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Bariatric Friendly Foods

Bariatric friendly foods including chicken eggs nuts salmon cheese and other proteins are on a table

In your post-bariatric surgery life, knowing what foods are best for you can be overwhelming.  Trying to research “healthy” foods can make your head spin!  It seems like everyone has a different definition of “healthy,” and perhaps that’s why we as a society are drowning in so much misinformation. Thankfully, for us bariatric patients, there are some solid guidelines to follow to increase our odds of sustained success in our new healthier life.  Here are some simple things to look for when searching for the best post-op food options:

Bariatric surgery changes the anatomy of our stomachs.  This means that, physically, some foods may disagree with us.  Anything heavy in sugars or fats is likely to cause dumping syndrome.  Dumping syndrome is caused when food moves too quickly from your stomach into the rest of your digestive system.  The symptoms of dumping syndrome can be anything from mild diarrhea and nausea to fatigue and lightheadedness.  Avoid anything fried, breaded, or high in processed sugar like pastries, cakes, etc.

What else should be avoided?  Carbonated drinks can slowly expand your stomach; you just went through a lot to shrink it!  Until you’re healed post-op, avoid anything with hard lumps or bits, like nuts or seeds.  Raw fruits and veggies could upset your stomach early on, so introduce them slowly and in moderation.  Alcohol is likely to have a substantial effect on you as well. Usually heavy in carbs, calories, and liquid sugar, thanks to the mixers, there is often no nutritional benefit.  If you decide to drink, drink less than usual and slowly.

Beyond the anatomical changes, our food choices should change for other reasons, too.  The goal for bariatric patients is to develop a new “normal” for us.  That means making choices that fuel the development of muscle and the burning of fat.  Our new “normal” will be smaller, healthier, and more mindful meals. Generally, you want to look for low-carb/high-protein foods.  You have limited space in your stomach, so what you choose to fill it with is very important. By getting enough protein, you will feel full longer and retain muscle.  Limiting your carb intake forces your body to burn fat to make up the difference.  So low carb/high protein is a win/win.

Thankfully, low carb/high protein foods are everywhere!  Eggs, meat, nuts, Greek yogurt, cheese, and tofu are all terrific natural choices.  You can also supplement your diet with protein shakes and bars.  Just make sure the carbs and calories aren’t outrageous (some of those products are for bodybuilders, while others are worse than candy bars).  You can find low-carb substitutes for pasta, rice, bread, and tortillas.  Generally, these things are pricier than their high-carb cousins but can be well worth the investment.  Try some out!  These products tend to be hit or miss in the flavor/texture department, so don’t give up after one dud.  Try a different brand; you might be surprised.  Experiment with new recipes, too.  Make a healthy omelet with egg whites, mozzarella, and a few low-carb veggies.

Seasonings will be your new best friend!  Different herb blends and low-carb sauces can replace the flavor you’re used to getting from fat and sugar to make these new recipes exciting and delicious. And if you’re at a loss for ideas, thankfully, we live in an information age. Imagine days past when you got a handful of basic, uninspired recipes post-surgery. Now we have thousands at our fingertips. As long as you stick to the post-surgery foundations and guidelines, feel empowered to seek out out-of-the-box recipes and content online and on social media.

Yes, you can eat satisfying, flavorful meals after having bariatric surgery.  It just takes a little research and creativity, and with time and a few taste tests, you will find the go-to favorites.  (Chef’s kiss!)

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