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Our Food Choices – Bariatric Edition

Let’s talk about food baby! Real, whole, live, fresh, natural food. What’s that?? It is the real deal. It is something that we recognize. It doesn’t contain a giant list of ingredients. Most whole foods contain just that – for example, EGGS. What is inside of eggs? Well, eggs, and that’s all. What about a strawberry? It is just that, a strawberry. 
 
This is how we need to look at food. Now, what’s in a protein bar? Check out the list of ingredients on the label. A lot of those things we don’t even know what they are. This is a great example of something that is made in a lab and has a label that touts it’s great health benefits.
 
Real food usually doesn’t have labels or lists of ingredients. It doesn’t need to. 
 
This is what we should be eating after bariatric surgery. We should focus on real food. When I tell my clients to start adding food back, we go step by step up the food ladder. We start with things like cream of vegetable soup. I remember back 15 years ago, our clients would open up a can of “cream of broccoli soup” and that was soup. Today I tout the benefits of NOT opening that can of soup and to gather the ingredients to make your own soup at home. 
 
Look how easy this is – it’s not quite as easy as opening up a can but you cannot compare canned soup to homemade soup. We grab a bit of broccoli. Cook it until it is soft, blend it, and add our favorite seasonings and a dash of milk or chicken stock and we have homemade soup. This contains the fiber that I want you to consume as well as the micronutrients. That can of soup has NOTHING that I want you to consume and lots of what I DON’T want you to consume.
 
Now let’s talk about long-term. What about 3 years post-bariatric surgery or 10 years post-bariatric surgery?
 
A perfect post-op bariatric food plan will not be identical for each person. Some of us can eat a higher carbohydrate load. Some of us don’t do well with meat. Some of us don’t want to eat meat at all (vegans and vegetarians). But, the general rules look much alike for most of us.
 
We are going to prioritize protein. We are going to fill with fat. We are going to reduce carbohydrates.
 
We need to be continually learning about our food. If you know somebody who sells fresh eggs, then pay a bit more and support their hens and chickens. Support your local farmers. This also supports your health because their eggs will have a higher nutritional value.
 
If you have a connection to purchase local grass-fed beef or “happy chickens”, it is worth it again to pay a bit more and get higher quality food. I know how expensive this can be so search for places that cut out the supermarket and sell directly to the public. Sometimes you can purchase larger amounts to bring the pricing down.
 
Do you have a local place that sells organic veggies and fruit? Go visit them and see what they have for you to buy. Once again, sometimes these places charge a lot more so you need to decide what you are willing to pay more for and what makes sense for you and your family. I find that pricing is going up in the supermarkets BUT coming down a bit in the “farm to table” community.
 
My food decisions have come a long way. I used to purchase based solely on price. I then started to get more and more interested and invested in my food and where it comes from. 
 
Did you know that the apples you buy in your local supermarket take an average of ONE YEAR to go from being picked to being in your supermarket cart!!!! That’s Crazy-Ville. Imagine how lacking in nutrients that apple is after one year being picked. Remember, they are picked before they are ripe and sprayed with numerous chemicals before they end up in your shopping cart. The sooner you eat the fruit or veg after being picked, the higher the nutrient content will be.
 
I think that we all need to get more invested and interested in where our food comes from. The closer it comes from your home, the fresher it is going to be in general. Those tomatoes you get from your local farmer will be picked and presented to you the day after. Those tomatoes you get in your supermarket? How long ago were they picked and what chemicals were they sprayed with to elongate their life and to look fresh for the consumer?
 
The pandemic has slowed me down quite a bit. I think we’ve all experienced the same thing, depending on which country we are in and what phase of the pandemic we are going through.
 
Cooking has always been an important part of my life but the pandemic has shone a spotlight on my kitchen. My kids are always home now. They used to be super busy. They are both in college and they both have jobs and friends and activities and and and…. Now they are at home studying and my daughter has continued her part-time job but online. My son works for Frito Lay and he works outside the house on weekends. We are almost always at home all the time now.
 
Who can afford take-out food continually? Who even wants to eat that stuff continually? Food has become so important in helping us get through this difficult time. We bond through food. We break-bread together (the low carb kind lol). We discuss important issues over a meal. We relax over good food and drink. My kitchen skills have gone from “good” to “really good” over the past 6 months. There’s no escaping the kitchen right now and I am throwing myself into more interesting recipes. I am quite sure that you are experiencing the same things in your home.
 
Our food choices change throughout our lifetime. We go from taking our lunches to school, to packing our lunches for work, to making our lunches at home as seniors. We eat what is served to us as children. We start making our own food decisions as we take on college, jobs, and careers. We make the food decisions when we have children and the cycle continues.
 
I love learning about food and also about what my community has to offer me. I get my eggs from a little hobby farm a few doors down. I didn’t even know they offered fresh eggs but with a bit of digging around, I found them and it’s been amazing to be able to see the chickens that lay my eggs each week when I pick my eggs up. I make a deeper connection to my eggs. I know it sounds strange but every time I crack an egg, I see the chicken that laid it.
 
I have had the same experience with my meat and vegetables. I truly make the effort today to buy local and I get excited about finding a local cheese or a local bottle of good wine. It is a learning experience and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something we need to get excited about. We need to take baby-steps and look around us to see what is on offer. 
 
Support local businesses and support local farmers. In turn, they support us on our journey to health and wellness.
 
Healthy Hugs, 
Sheri Burke RHN, your bariatric nutritionist and surgery coordinator.

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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