My tips on how to make Optifast more palatable!

Optifast is a very necessary evil of having any kind of bariatric surgery in New Zealand. Before my gastric bypass I had to go on the Optifast shake diet for 2 weeks to shrink my liver and get my body ready for surgery. The length of time you have to do Optifast beforehand depends on the surgeon, type of surgery and your pre surgery weight but one thing is for sure you will have to do a stint on it beforehand.

As well as that, for the first few weeks while I was on a fluid diet I was having three to four Optifast a day. The shakes are nutritionally complete so that is why they are the preferred option by the health professionals when you are surviving on them. I had them right up until about six months after my surgery, although only one a day just to ensure I was meeting my protein goal each day. Most people have a love/hate relationship with Optifast and by the time all the necessary bits are over can’t wait to ditch them.

There were a few things I figured out to make Optifast slightly more palatable and I thought I would share them here for anyone who is coming up to their stint on Optifast. I also asked for suggestions in one of the private surgery groups that I’m in on Facebook so thanks to you awesome people who helped me and contributed ideas for this post, you know who you are!

  1. Blend it with ice or make it with the coldest water you can.

This is a very popular way to make it slightly less ick tasting. I used to add seven ice cubes (no more and no less) an optifast sachet and then enough water to cover this in a small plastic jug and then whizz it with my stick blender. With the coffee flavour Optifast I could almost kid myself that I was drinking a frappuchino, almost.

  1. Adding decaf coffee to enhance the flavour.

I could barely get the vanilla flavour down prior to surgery and did not even go there after my surgery. This was one of the suggestions from my awesome friends but it was suggested a few times and if I had of known this then I would definitely have tried it. I think it would also be nice in the chocolate flavour to turn it into a mocha of sorts.

  1. Add a sugar-free flavouring of some sort.

Adding a bit of caramel essence to the coffee or vanilla flavour or a bit of raspberry essence to the vanilla one can give them a bit of a lift and help to mask the flavour a bit. This was another suggestion I haven’t tried myself but again it was suggested a few times so why not give it a go. Another way to flavour them without adding a heap of sugar is by using the Fresh As flavour powders that you can get from shops like Farro. The passionfruit one in the vanilla flavour is amazing apparently. The Torani sugar-free flavouring syrups are also another great way to flavour them without adding any unnecessary sugar.

  1. Cocoa powder and Cinnamon.

Both of these are low-calorie ways to give certain flavours a bit of a lift. I tried cinnamon in the vanilla one myself but it didn’t do enough for me to make it nicer. You could also put a little bit of artificial sweetener in as well as the cocoa or cinnamon if it helps too.

The importance of the Optifast part of the process especially in the lead up and initially after cannot be understated. I could tolerate the chocolate one the whole way through but only ever had the vanilla one beforehand. I tried a few of the other flavours but my favourite was definitely the coffee flavour. I didn’t go nuts with the coffee flavour one though and would only have one of that flavour a day because it does have about as much caffeine in it as a normal cup of coffee. I’m working on a post now about caffeine after bypass so keep an eye out for that where I will explain it further.

Did you struggle with the delightful flavours of Optifast? Let me know in the comments below if you had any brilliant ways of making it slightly more palatable I’d love to know if there’s anything you do that I haven’t suggested here.

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There are 16 comments for this article
  1. Michelle at 7:28 pm

    This is one part I’m NOT looking forward to if it goes ahead lol. Will be expensive as I’ll have to soy ones and optifast don’t actually do them but iherb does. Plus I won’t be able to put milk in it if that was an option.

    Your suggestions sound great for flavours, I imagine a few people will be happy to see the coffee one 🙂 Did you find them a little gritty like disolving powders can be or did your blender do a good job?

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:06 pm

      The pre-op diet is honestly the worst part of the whole thing. It is expensive this bit but you aren’t really buying for for 5 weeks so it evens out I guess. You can make these with milk but I never did I only ever used water. I think they would have seemed a bit richer if I had used milk, anyway it never appealed to me. The coffee one was the best it’s the only one I would go near now. They aren’t too bad in terms of grittiness even when just done in a shaker but doing them with a stick blender certainly made them a bit smoother if you know what I mean. They do have that protein powder kind of taste to them like a lot of protein enriched ones do.

  2. Gretel at 3:21 pm

    I am having a sleeve done in a few weeks. I have had Opti in the past and my favourite is the Chocolate Dessert. I make mine with ice cold water and put it in the freezer for 15 mins. I like to put a wee bit of Vanilla essence or Caramel essence in mine. I also like using the Lorann Bakery Emulsions and Flavour Oils – Red Velvet is my favourite and a teaspoon in a chocolate dessert is AMAZING! I have seen the Lorann rage at Millys and online at some cake decorating websites in NZ. 🙂

  3. Bypass Blondie at 7:08 am

    Oh hell yes to the ice!!
    I am not finding them too bad actually however I am really enjoying the one meal of the day that I don’t have to replace – I think its the texture of the real meal that I look forward to!
    I have a fruit/chocolate flavour at ‘breakfast’ and then chicken soup for lunch. I’ve just ordered a tomato soup and I’m hoping thats even nicer. There is another brand that you can purchase called Celebrate and its supposed to be the nicest and best taste out of the two.

  4. Nigel pearson at 3:08 pm

    Melissa, I think you should not be so negative about Optifast. From the outset I had no aversion to any of the flavours except coffee as I have never been a coffee fan. I did take your advice pre-surgery about using ice and cold water and it did make the shakes more palatable. I especially enjoyed banana – quite sweet and a bit like a McD thick shake. I also liked the Lemon wafer dessert in the evenings. Due to delays with the surgery I continued with Optifast pre-surgery for 4 weeks! Post surgery I found any air in Optifast shake made in a blender lead to chest pain caused by gas, so I switched to using a shaker and a thinner mix with more water (or added cal citrim milk on occasion). I stopped using use as I am not very tolerant of very hot or very cold right now. I still use different flavours during the course of the day, and find all flavours are ok. A positive mental frame to these nutritional supplements that are so important to us is key.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 3:34 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog Nigel. I agree a positive mental approach to the Optifast stage is helpful and I started off okay with Optifast too but got over it after a while. I admire how well you tolerated it for so long but unfortunately its quite a common experience that people cannot wait to get over the Optifast stage and get over the flavours. That’s part of why I wrote this post because it’s such an essential part of the process I wanted to give tips for those who aren’t as into them.

  5. Gemma at 7:54 am

    I’ve only just figured out that the original 40g formula is MUCH less palatable than the premium. I bought a big box of 21 vanilla because they work out to only about $2.50 each but these are the ones I need to add stuff to to mask the taste. The premium ones are much sweeter and yummier (10g bigger and more expensive).
    PS if anyone out there wants 7 tomato soups, you are welcome to them!

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 5:59 pm

      Ahhh that would make sense. I got the boxes of 21 for months since I was having so many a day and the coffee flavour was the only one I didn’t mind which of course was one of the premium ones.

  6. noel at 5:41 pm

    Can you put fruit or yogurt in the shakes. Also can you only take 3 of the replacement meals instead of four, as I am having a hard time with is program. The shakes make me nausea. My plan only have the vanilla and chocolate shakes. The vanilla I don’t like, didn’t try the chocolate. Will try the ice in it. Thanks for the great ideas.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 5:50 pm

      Hi Noel, you certainly could put fruit in it but it totally depends on why you are doing the program. I know the directions I got from my surgical team prior to my gastric bypass would not have allowed fruit. Hopefully some ice makes all the difference for you.

  7. Adriana at 7:58 pm

    Mix up the Lemon dessert one as directed, chuck it in a bowl and stick it in the freezer for half an hour. Kinda tastes like frozen yoghurt.

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