurate portion or not – until that evil demon PORTION CREEP came into my life. Life on ‘my plate’ became a bit of a wheel of fortune – some days good and some days not so great. A new interpretation of MEALS ON WHEELS!
But I was tired of the rigmarole of the dreary digital scales to fix this so I researched a bariatric portion plate – one that could tell me fairly accurately as to whether I was portioning correctly but also proportioning accurately too.
I’ve not looked back.
You may have a bariatric portion plate, a favourite salad or side plate, a kiddy portioned platter or a bowl that you rely upon, and are already finding them a huge bonus to your weight-loss or maintenance regime, or helping you to get back on track when things have stalled, or that other villain, REGAIN, has come into your life.
But how to fill them accurately and reliably?
I have seen so many portion plates in action just recently (but they do vary in size so check for reliability) where food seems to be pretty much portion size correct – that is well within the inner ‘loading area’ but proportions have been way, way off! Sometimes the carbs are positioned in the protein area, no carbs are there at all, plus veggies and salads are all over the place.
You get the idea and doubtless will have seen it!
So in the interests of clarity and to help those who are a bit confused I have some GUIDELINES for you and I have plated up two fairly typical meals for a snapshot of what to aim for. The one above is a chicken salad mixture and the one below is a steak meal with vegetables.
But first, those GUIDELINES:
PORTION PLATE GUIDELINES
There are a good number of bariatric portion plates on the market and whether you are using one of those, or a side or salad plate, aim for …
- a plate with a ‘loading area’ inside the rim of no more than 14 cm/5½ inches in diameter for the ideal post-op serving size. The amount you can eat will vary according to how far out of surgery you are but this portion size should be very helpful 6 months plus, and at 1 year plus should provide an accurate guide as to what is ideal and should not be exceeded. Obviously it’s impossible to see how ‘high’ you load your plate – but aim for sensible not Mount Vesuvius-like mounds – you know full well if you’re pushing this. And don’t be alarmed if you can’t manage this portion size to begin with, or each and every day, and for differing foods – I find I can eat more of a softer meal like Cottage Pie than firm protein roast chicken, and most others find the same. Just remember to keep inside the lines or the rim.
- a plate with clear indicators to ensure foods are eaten in the right proportions too. Marking out protein, vegetables and salads, and carbs like rice, pasta and potatoes. These proportions will help all WLS patients, regardless of procedure, to achieve what dietitians deign to be the right amounts for a healthy balanced diet.
Think of this as a four stage operation:
- Choose your plate and eating utensils. Choose a plate according to the guidelines above and cutlery or utensils to eat with. I use a set of Bariatric Portion Control Cutlery which have smaller fork head/spoon bowl than conventional flatware (not to be confused with kiddy ones whose head is the same size but the shaft is shorter) – this means I take smaller bites of food (about 20p sized) and so it slows down my eating speed. You might also consider chopsticks if you are in a hurry too. A timer can help as well or just simply putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls and chewing 20 times helps.
- Fill half of your plate with lean protein. By protein I mean meat, fish, poultry, game, eggs, low-fat cheese, nuts, pulses and lentil mixes as well as vegetarian options like soy protein, Quorn and tofu. Choose low-fat cooking methods when preparing these like grilling/broiling, stir-frying, poaching, steaming, baking and roasting with little additional fat. Cooking in a moist environment like braising and stewing will also ensure a tender result for those who struggle with drier options. Place these foods in the protein section of the plate, aiming not to overlap the plate rim nor drift into the other sections. ALWAYS EAT YOUR PROTEIN FIRST!
- Fill a quarter of the plate with vegetables or salad. These can be cooked or raw, steamed, boiled or stir-fried – or cooked with little additional fat or carby sauces but with herbs, spices and seasonings for great flavour. Place these foods in the vegetables and salad section of the plate, aiming not to overlap the plate rim nor drift into other sections. EAT YOUR VEGETABLES AND SALAD SECTION AFTER YOUR PROTEIN (OR HAVE 2 BITES PROTEIN TO 1 OF VEGETABLES/SALAD & CARBS THROUGHOUT THE MEAL).
- Fill a quarter of the plate with starchy foods like rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous, beans, bread and other grains. Ideally choose wholewheat or wholemeal varieties and those that have a higher fibre profile than simple processed carbs. Place these foods in the carbs section of the plate, aiming not to overlap the plate rim nor encroach on the other sections. EAT YOUR CARBS LAST OF ALL (OR HAVE 2 BITES PROTEIN TO 1 OF VEGETABLES/SALAD & CARBS THROUGHOUT THE MEAL). Whenever I wish to deal with a slight regain this is the section I watch like a hawk (mainly because I like carbs!). I sometimes knock it back a bit and have a little less but I never do without them altogether – some carbs are essential for good health and are not a food group to dispense with.
The plates in the images above show this 4 step process for a chicken salad meal and the one below for a grilled/broiled steak and vegetables one.
But what about those foods that don’t easily sit on a plate in a conformist way?
I deal with those via measuring cups. I know the ideal portion of food for myself is about 1 cup post-op (for those earlier out it’s more like ½-¾ cup). For these I measure the food in the cups and either eat from them or decant onto the plate for eating – or into a serving bowl.
So once the plate is loaded and cutlery utensils are at the ready what else do you need to remember?
- Follow the 20:20:20 rule. By that I mean, aim to eat 20 mouthfuls (about the size of a 20p piece) of food for a meal, over a 20 minute period of time, chewing each mouthful 20 times and putting your knife and fork or other cutlery down between each mouthful.
- DO NOT drink with your meal – ideally stop drinking 20 minutes before eating and do not drink again until 20 minutes after eating.
- Try to eat at the table or without distraction, ‘mindfully’ eating and enjoying your meal.
I obviously recommend my own Bariatric Portion Plate – I think it’s stylish, discreet, made from high-quality bone china and can be cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher. It’s also microwave-safe. It has been developed in consultation with many leading bariatric experts and one of the world’s leading bariatric dietitians. It works amazingly well with Bariatric Portion Control Cutlery and the set of Portion, Cook and Serve Measuring Cups (for details of all see here).