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Friday, June 09, 2006

Cutting the cheese

It's been almost 15 months since I had gastric-bypass surgery. In that time, I've gone from being able to consume 1 to 2 oz. of food in one sitting to comfortably accommodating 4 to 6 oz., depending on the type of food and time of day.

As I'm able to eat a larger quantity of food, I'm also beginning to realize the increased need to pay attention to the food I eat. Shortly after surgery, I focused mainly on getting in protein -- paying little to no attention to fat content. If alfredo sauce or butter helped chicken or fish slide into my pouch with great ease, then that's what I used. I also started favoring cheese as a quick, convenient protein source.

Many days, breakfast would consist of an ounce of cheese. I'd pack some cheese in my purse if I planned to be out all day and wasn't sure about where I'd be at meal times. An ounce of cheese is about 100 calories and offers 7 to 10 grams of protein. It was a wise choice for portable meals. However, I need to watch my consumption more closely. Reaching for cheese wasn't a problem when an ounce was all I could eat. Now that I can eat 4 ounces in a sitting, what used to be a 100-calorie meal could now be a 400-calorie meal if it only includes cheese. And fat is also an issue. One ounce of cheese has about 8 grams of fat. Four ounces of cheese would push me well over my day's fat limit.

Cheese isn't a new favorite of mine. Growing up in Hilmar, home of the popular Hilmar Cheese Co., my love for cheese began early in life (if you get the chance to visit Hilmar Cheese, I recommend sampling the Squeakers). I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that we go through five pounds of cheese a month in my house. Of course, I'm not the only one eating it. My husband loves snacking on quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese and crackers. He loves ham-and-cheese omelets for breakfast and always adds a couple extra cups of shredded cheese when he bakes a frozen pizza. I prefer to eat cheese out of hand or with a couple of Ry-Krisp crackers.

Now that I'm limiting my cheese consumption, I have to find other quick snacks. Cottage cheese and ricotta cheese are low-fat options that I may start using once again. I got my fill of both in the first weeks after surgery and lost my taste for them, but it's time to try them again. Protein drinks are another fast fix at meal time. And lunch meat still remains a great choice -- though it's another food I've grown weary of over the last few months.

I think I'll be writing more over the next few days about the way I'm altering my way of eating and how I view different foods. As always, I welcome any ideas, questions or feedback on the topic. This is yet another new phase in my life, and it's one I'm learning to embrace.

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