For many bariatric patients, the thought of going out to eat after surgery is a bit frightening. Thoughts of “I can’t eat anything on here” or “nothing on the menu is healthy” are common concerns.
There is good news. Life after bariatric surgery doesn’t mean eating a bland diet of home-cooked meals every day for the rest of your life. If your food isn’t flavorful or doesn’t allow you to socialize, you’re likely going to struggle to stick to your diet. However, you may not know how to order from restaurants while also following your doctor’s instructions. The list below will provide recommendations on making bariatric-friendly food substitutions as well as what to avoid while ordering out for meals.
- Choose restaurants with a lot of options. After bariatric surgery, you should avoid certain foods and beverages as they aren’t well-tolerated or may cause unwanted reactions. You should skip out on carbonated drinks like sodas or sugary drinks like sweet tea. Caffeine and spicy food may cause issues as well, but that doesn’t mean you can’t order from restaurants along with your family and friends. While fast food places may not have the options you need, plenty of other restaurants have bariatric-friendly food choices like grilled meats, fish, vegetarian or vegetable-based dishes, and so on.
- Browse the menu ahead of time. Scanning the menu before you go to order can help you avoid being stuck with limited choices. If your only option is a bland house salad, you may be tempted to order something that doesn’t work well with your new diet and anatomy. Trying to make smart food choices on the spot can be difficult as well. This will become easier with time as you learn your new diet options. Until then, many restaurants list their menus online so you can see your options in advance. Several also highlight a lighter fare menu that includes many items that align with a bariatric diet. If you know what you’re going to order, you won’t feel under pressure to decide when everyone else is ready to order.
- Focus on a protein + veggie combo. Protein will play a pivotal role in your meals as it helps maintain your muscle mass. Look for options that are baked, grilled, or steamed as opposed to battered, braised, fried, or sauteed. You’ll want to avoid carb-heavy or fatty sides like fries and pasta as well. These types of sides are often high in calories with little protein or other nutritional value. Instead, swap them out for a salad or vegetable to stay on your diet and avoid an upset stomach.
- Keep portion control in mind. Most restaurants serve up to three times the recommended serving size for their entrees. Even if you know this in advance, seeing the food may tempt you to stray from your calorie goal. To avoid this, ask for a to-go box along with your entree so you can put away half of it before you begin your meal. This can help prevent overeating, bloating, and other discomforts. You can also ask if the restaurant offers lunch sizes or half-size entrees as these will be more reasonable portion sizes.
- Practice mindful eating. You should pay attention to every bite you take to make sure you savor your meal. Eating too quickly can introduce air into the stomach, which will make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. It also makes it more difficult to tell when you’re full as you’re eating faster than your brain can process. This can lead to overeating, which is uncomfortable and can stretch out your new stomach. Chew slowly and take note of how the food smells and tastes to enjoy the full experience of your meal.
If you don’t enjoy your meals or isolate yourself from your support network after surgery, it will be difficult to stick to your diet. Once you learn which restaurants have the most bariatric-friendly menus, you can order out with your friends and family with ease. Contact us to learn more about bariatric surgery for weight loss.