“Healthy lifestyle choices give the best results for health and quality of life after surgery,” according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). And while diet is a major part of the “healthy lifestyle choices” equation, many bariatric patients are up against several obstacles when it comes to eating for optimal post-bariatric surgery success. Topping the list? Issues with traditional bariatric food products.
Here are four reasons why many of the usual options fall short when it comes to supporting dietary adherence in bariatric patients, along with one new product aimed at helping people stay on track.
Let’s face it: No one associates the words “bariatric food products” with words like “tasty,” “delicious,” and “appetizing.” Rather, words like “sawdust” and “cardboard” may immediately come to mind. Factor in that in an attempt to overcompensate for poor-tasting, chemical-laden foods, many manufacturers end up producing sickly sweet granola bars and shakes, and the outlook can be a grim one for bariatric patients looking for tolerable meal options.
As if lack of flavor isn’t bad enough, there are also limited options when it comes to bariatric food products. As a result, many patients are relegated to eating the same foods over and over again. Unfortunately, this can lead to even the tastier options becoming unappealing over time. Conversely, when bariatric weight loss patients have access to a diverse range of healthy options, it’s much easier for them to comply to dietary restrictions.
Cravings can be very much part of the bariatric patient experience. And while cravings for foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar go with the territory for most dieters, bariatric patients may experience yet another challenge: Cravings for “real” foods.
Traditional bariatric weight loss products may fulfill the basic nutritional requirements for patients, but we know by now that cravings are as psychological as they are physical. In some cases, patients simply desire the look and taste of “real” food, and most bariatric products don’t deliver. This can make eating an unpleasant experience, and increases the odds of a patient giving in to unhealthy temptations.
We’ve all heard the expression, “We eat with our eyes.” However, many of today’s bland bariatric products are less than aesthetically appealing. And then there’s their plain and/or clinical-looking packaging, which can be a serious turnoff for patients.
In fact, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s publication, Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Promoting Healthier Choice, a significant body of research tells us that when it comes to how consumers process food labels, “certain messages, designs, and labels on food products and packages can influence consumers’ reactions to and experiences with a product.” In other words, the packaging might be as important as what’s inside the packaging.
The good news? Despite all of the obstacles in the way of eating right, today’s bariatric patients have more options than in the past. Take Rational Foods, for example. With the aim of narrowing the gap between obesity management and healthy eating, the company’s innovative real food products offer an appealing alternative to their flavorless, boring, and unattractive predecessors.
“Making good food choices and eating a balanced diet will help you shed pounds after bariatric surgery and maintain a healthy weight for life,” says the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences.
However, this can be easier said than done when none of the “good food choices” are satisfying to eat. The takeaway for healthcare providers? Introducing patients to more livable options can be a vital part of facilitating bariatric adherence and weight loss success.