Have you noticed that there always seems to be a new 'it' food?

In the last couple of years we have heard a lot about kale, quinoa, maca powder and turmeric, just to name a few!

What are 2017’s ‘it’ foods?

Among our bariatric patients this year it seems to be hemp and chia seeds!

‘It’ foods are typically foods that many parts of the world have been eating for centuries but are only now being marketed in North America and other first-world countries. They are advertised as ‘good-for-you’ products with the promise of making you healthier and happier than you have ever been! Their marketing claims make you feel like you’ve been missing out and that you NEED to include this ‘perfect’ food in your diet every single day!

As dietitians, we are ALWAYS skeptical of these types of promises.

Many of our patients this year have been loading up on hemp and chia seeds to supplement their protein intake. Patients brag about sprinkling them on their oats, yogurts, scrambled eggs and even ice cream!

While these seeds do boast some great qualities, they have been misrepresented as being high in protein.

Yes you heard us right… hemp and chia seeds are NOT considered to be a good protein supplement.

Let us explain…

If you are struggling to meet your protein needs, a good protein supplement should add at least 6-15 grams of protein to your meal or snack. Additionally, you ideally want this protein source to have the least amount of calories possible.

A good way to compare how much protein you are getting for the calories is to calculate the food’s protein to calorie ratio (protein : calorie).

Let's look at the protein to calorie ratios of some common protein supplements:

What is this chart telling us?

* For every 1 gram of protein from chia seeds there are 29 calories.
** For every 1 gram of whey isolate protein powder there are 5 calories. 

This means that whey isolate protein powder can give you the same amount of protein for much less calories. More precisely, it can provide the same 6 grams of protein for 1/6th of the calories compared to chia seeds!

So does this mean I should stop using hemp and chia seeds?

The short answer is no!

Hemp and chia seeds do have many positive benefits (see below), however they should not be used to supplement the missing 20 grams of protein in your diet. 

WHY? Adding 20 grams of protein using chia seeds would mean adding a whopping 585 calories! With hemp seeds this would mean adding 320 calories, which is still quite a bit! Comparatively, adding 20 grams of protein using whey isolate protein powder would only mean adding 100 calories. See the difference?

How should I be using hemp and chia seeds then?
For those of you looking to boost your protein intake, hemp and chia seeds should not be your only source of added protein. We recommend using them in combination with other lower calorie protein supplements such as protein powders.

Adding ½ or 1 serving of seeds per day (see serving sizes in chart above) for example is very appropriate, as hemp and chia seeds contain many important nutrients that are often not talked about.

Hemp and chia seeds are…
  • Good vegan/vegetarian source of protein.
  • High in fiber. Make sure you choose whole hemp seeds (i.e. not shelled ones like hemp hearts) if you are looking for the fiber boost. In the early stages postop, adding 1-2 tbsps of these seeds into your smoothies is a great way to help fight constipation.
  • High in several important micronutrients. Hemp seeds are excellent sources of iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and vitamin E, while chia seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, omega-3s and omega-6s.

The bottom line: 
Healthy eating is not determined by one ‘superfood’ or seed. As always, the key is variety and moderation! 

- Lisa & Monica

P.S. For those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, we recommend that you speak with your dietitian if you have questions about sources of protein.

Although many of the foods listed below sound like they should be high in protein, surprisingly they are not! Which ones have fooled you?

1.     Hummus. Despite being made from chickpeas, the average store bought hummus has only 1 gram of protein per tablespoon.

  • Instead, opt for homemade hummus, homemade black bean dip or homemade Tzatziki (made with Greek yogurt) as dips for your veggies. All of these dips are significantly higher in protein when made at home compared to their store-bought counterparts.

2.     Chicken broth. Surprisingly, the average store bought chicken broth has only 1-3 grams of protein per cup. For this reason, your bariatric team likely recommended you choose higher protein soups immediately after surgery (ex. milk based soups or pureed legume soups).

  • Instead, opt for more filling thicker soups, such as a curried lentil soup, a roasted red pepper black bean soup or a hearty chili.

3.     Cream cheese. Despite ‘cheese’ being in its name, the average store bought cream cheese has only 1 gram of protein per tablespoon.

  • Instead, opt for ricotta cheese (with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and a drizzle of honey!) or peanut butter on your morning toast.

4.     Quinoa. Quinoa is a filling grain product not because of its protein content, but more because of its fibre content. While quinoa is the only grain listed as a ‘complete’ protein, it only has 2 grams of protein per ¼ cup of cooked quinoa.

  • Always top your quinoa with a true protein source such as meat, fish, legumes, tofu or tempeh to make your meal truly balanced. Quinoa should not be the main event!

5.     Almond/Cashew/Rice/Coconut milk. Despite these beverages having ‘milk’ in their name, these alternative milks contain on average a measly 1 gram of protein per cup.

  • Instead, opt for cow milk or soy milk when you are looking to add an extra splash of protein to your cereals, oatmeal or smoothies.

Moral of the story?

Don’t let misleading product names or sneaky advertising fool you! Get the facts. Always double check the nutrition facts tables on the back of your foods to learn the full story.

- Monica & Lisa

Clients who regain weight after bariatric/weight loss surgery often ask us about the ‘5 day pouch test’. This much debated ‘test’ promises to ‘reset’ your stomach and help you lose more weight. It’s so popular in fact, it has its own acronym – the ‘5DPT’. So what’s the deal, is it too good to be true?

Let’s start with a bit of background
The pouch test was ‘created’ in 2007 by a fellow gastric bypass-er named Kaye. She struggled, like many, with discouraging and disheartening weight regain after bariatric/weight loss surgery. In an attempt to recreate that ‘tight newbie feeling’ again, she developed the pouch test.

To start off the 5 day pouch test, she instructs you to ‘get back to the basics’. Or in other words, she wants you to return to the post-op liquid phase that is required in the first few days after surgery. She then recommends that you progress slowly from soft/puree protein, to firm protein and then lastly to solid protein (what’s the difference between firm and solid protein? We don’t know either...). Following this, you are supposed to feel a renewed sense of self.


The 5 day pouch test WILL NOT...
- shrink your stomach
- reduce hunger and increase satiety (feeling of fullness)
- ‘reset’ your body
- cut your cravings for carbs and sweet/salty foods


We do however agree with some of Kaye’s suggestions.

1. Always delay your fluids from your solids foods.
--> Stop drinking 15 minutes before your meals/snacks and wait at least 30 minutes after eating to start drinking again. WHY? - Drinking and eating at the same time ‘flushes’ the food out of your stomach too quickly. This causes you to feel hungry soon after eating.

2. Take your time to eat.
--> Eating slowly and savouring your food without distractions increases satiety at meal times. WHY? - This gives your brain time to process that you are eating and lets you get the flavor fix you’re looking for.

3. Ask yourself if liquid protein snacks (aka ‘slider foods’) keep you full long enough (Ex. milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, cereal).
--> While these foods are nutritious and provide good quality protein, they may not help you feel as full as you felt in the first few months after surgery. WHY? - These liquid foods spend less time in your stomach which is why you maybe feel hungry soon after eating.

4. Include a high protein food at every meal and snack.
--> WHY? – High protein foods help keep you full longer.

In our opinion, the ‘5 day pouch test’ is just another diet in disguise. Anything that promises to ‘reset your system’, ‘boost your weight loss’, ‘cut cravings’, ‘kick start your metabolism’, ‘burn fat’, etc. is unfortunately wishful thinking.

There are no short cuts to healthy eating and lasting weight loss. 
There is only you, your pouch (i.e. your little stomach) and knowing how to use it!

How do I know if my pouch is still small?
Believe it or not, the majority of weight regain after bariatric/weight loss surgery is NOT related to having stretched your stomach. This is good news! In our experience, weight regain is more related to what you eat, the timing of your meals and snacks, and how you are eating. For example, if you feel comfortably full for 2-3 hours after eating the amount of food that fits on a bread plate, which includes a combination of protein, a small amount of grains, and some vegetables, your pouch is likely perfectly fine. 

We even asked one of our favourite bariatric/weight loss surgeons about the 5 day pouch test! Here is what he said:
"The major reason for weight regain is the recurrence of unhealthy eating habits and/or lack of exercise. Maintaining weight loss requires a lifelong commitment to keeping up good habits and having support from family, friends, and your health care team. 

Searching through the medical literature, I could not find any evidence or scientific papers studying and discussing the 5 day pouch test. When something is not discussed in the whole of medical literature, even as a simple case report, it leads me to believe that there is no scientific basis for this reset diet. And simply thinking about how the gastric pouch and anastomosis works, it does not make logical sense to me how a 5 day regimen of liquid and puree diet could possibly shrink the gastric pouch. The original feeling of tightness immediately after surgery is probably because of inflammation, since the stomach was cut and stapled, and also there was inflammation from the creation of the anastomosis (suturing). This inflammation resolves after days/weeks during which time the stomach is healing, and hence the original tightness feeling resolves with it". 

Dr. Simon Chow, Bariatric Surgeon, MD MSc FRCSC FACS

Need help?
If you are looking to get back on track with your weight loss and healthy eating, sign up for our Get Me Back on Track package. Whatever the cause of your weight gain, we will give you realistic strategies and tips to tackle your triggers and barriers to healthy eating. Even simple changes to your home and office environments can make a big difference.

- Monica & Lisa

Do you have a bariatric question or rumour that you have been wondering about? Post it below and we might highlight it in our next Fact or Myth blog post!