Waiter, Please! Eating Out after Bariatric Surgery
With restaurants, fast food, and other prepared foods being such a big part of our culture, you may not be able to, or even want to, stop eating out. That is okay, even after WLS. You will just need to be a savvy customer to be sure that wherever you are, you get a meal that fits into your meal plan. Take heart: it is almost always possible.
The Trouble with Eating Out
Research has been clear on the differences between eating out and preparing food at home. Restaurant meals tend to be bigger and higher in calories. Beyond that, they are higher in sodium and saturated fat, and lower in fiber.
That does not bode well for weight loss, but you are not doomed. Most restaurants are willing and able to accommodate you. You may be pleasantly surprised at the choices.
Do Your Homework (Or Procrastinate)
Most restaurants have their menus posted online. Many have their nutritional facts online. Check before you go to the restaurant, and decide on your meal before you get there. When it comes time to order, you need not browse the menu for temptations.
It is not always possible to check beforehand, and that is okay. Just keep your goal in mind:
Some lean protein, such as eggs, chicken, or fish.
A small amount of a healthy starch and/or healthy fat.
Build that meal from the items you see on the menu.
The Customer Is Always Right
If you need another expression to drive home the point, what about, “He who pays the piper calls the tune?” You are perfectly entitled to ask for no sauce, dressing on the side, or no bun.
A surprising number of joints allow substitutions or modifications for no extra cost, although some may charge. The cost is usually minimal, and worth it. Examples include getting grilled instead of fried chicken or fish, or swapping a side salad or steamed vegetables for a side of rice, pasta, or potatoes.
Best Bets for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
You can go to a restaurant with some ideas of what they might have for each meal, and search for those.
Eggs: in an omelet or scrambled. Look for egg whites if you can, and choose vegetable toppings. Cheese and turkey can also be good additions. Skip bacon and other fatty meats in your eggs.
Oatmeal: plain, regular or steel-cut, without add-ons such as dried fruit or brown sugar. Nuts are okay. Steer clear of granola.
Breakfast sandwich: English muffin (you can eat half) with egg and/or cheese and/or ham – no bacon, sausage, croissant, or biscuit.
Create a meal from sides or add-ons, such as cottage cheese, an egg, fresh fruit, or turkey sausage.
Green salad with any of grilled chicken, cheese, nuts, vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, and light dressing. Skip regular dressing (or order it on the side), croutons and chow mein noodles, and dried fruit.
Chicken, fish, turkey breast, a veggie burger patty, a hamburger patty, or taco beef. Skip the bread, tortilla, bun, or taco shell, and steer away from breaded and fried.
Side salad, carrot sticks, yogurt, or sliced apples.
Shrimp cocktail or broth-based soup for starters. Avoid dips, chips, bread and breadsticks, and fried starters.
Grilled, baked, or roasted plain chicken or fish. Avoid fried choices, fatty meats, and creamy or buttery sauces.
Steamed vegetables or a side salad. Avoid fries, pasta, rice, and mashed potatoes.
The Final Filter: You
No matter what lands on your plate or your to-go box, the ultimate decision about what goes into your mouth is made by…you. You can turn a potentially disastrous order into a not-so-bad or even good meal with some smart choices.
Decide how much you will eat and pack away the rest before you take your first bite.
Scoop out the filling from sandwiches and burritos, while leaving the bread and tortillas.
Eat the proteins and vegetables from your plate, while leaving the fries and fatty sauces.
Scrape off any breading and eat only the chicken or fish inside.
Weight loss surgery is to help you lose weight, but it is also to help you live a better life. If the good life for you includes eating out, you can do it. Just be careful. Keep your weight loss surgery diet plan in mind as you order and eat, and you can lose weight as you live your normal life.