Gaining weight on a low-fat diet (with restrictions)
January 24, 2015 8:42 PM   Subscribe

I've lost too much weight following gallbladder surgery, so what are some good foods, recipes, and strategies to try to get some more weight back on? (With dietary restrictions)

I started gaining weight after cutting out some problem foods from my diet. I got to about 106, the most I've weighed ever. Then I started losing weight again and getting even more sick. I lost about 2 to 3 lbs in the months prior to gallbladder surgery. Then during recovery and slowly getting back into eating, I lost even more weight. (Par for the course for me and my uber fast metabolism.)

Now, 2 weeks post-op, I weigh about 100. I feel weak and drained - of course I'm still recovering from surgery so that's part of it - but my pants are baggy and my bras are loose! I'm supposed to be back in the office Monday so I'm trying to get some good, easy, lunch ideas with restrictions. My goal weight is around 110 ish. The problem is my dietary restrictions.

Meal and snack restrictions:

1) Gluten, Dairy, and Corn free meals Also low acid (no garlic, onions, etc) (I have IBS and those make me sick.) I've been slowly adding back in soy and eggs. Not fully back on eggs but I can try.
2) Low-fat meals and snacks. I'm cleared to start adding back in fats to see how my body does, but I will be doing that slowly so as not to disrupt my digestive system this soon after surgery. Mayo seems to be okay so far. Haven't tried cooking with olive oils yet.
3) High in protein. I can't function on just carbs for real meals.
4) Good to make ahead and keep well in the fridge for a couple days. Stir fry with lean ground turkey or pork is kinda a go-to but can be boring over and over. Preferably easy to throw together in a pan or two and doesn't take too long or too much prep.

I eat pretty close to paleo, except I'm totally cool with sugar. I've been trying to add "empty" calories like chocolate almond milk or just snacking on fruit cups whenever I want. It should be noted I'm still dealing with some stomach pain and nausea due to post-op and IBS/GERD.

So, what should I eat? What are some good snacks? Any other tips to get my weight and energy back? Should I set a timer at work and eat a snack every hour or something? I'd love links to good recipes too. I have access to a fridge, freezer, microwave, and stove/oven if needed at work. Microwave is best.

Please no skinny shaming or weight concern, I love food, I've always been teeny-tiny, I'm very small framed, I'm small on top where most women carry weight, 110 would be a very good goal weight and more wouldn't be a problem. My doctors aren't concerned.
posted by Crystalinne to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Shrimp! Shrimp was one of my staple foods while I was waiting for my own gallbladder surgery. (Just had mine out on Thursday -- gallbladder surgery buddies high five! o/)

It's available frozen both fully cooked and raw. I always got the raw kind because it was cheaper and I preferred boiling it with seasoning, but if you get the fully cooked kind then you can just thaw out portions whenever you feel like eating some and not have to hassle with cooking it.

Don't keep thawed cooked shrimp in the fridge for more than a day or so.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:49 PM on January 24, 2015

Rice. shouldn't give you any IBS issues, high calorie and digests fast and easily, so you'll be hungry again sooner for more food. also try low fiber fruits like bananas and grapes.
posted by tahu363 at 9:07 PM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ensure (in addition to real food)?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:08 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can you have potatoes? Whenever I eat baked potatoes on a regular basis I gain weight like crazy, but that may be because I drown the ones I make in butter and sour cream.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:09 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I thought "chicken and rice" but you can't have gluten or corn, so maybe chicken with vegetables? It could be steamed or grilled broccoli on the side, asparagus, beans, whatever. If you can cook in oil, that would be great, but it's not necessary. Low fat, high in protein/carbs/fiber, no acids, eggs, etc. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, or use a spice blend of your choice. Another choice could be tilapia grilled with some "blackened" seasoning.

A bean soup would be another good one. Full of protein and carbs, but relatively no fat. I like to just buy a 12-bean soup mix and sometimes I'll add my own mirepoix recipe veggie blend to it. Any sort of clear broth with seasoning and veggies should be fine for you.

If you'd like a soup that's sort of creamier but isn't fatty, use cannellini beans and blend them up. It will give the soup a creamy, thick texture instead of just being broth. Some chicken stock, cannellini beans, peas, carrots, etc with seasoning would make for a nice soup that falls within your restrictions.

As far as snacks go, I think hummus and carrots, cucumber or some other veggie would be good. Again, it's a blended bean so you get protein and fiber and it shouldn't have too much fat for you, even if it's made with a bit of tahini.

A burrito "bowl" with the things you can eat -- meat, beans, lettuce, etc. A little bit of fresh tomato may not add too much acid. Season the beans and meat (like they do at Chipotle) and it might still be good without cheese/salsa/sour cream/guac.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:27 PM on January 24, 2015

The question is, are you very health conscious? A bagel with low fat cream cheese can eat up 5-600 calories depending on the bagel, and you'll be hungry again soon. also, fruit juice. 0 satiation, 100 percent sugar. Breakfast cereals are all pretty low fat, you can definitely get gluten/corn free ones. oh, and granola with dried fruit.
posted by tahu363 at 9:38 PM on January 24, 2015

I've been in your exact position. You are 2 weeks out. I was down there, 4 years later, I hover at about 115-120, which is 15-20 lbs heavier than I was all my 20s. As time goes on, if you are anything like me, you'll gain weight as the ability to eat food comes back. I found that ultimately even 4 years out from surgery, I still can't handle heavy food or really fatty food. I can do things like avocados, full fat yogurt, cheeses. In my case, my IBS was triggered by meat, so I've since transitioned to an almost exclusively vegetarian diet. Definitely snack as much as you can, that's helpful in terms of making sure you have food in your stomach. Basically, my best suggestion for you is to make sure that you are eating foods that work for you, and figuring out what feels good. I also eat a lot of salads with grains and vegetables and fats and that might be great for what you need as well. Ultimately, it'll be a lot easier to gain weight as you are able to eat food again, so don't stress if it doesn't happen right away.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:56 PM on January 24, 2015

Cook up a batch of whatever chicken you like. I use breasts. If you're trying to gain, try thighs.

Next make a big batch of a chopped raw vegetable salad. I like red peppers, jicama, green beans, carrots, and red cabbage with a bunch of fresh cilantro. Make a dressing of sesame oil, lime juice, and lemongrass and fold it in with the veggies.

This works for works lunches and dinners at home for a few days at a time. Trying to gain more? Throw a sliced avocado on the veggies. Even more? Cook the chicken in butter.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:34 AM on January 25, 2015

Rice pudding? Make it with almond milk if you'd like.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:12 AM on January 25, 2015

Add more carbs, there are tons of yummy, gluten-free options out there. Carbs should be tender on your tummy and will help you add calories without disrupting your gut.

Make nice sandwiches with nitrate free lunch meats like ham or turkey. Udi's or Rudi's both make a very nice whole grain, gluten-free bread. If you're in Atlanta, Pure Knead sells their amazing bread at Kroger.

Add rice. Chex has a line of gluten-free cereals, enjoy with almond milk or coconut milk.

Quinoa with chopped veggies and meat. Can be made ahead and eaten cold or at room temperature.

Potatoes tossed lightly with olive oil and roasted in the oven are a yummy addition to meat and a veg for dinner. The whole meal can be done on a baking sheet, chicken breast or salmon or lean beef, the potatoes. Steam a veg or two in the microwave.

Carbs aren't the enemy. Just make them count.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:35 AM on January 25, 2015

Does all dairy bother you or only lactose? True Greek yogurt (not "Greek style" -- Fage is a good brand) has negligible amounts of lactose because of the longer fermentation. That's why it's so tart, because most of the lactose (naturally occurring sugar) has been consumed already by the bacteria that make it into yogurt.

Anyway, Greek yogurt is high in protein and easy to eat and was a staple food for me when healing and gaining weight after abdominal surgery. Farmer's cheese, also known as dry curd cottage cheese, is also naturally lactose free, though not quite as versatile as Greek yogurt (in my opinion).
posted by telegraph at 6:23 AM on January 25, 2015

How are you doing with nuts? Sometimes people with issues like yours can have trouble with some kinds of nuts and not others, so try a variety. Try different nut butters as a spread or dip for whatever else you have, or nuts roasted with different flavorings for variety.

Since you can do mayo, what about chicken salad?

-Crockpot or stovetop simmer skinless boneless chicken thighs in salted water or broth. Let cool, shred. Keep in fridge for a myriad of uses.
-Toast and roughly chop some almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, or really any nut that works for you.
-Chop some parsley and/or any other herb you like, I love dill or the tops of fennel or a little thyme
-Maybe a little onion powder will add the flavor without causing you problems? If not, leave it out.
-Finely dice some celery and apple, or slice some grapes. Pear also works well, basically you want some crunchy sweet.
-Sunflower seeds or other types of seeds are a good add-in, you can toast them or not as you like. Poppy or sesame seeds are interesting and good.

Mix that all up with a good amount of mayo to combine. You can eat it right away of course but it's better if it's sat overnight and mingled. Eat it on bread or in a wrap, but it's also good on top of shredded cabbage, cold pasta or bean salads, with things like carrots sticks, or spooned into half a bell pepper.
posted by Mizu at 7:01 AM on January 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's hard to gain weight without eat fat because fat is so much more calorie-dense than protein or carbs. If you are eating mostly protein and carbs, you will need to eat significantly more volume.

I'd try to add some snacks that have calories, but won't fill you up - for example, can you add in a couple glasses of fruit juice every day? Not a smoothie - smoothies tend to have fiber and will fill you up more - you want something that's just going to add calories without any satiation.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:50 AM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might want to look into Soylent. It's basically a liquid diet like Ensure but designed from the ground up to be economical complete nutrition. I haven't tried it but I have seriously considered it as a way of dealing with my own (very different) dietary limitations.

Their base product probably isn't suitable for you but they have a forum full of variant recipes and a tool to help you work up your own custom recipe and order all the ingredients. The idea is that you get close control over the nutritional mix, fairly low price compared to normal food, and convenience.
posted by localroger at 8:16 AM on January 25, 2015

coconut milk, chocolate, coconut milk ice cream...
posted by bearette at 3:57 PM on January 25, 2015

although, I have to say that as someone with a not-fast metabolism, yet on a diet similar to yours, it's pretty hard for me to gain weight. Although, when I was vegan I actually gained weight which I am guessing was because of the extra soy I consumed and the lack of iodine, both of which have been attributed to lowering thyroid function (after I stopped eating soy and started eating some fish and poultry, I stopped feeling so sluggish and the extra weight dropped off). But messing around with your thyroid and iodine levels is probably not what you want to do!
posted by bearette at 4:06 PM on January 25, 2015

Marshmallows. Pretty much my only treat when I was in the depths of gall bladder/reflux hell.
posted by kjs4 at 3:33 AM on January 26, 2015

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