While most bariatric patients have done their fair share of dieting, not all diets are created equal. From the Mediterranean diet to low-carb to raw food plans, keeping up with the latest “wisdom” on what to eat and what not to eat can be overwhelming.
The good news? The dietary guidelines for medically supervised weight loss patients are fairly straightforward. Read on for an overview of the gastric bypass diet, along with a roundup of attributes shared by the best bariatric foods.
“A gastric bypass diet is for people who are recovering from gastric bypass surgery to help them heal and change their eating habits,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Eating this way serves several purposes, including allowing the stomach to heal without stretching; acclimating patients to eating amounts of food which can be comfortably and safely digested; promoting weight loss; and avoiding surgical side effects and complications.
While diet recommendations may differ depending on the individual and the surgical specifics, the typical gastric bypass diet subscribes to a “staged approach” in which patients are gradually eased from clear liquids back to solid foods. This takes approximately three months, depending on how each patient’s body adjusts and heals.
While bariatric patients are initially limited to a liquid diet, solids are reintroduced over time, including the following:
1. Low-fat, low-sugar foods
Following bariatric surgery, the digestive system is unlikely to tolerate high-fat, high-sugar foods. Recommends the Mayo Clinic, “Avoid foods that are high in fat (such as fried foods, ice cream and candy bars). Look for sugar-free options of soft drinks and dairy products.”
2. High-protein foods
High-protein foods are essential for optimal healing. Advises the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, “Preserve muscle tissue by eating foods rich in protein. High-protein foods include eggs, meats, fish, seafood, tuna, poultry, soy milk, tofu, cottage cheese, yogurt and other milk products. Your goal should be a minimum of 65 to 75 grams of protein a day.'
3. Low-calorie foods
The recommended daily caloric intake for bariatric patients is 1,000 calories. Sticking with low-calorie foods can help patients more easily meet this guideline. While fresh fruits and vegetables are a simple yet significant source of nutrients, they can also be high in carbs with difficult-to-digest skin. Pureed fruit and vegetables and/or soft fresh fruit (without skin and seeds) and cooked vegetables (without skin) offer a healthy way to stay within calorie limits without resorting to chemically-laden granola bars and shakes.
4. Organic foods
As Dr. John P. Salerno, founder of New York City’s Salerno Center for Complementary Medicine, told Huffington Post, “I recommend organic foods for my weight loss patients because I want them to eat nutrient dense foods, thus you have to begin with the dirt. The overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical additives for the growth of monoculture genetically modified crops, including corn, soy, rice, canola, and others have wreaked havoc with the soil….The results are food products with empty calories, unknown long term health effects, and almost certain capacity for making people fat.”
One last thing to keep in mind? For bariatric patients, what not to eat is just as important as what to eat — particularly given the extreme symptoms which can arise, including nausea, pain and vomiting. The list of foods to avoid includes popcorn; nuts and seeds; dried fruits; granola; celery, broccoli, corn, cabbage and other fibrous or stringy vegetables; tough meats; breads; fried foods; and carbonated beverages.
Research published in the academic journal F1000 Medicine Reports concludes, “Weight loss surgery is the most effective and sustainable treatment option for severe obesity as long as the individual is motivated to make the lifestyle changes required.”
While learning the right way to eat after bariatric surgery can be a challenge, following these guidelines — and taking advantage of the latest innovations in bariatric food products, including Rational Foods’ nutrition-dense food pouches packed with real, organic ingredients — can help patients choose the best bariatric foods for supporting both their short- and long-term weight loss goals.