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Grocery Shopping after Bariatric Surgery

One of the most common calls we get to our office is from patients who find themselves in the grocery store but are not entirely sure whether the product they are about to buy conforms to the bariatric diet. While we endeavor to offer as much constructive guidance as we can in the postoperative packet, we also understand that there are gray areas in what is considered good and what is bad to eat or drink. Below, we cover the basics.

As you start your shopping, the most important thing to think about is the nutritional label. But not in the way you might think. What we are talking about is products that have one versus products that don’t. You’ll find most of the healthiest foods do not have nutritional labels at all. Fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, fish and more are the healthiest options at the grocery store and should always be at the top of your list. A few thoughts and considerations while you’re in the grocery store:

  • First, try to shop immediately after a meal. In other words, when you are full. We are far more tempted to buy bad foods when we shop on an empty stomach. This will not only save you calories but also money as many of the things you think you want, you don’t actually need.
  • Shop often. It’s always best to buy the ingredients for a specific meal or a couple of meals rather than go to the grocery store and buy a whole bunch of different items with no plan in mind. Planning your meals is a great way to ensure that your calories stay in check.
  • Focus on the added sugars. A great step forward in nutritional labeling was a recent law requiring that added sugars be labeled separately from natural sugars on nutritional labels. We do not expect you to cut out all sugars, but we do want you to reduce the amount of added sugar. When comparing two products, opt for the one with less added sugar. If you find that all the products you’re looking into have extra sugar, consider finding a recipe and making it yourself. Not only is sugar one of the worst offenders for obesity, but it is also a potent and addictive “drug.”
  • Park your car at the very end of the parking lot. Most large grocery stores have large parking lots, and since most of us do not get enough exercise each day, we can supplement by parking further away. If you park at the very end of the plaza it might take you an extra five minutes to get to and from the store, but that’s 10 minutes of exertion added to your weight loss plan.
  • Focus on protein. Protein is a huge part of the postoperative plan. We expect our patients to get at least 60-70g of protein per day, but without shakes, it is very hard to achieve this number. To make sure you get as close as possible, look for high-protein, low-calorie, and low-sugar items. Excellent examples are most beans, lean meats and fish, as well as some low-fat dairy products.
  • Our patients wonder if buying organic food is worth it. There’s not a lot of clinical data to give us a definitive answer on whether organic food it is better than its conventional counterparts, however, we do know that organic food is not sprayed with pesticide. For this reason, we believe that if you can afford to buy organic, eliminating any environmental toxins from our bodies is a good thing.
  • Focus on carbs. Carbs get a bad rap, but they really shouldn’t. Good carbs are the whole grains, whole fruits, and vegetables that we strongly encourage you to eat when allowed after surgery. Bad carbs are those that are highly processed and refined, such as white sugar and white flour amongst others. Good carbs often have significant fiber content, which helps you stay full longer and keeps your bowel movements regular. Being aware of what kind of carbs you’re consuming is critical to staying on track.

Ultimately, the trick to grocery shopping revolves around moderation, which is no different from any other diet. However, by taking control of the food you eat and preparing as much of it as you can, you have already taken a huge step towards choosing a healthier lifestyle.

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