How can people who have had bariatric surgery find healthy options?
Going to a restaurant for dinner can be a little scary, no matter what kind of diet you are trying to follow. It’s hard knowing exactly what’s in your food or how big a serving is when you weren’t the one to prepare it.
With most people trying to follow a diet, this unknown usually just leads to extra guilt. But with post-op bariatric surgery patients, guilt is the least of concerns. Dumping syndrome or nausea/vomiting can occur if diet guidelines aren’t being followed.
Does that mean you can’t ever go out to dinner anymore? You can never eat fast food? Absolutely not. You can still enjoy your nights out with a dinner you didn’t prepare. Just be mindful of where you’re going and what bariatric-friendly options they may have.
Most importantly, make sure you’re being mindful of your hunger cues. Listen to them and know when to stop eating, as most restaurant serving sizes are at least 2-4X a typical serving1.
When choosing a Bariatric friendly option, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Obviously, you need to make sure the restaurant has an option for high-protein, high-nutrient, and low-calorie foods. It is also extremely beneficial if the restaurant provides nutrient facts with each of its menu options. This helps you to see exactly how much food you’re getting with your meal, and it makes it easier to know how much you can/should eat of it. If the nutrient facts aren’t printed directly on the menu, they can typically be found online.
Don’t be afraid to plan ahead and figure out what food items would be appropriate for you to order based on nutrient facts. This allows you time to make a rational decision on what you should be eating.
The following are some bariatric-friendly restaurants and fast food options that offer healthier options and can help you maintain your balanced and healthy diet!
The ever-famous Chipotle. It’s a fan favorite and is very bariatric-friendly with its new online nutrient calculator. Chipotle is a great on-the-go Mexican food option and is a much better alternative than typical fast food meals like McDonalds or Burger King.
Chipotle gives the option of building a bowl, salad, or burrito on its made-to-order hot bar. It includes options of rice, beans, chicken, tofu, steak, barbacoa, veggies, various salsas, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. All meats are grilled, not fried, and there are plenty of options to load up the veggies.
Thanks to the nutrient calculator, you can select exactly what you plan to order, and it will give you your own customized nutrient facts. We recommend building a bowl with lots of veggies and protein for a fiber-dense, low-calorie, high-protein meal that will keep you feeling full!
Not only is Chipotle a great healthy option, but it’s also very affordable. You can create a chicken bowl for around $8.00. Plus, the servings are big, so it’s easy to get two meals out of that bowl. Although this is good for your wallet, it could be a concern for your stomach. Chipotle’s servings are large, so keep that in mind when eating there. Just be sure to listen to your hunger cues and be mindful of each bite!
Despite the name, the Cheesecake Factory is actually a really great option for a bariatric friendly meal.
Their menu is a short book, and fortunately, they chose to include a “skinny” menu in that book. Their skinny menu is made up of small plates/apps (all under 490 kcals), freshly baked flatbreads (all under 490 kcals), salads (all under 490 kcals), and their specialty meals (all under 590 kcals).
This is a great option for finding nutrient-dense, high-protein, and low-calorie meals. Plus, there are plenty of options to keep you coming back!
Chick-fil-A is another great fast-food meal option. Even though it's not always “fast,” with the cars typically double-wrapped around the restaurant.
It makes sense though why it’s always so busy, they have food options for everyone, even post-op bariatric patients! So, what are you supposed to order? Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few options.
Anytime you have to choose between fried or grilled, always choose grilled. In that sense, try out the grilled chicken sandwich or the grilled nuggets. Both of these are low-calorie, high-protein options!
Typically, it’s not the actual food that gets people into trouble at Chick-fil-A, it's actually the sauce. The Chick-fil-A sauce, although delicious, contains 140 kcals per serving, and most people use well over one serving with their meals.
So, the Chick-fil-A sauce is probably not your best option, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any sauce at all! Just swap out the high-calorie Chick-fil-A sauce for a lower-calorie option like zesty buffalo (25 kcals) or sweet and spicy sriracha (45 kcals).
Chick-fil-A is also one of the few fast-food restaurants that actually provide nutritious side options. You’re no longer forced to only order the French fries; you can now try out the kale side salad or the fresh fruit. Both are options high in fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Like the previous two restaurants, Chick-fil-A has a full nutrition facts page online. This allows you to be certain about what you’re putting in your body. Use this tool ahead of time when trying to decide what to order and what to substitute. This way you can be confident in your order and can truly enjoy your meal!
Eating out is something to be mindful of, but it doesn’t have to be completely cut out for bariatric surgery patients!
You can still follow your diet while eating at a restaurant, you just need to monitor your eating habits and know how to do it. Remember the key is you want high protein, low calorie, and nutrient-dense foods while always remembering your hunger cues!
1. Condrasky, M., Ledikwe, J. H., Flood, J. E., & Rolls, B. J. (2007). Chefs’ opinions of restaurant portion sizes. Obesity, 15(8), 2086-2094.
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