Health Care

9 Essential Eating Habits After Bariatric Surgery

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After bariatric surgery, you’ll need to ease back into eating, and your body likely won’t tolerate food in the same ways it did pre-surgery. You’ll need to rebuild your relationship with food and prioritize healthy eating habits to accommodate these big changes.

Keep reading to learn our 9 essential eating habits to keep in mind after your surgery.

Mindful and Slow Eating

After bariatric surgery, it’s especially important not to rush through meals but to take your time while eating. A good way to stay mindful is to refrain from multitasking while you eat. Avoid watching television or working on the computer, and instead, take 20 to 30 minutes per meal to truly focus on your food. Here are some other helpful tips for mindful, slow eating:

Additionally, take small bites and try to chew at least 30 times before swallowing each bite.

Many people find using a timer is a helpful way to pace themselves; wait one minute before you take your next bite, as this is about as much time as it takes for food to travel from your mouth to your stomach.

Watch Your Portion Sizes

The saying “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” is especially true after bariatric surgery, as your stomach will no longer be able to digest as much food per meal. You’ll need to re-train your mind to be content with smaller portions. You can make this change easier by using smaller, salad-sized plates and smaller utensils. You can also measure your food; start to learn what portion sizes, like half a cup of chicken or a cup of broccoli, look like.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial to your success. Sip water all day long and include other calorie-free fluids daily. Keep in mind, you should not drink your fluids during your mealtimes. Stop sipping 15 to 30 minutes before your meal begins, and wait 30 minutes after eating. Fluids can fill your stomach quickly and lead to discomfort or premature emptying, causing you to feel hungry again sooner.

Don’t Forget Your Protein

Protein helps promote healing and preserves your muscle mass. It’s not only important as the main component of your meals, but you should also make it a point to have protein-rich snacks for when hunger strikes. Your protein intake goal should be a minimum of 60 grams daily. Protein shakes can be a great way to ensure you’re getting enough protein post-surgery, and they’re particularly important during your first month of healing after surgery. Find a protein shake you enjoy that has 20 to 30 grams of protein and fewer than 10 carbohydrates per serving.

Fiber Is Your Friend

High-fiber, water-rich foods help you feel fuller, longer. Men should aim for 35 grams of fiber daily, and women need at least 25 grams. Fiber also helps regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation. A few foods high in fiber include asparagus, avocados, broccoli and even raspberries.

Remember Your Supplements

After bariatric surgery, you may have trouble absorbing certain vitamins and minerals. Your physician will likely recommend specific supplements to prevent deficiencies, but the following is generally recommended:

  • Daily bariatric multivitamins
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B12

Your specific supplement list and dosages may vary, depending on your lab studies and nutritional intake. If your multivitamin contains iron, do not take your calcium supplement at the same time, as iron can interfere with ingredient absorption.

Plan Your Meals and Stick to a Schedule

Make a grocery list for your weekly meals and go to the store prepared to help prevent impulse purchases. Plan to go shopping after a meal, so you don’t shop while hungry. In addition, we encourage you to plan and prepare your meals at the start of each week, as you’ll find it helps set you up for success. Otherwise, it’s easy to come home after a long day and grab the first thing in your fridge.

As your body recovers in the weeks and months following bariatric surgery, it’s important to have regular, balanced meals throughout the day. Skipping meals often leads to overeating later in the day, and the best way to prevent that is to keep your body satisfied with regular meals.

Keep a Journal

Make a point to journal your daily eating habits and lifestyle. Be conscious of what you’re eating and focus on your protein and carbohydrate intake. Knowing what and how much you’re eating helps both you and your health care provider understand your weight loss progress and your health.

Track which foods you tolerate well and not so well. Not everyone will tolerate the same foods after surgery. If you find certain foods cause discomfort, nausea or other symptoms, you can write them down and temporarily eliminate them.

Write down the time of your meals, snacks and track your liquid intake as well. You can record your emotions and your exercise, and we encourage you to write down your positives for the day. It’s important to reflect on the positive choices you made throughout the day.

Don’t just journal when you aren’t losing weight; journal when you are also losing weight. Consistent journaling will help you find your personal keys to success and what works for you. You can then reinforce those successes by setting short-term, realistic goals. Plus, you can bring this journal, packed with helpful records, to your follow-up appointments with your surgeon.

Avoid Empty Calories

Grazing on foods and drinks that are high in sugar or fat but low in nutrients contributes to unnecessary calories, weight gain and nutrient deficiencies. Grazing refers to nibbling, snacking and picking at food in between meals. This prevents your body from recognizing the sensation of feeling full.

A Whole, Healthy You

If you’re considering a weight loss procedure, our bariatric care team can help you take this next step in your lifelong journey to a healthier you.

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