Facilitator:  Annie Epp, RD, LD

While many people prefer a vegetarian lifestyle, it is difficult to meet the protein needs without eating too many carbohydrates.  Also, because some patients struggle with eating meat after surgery, and others get tired of just eating meat.  It is helpful to add in some vegetarian options that may be easier to tolerate while giving you some variety.    

Annie talked about the different types of vegetarians:

Vegan – avoids ALL animal products

Vegetarian – does not eat meat from animals, but doe eat eggs and dairy that come from animals

Lacto-ovo vegetarian – eats dairy and eggs

Lacto vegetarian – eats dairy, no eggs

Ovo vegetarian – eats eggs, no dairy

Flexitarians – eat mostly plant based foods, but occasionally eat meat, poultry or fish

Semi-vegetarians – exclude red meat, but still consume limited amounts of poultry, fish and seafood

  • Each protein molecule is made up of blocks of amino acids – think of pearls on a necklace.
  • Some amino acids are produced by the body, and some can only be gotten through food.
  • There are 9 you MUST get from food, and those are the essential amino acids.
  • A complete protein is one that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.
  • Proteins that come from animal sources are complete proteins.
  • Proteins that come from plants are usually missing 1 or 2 of the amino acids.
  • By eating a wide variety of plant proteins, you will be more likely to get in all 9 of the essential amino acids. (like beans and rice, almonds and pumpkin seeds, etc.)

When choosing a vegetarian recipe after surgery, make sure it contains all the essential amino acids.  Adding eggs, dairy and soy will make them complete.  Continue to follow the guidelines in the book:  try to get in 20 gm of protein a meal, but if you get in a total of 45 gm of protein a day, that is adequate for most folks.  A serving should consist of about ½ cup of food.

Annie shared an example of a meal plan for a week.  She also said to limit soy-based vegetarian options to 3 – 4 a week.   Soy products can mimic the effects of estrogen. 

Some low carb, high protein snack options include:

            ¼ cup pistachios

            ¼ cup edamame (soy based)

            1 mozzarella cheese stick

            1 Tbl peanut butter

            ¼ cup skim Fairlife milk

            ¼ olives with 1 ounce of cheese

Do continue to introduce meat into your diet, as it is such a good source of protein, and it will get easier.  For recipes that are vegetarian, you can try these websites:

  • yummly.com
  • foodcoach.me
  • self.com will let you know how much protein and carbs are in any food
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Jlieanna Hever, MS., RD, CPT