Dining out is often the focal point of many social events with both family and friends. This habit probably won’t change after you have weight loss surgery, but your portion sizes definitely will. Whether you are going to a big chain restaurant or stopping at a convenience store for a snack, eating out after bariatric surgery is certainly acceptable as long as you continue to focus on making healthy choices to ensure that you are meeting your daily protein goal. Remember, now that you’ve had bariatric surgery, it may be helpful to try to share a meal with a friend, ask for a box ahead of time, or order off the kids menu to help you to watch portion sizes!
Just as before surgery, it is important to remember some of the basic tips to make the best (or worst) selections when dining out post-bariatric surgery. This could include:
- Don’t drink your calories. Avoid sugary beverages like juice, sports drinks, soda, or sweet tea.
- Ask for condiments, such as butter, sour cream, creamy sauces, or dressings to come on the side. Choose condiments low in calories and fat, such as salsa, pickle relish, or mustard.
- Watch how your protein sources are prepared. Choose meats described as baked, grilled, broiled or steamed versus fried or smothered.
- Choose a balanced meal, complete with protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Plan ahead. Check out a restaurant’s menu online to help you make a healthy choice before you even arrive.
- Order a high protein appetizer for a satisfying meal.
- Substitute side dishes for healthy alternatives. If your protein source comes with a starch like corn, potatoes, rice, or pasta, ask for a salad or steamed vegetables.
Patients often have questions regarding specific types of foods, like Italian or Mexican cuisine, following bariatric surgery. I am often asked, “Will I be able to eat pizza again?” or “What about chips and salsa?” No foods are off limits indefinitely following surgery. Everything is AS TOLERATED, and foods that are not considered high protein foods should be consumed in moderation as in any diet. Here are some tips for popular cuisines to help you plan your dinner trips accordingly.
Pizza and pasta are normally favorites, but after bariatric surgery, they should be consumed in moderation. If you are having pizza, order a thin crust and add veggies and lean meats, such as chicken or Canadian bacon. Overall, you should choose a menu item that is centered on protein, like grilled chicken or seafood. Instead of choosing dishes with creamy sauces, opt for tomato-based sauces to cut down on calories and fat. If you cannot resist the pasta, order a side dish and eat it after your protein, or just ask someone at the table for a bite to avoid overeating.
Mexican restaurants can be quite challenging due to a large number of high starch foods, like chips, rice, and tortillas. However, by choosing fajitas with all the vegetables (minus the rice and tortillas,) you can have a high protein meal without forgoing your diet. If tortillas are a must, opt for corn over flour to save on calories. Also, while chips and salsa are tasty starters, they are also slider foods, which do not help to keep you satisfied. Ask the waiter to leave the chips in the kitchen to save room for your high protein meal.
The variety of options can be endless when it comes to all the fast food chains available. Depending on the place, try to focus on a salad with lean protein and get the dressing on the side. By dipping the prongs of your fork into the dressing instead of saturating your salad, you can save loads of calories. Another option could be a hamburger or cheeseburger with all of the toppings, minus the bun. As usual, it is best to avoid foods that are fried or smothered in sauces, which can add a large number of calories and fat to your meal.
When at a casual dining restaurant, fried protein sources are often on the menu. Instead of ordering a chicken fried steak or fried chicken strips, opt for baked chicken or a grilled sirloin for a leaner option. Avoid starchy sides, such as macaroni and cheese, potatoes, or rice. Always choose steamed vegetables or a side salad to accompany your protein source.