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When Fast Food Is OK After Bariatric Surgery

You might think that, as a weight loss surgeon and advocate for healthy eating, I’ve lost my mind saying that fast food is OK after weight loss surgery. It goes counter to everything we’ve learned since we decided to have surgery, right? Not exactly.

To be sure, fast food should not be a regular indulgence…but it doesn’t have to be a complete disaster. A renewed interest in personal health has brought about strides in the right direction as it relates to fast food. Not only are there dozens of new fast food outlets that have truly healthy offerings, but even supermarkets are getting in on the game. Prepared foods are no longer the concern that they once were.

Avoiding Ravenous Hunger

Sometimes, when you’re on the go – maybe late for work, or traveling, you may think that skipping a meal is the best option…0 calories is awesome! But actually, you may be doing more harm than good. Skipping a meal puts your body into starvation mode which lowers your metabolism and increases storage of fat. The result? A much greater chance of overeating at your next meal and ultimately putting on weight.

But Not Every Fast Food Chain Has Healthy Options!

Now, let’s say you’re not in the Las Vegas, Los Angeles or other urban areas, where hip, healthy fast food joints are on every corner…

What to Consider When Your Only Option is Fast Food

  1. Poke – made mostly of raw fish, poke can be really nutritious, delicious and healthy. Poke shops have popped up across the country and are both popular and healthful. In many cases they’re even better than sushi because they’re delicious even without rice – not to mention being cheaper too.
  2. Salads – but beware of the dressing – choose something that is reasonably low in fat, sugar and sodium. Most fast food places have a salad option, so check it out and scrutinize the nutrition labels
  3. Typically, breakfast menu items like McDonald’s Egg McMuffin (think all-day breakfast) have a good amount of protein in a less unhealthy package. Just avoid the extras like the hash browns
  4. A special shout-out to In-n-Out…”protein style” is a great option for their burgers…replacing the bun with lettuce works really well, both for getting that taste you crave once in a while and for saving a whole bunch of calories. Hold the sauce too for some extra calorie savings
  5. Black coffee. It’ll give you a boost and while the medical community can never decide whether it is a health drink or carcinogen, moderation is just fine

What To Avoid at the Fast Food Restaurant…

Simply, the items to avoid are the ones you know, intuitively, are not good for you. As a general rule of thumb, those are:

  1. All sodas, diet and regular. Not only is the sugar bad, but the carbonation can cause some serious discomfort, not to mention potential permanent dilation of your pouch
  2. Juices – loaded with sugar…enough said
  3. Anything fried. Fried food adds hundreds of calories to the meal. This includes fried chicken, french fries and more. Opt for the grilled counterpart to stay on track
  4. Most sauces and dressings. Unless you portion them out very carefully, sauces and dressings can add hundreds of calories. They look innocent enough, but they’re usually packed with fat, sugar or sodium or all of the above
  5. Have you noticed that the buns at many fast food restaurants are buttered and often put on the griddle? Guess what, it tastes better that way. And it’s loaded with calories too

Wondering about meat substitutes? Yep, they may taste like meat and they may not contain any animal ingredients, but most aren’t that much better for you. Don’t think that you can indulge more often just because it is a plant-based protein – it is still processed food.

And what about sugar subs? They are zero calorie, but much like regular sugar, they trick your brain into craving more sweets. Stay away if you can.

The bottom line is that when you’re in a pinch, fast food can be the answer. Don’t make a habit of it though, as simply walking into a fast food restaurant can tempt us to try something a little less healthy.