Bariatric surgery can help you to lose weight, but you also have to make some long-term changes to your diet in order to see the best results. Your stomach is much smaller after bariatric surgery, and can only hold a small amount of food. It is important to choose HEALTHY and NUTRITIOUS food in order to help reach your weight loss goal and to keep your body nourished. Here are some general guidelines to help you in creating your own unique and healthy lifestyle.
Plan Ahead. Your new lifestyle starts at the grocery store! If you buy cookies, sweets and chips, it will be hard to resist or limit these foods when they are accessible at home. Before you buy the groceries, make a list of the foods you plan to eat during the week and include healthy choices that are easy to prepare.
Include foods from all four food groups in your diet. Vegetables and Fruits, Grain Products, Dairy and Alternatives, Meats & Alternatives. There are many healthy foods to choose from. Make your plate colorful!
Start with protein-rich foods. Beans, lentils, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products are all good sources of protein. Your body needs protein to build muscle, skin, hair, and connective tissues, and support many essential chemical reactions. Carbohydrate-rich foods like rice, pasta and cereals are an important source of energy and vitamins, but they can fill you up quickly. Save these towards the end of your meal… and don´t forget about your vegetables and fruits, rich in vitamins and minerals too!
Eat three small meals per day. Make sure to include breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast can lead to over-eating at lunchtime, and you also need that energy to help you start your day. Spread the meals out evenly throughout the day, so that you are eating every 4-6 hours. If there is a long stretch of more than 6 hours between meals, include a small healthy “snack” to keep you going. Perk up with a small orange (35 calories) or whole wheat crackers (2 crackers = 80 calories) with low-fat cheddar cheese (1 oz = 49 calories), instead of a chocolate bar (280 calories!)
Drink between meals instead of with meals to help your lap band work at its best. The lap band is designed to restrict solids, not liquids. Drinking liquids during or immediately after meals tends to flush food through your stomach pouch and you will not get the prolonged feeling of satiety that you need. Keep your foods and liquids separate to feel fuller longer, and stay hydrated too!
Making Healthier Choices
Here are some simple ways to make healthier choices at meal times.
- Breakfast? In your coffee or tea, replace the sugar with artificial sweetener, or add 2% milk instead of cream. Instead of a donut or package of cookies, choose a low-fat yogurt and spoonful of granola, or a soft-boiled egg and small apple.
- Lunch? On your sandwich, use margarine instead of mayonnaise, and just spread it on one side of the bread. Add fresh vegetables to your sandwich to increase the flavor – try tomatoes, cucumbers or green peppers sliced very thin. Mix small pieces of cooked chicken and low-fat cheese into your salad to make a fresh meal, and choose low-fat salad dressings or make your own – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of pepper!
- Dinner? Steam your vegetables instead of boiling or frying them. Try baking your fish or chicken instead of frying it in oil. If you´re looking for a flavor kick, try adding some fresh herbs and spices to your dish. For a simple, healthy meal, wash and cut potatoes, carrots, and broccoli, and wrap them in foil together with some fresh fish and herbs – pop the foil package in the oven for 30 minutes at 400°F and enjoy a delicious hot meal!
Do I need to Avoid or Limit any Foods?
Avoid “Empty Calorie” foods like syrup, honey, pie, jam, chips, or cake, as they contain large amounts of sugar, and will fill you up quickly while providing very little nutritional value. Although you don´t have to give up your favorite high-fat treats forever, you will need to change the amount and frequency that you indulge in these foods in order to see the best results with your lap band. For example, if you usually eat a large bowl of ice cream in the evenings, use a smaller bowl and choose one day per week when you will enjoy your favorite flavor. If you love soda pop, choose the diet or light version instead, but watch out – the bubbles will fill you up fast. Remember – your bariatric surgery is a tool that you can use to help you lose weight, but it will not work without your support!
Some foods and medications can irritate your stomach, causing inflammation which can making eating uncomfortable and increase the risk of blockages. Avoid or limit alcohol, spicy foods like chili, and tobacco. Some medications like aspirin or iron supplements can also cause irritation. Talk with your doctor to find a safe alternative if you require these medications, and if possible, request a liquid format.
Hard & Bulky Foods
Some foods can get stuck in your lap band or stomach pouch, which can be an uncomfortable or painful experience. Foods like popcorn, nuts and seeds are difficult to digest and may get stuck in your lap band, blocking other foods from passing through for digestion. It is best to avoid foods that are hard or difficult to digest. Other foods such as pasta, rice, tortillas or dry bread can be bulky and may get stuck if you do not chew them properly. Limit these foods in order to decrease the risk of blockages. If you eat these foods, make sure you are chewing well and eating slowly. If you feel that they are stuck, you may need a small sip of water to help them pass through.