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Stop It With The Snacks, Or Not? – Bariatric Edition

To snack or not to snack? This topic is Near and Dear to me …. Snacking.  What is a snack?  Should we be having them post-op?  What kinds of snacks are considered “healthy”? 
 
This is a very personal question.  There is not a “one size fits all” answer. 
 
My questions for you would be… Why are you feeling snacky?  Are you truly hungry?  Did you eat enough at your last meal?  Did you eat the right things at your last meal?  Are you very active?  Did you get enough sleep last night?  Are you hung-over?  Are you stressed? What medications are you on? Are you having health issues?
 
Do you see how it is not so simple?
 
You need to determine if you need a snack.  This is not something for me to tell you.  
 
In the beginning, when we first have our bariatric surgery, our pouch is small and inflamed.  With a bit of time and correct measures, the inflammation comes down in the pouch and we have an idea of how large our new tiny tummy actually is.  It WILL and DOES stretch a bit and this is to be expected.  I like to tell my clients, “You cannot live your life with a stomach the size of an egg.  You would experience severe nutrient deficiencies and you would be without teeth and probably in a walker or wheelchair”.  
 
A bit of stomach stretch is a good thing to prevent nutrient deficiencies but now it becomes even more important to make good food decisions.
 
Bariatric New-Bees may have to have a snack during those first six months because they are not consuming sufficient food due to the very small size of their new tummies.  But, it becomes very important for me to explain “grazing” vs “having a snack”. 
 
What is “grazing”?  Well, it’s not having a snack.  A perfect example of a “graze” is when we go to a restaurant, and we order a meal of fajitas with rice, beans, and tortillas.  This is just a sample order so we can all agree on what the order looks like.  We then take a picture of our plate.  We eat a few bites, get full and snap another pic of the exact same plate which we then post to social media to show “just how little we are eating”. 
 
The story doesn’t end here.  We get a “to-go box” and box up our leftovers to take home.  That box sits on our counter in the kitchen and every time we pass by the box, our fork goes into it.  That’s grazing.  This is how we can over-consume food with a bariatric procedure.  This is not snacking.
 
Snacking is a small portion of food that we choose to eat between meals when we are feeling truly hungry.  We sit down, eat that snack and move on with our day.  This is okay if you are truly hungry.
 
I find that people snack out of boredom.  I do it all the time.  Am I hungry?  No.  Then why am I eating?  It is out of habit.  
 
Another big question I need to ask you is, “Are you filling your pouch at meal-time”?  
 
The pouch was meant to be filled.  The food goes into the pouch, pushes against the stomach walls and sends a message to your brain that says, “I am full”.  If you never get this full signal, then you go around feeling unsatisfied all the time.  Let’s eat until our pouch is full.  Don’t over-eat, but also don’t under-eat. 
 
Now, let’s talk about the kinds of snacks I see people eating.  I am also guilty of this.  
 
I think that if we purchase these “pre-made packaged snacks”, then we are not doing ourselves any favors at all.  My “fat brain” tells me all the time that it’s fine to buy the low-carb cookies and all the pre-packaged protein-snacks.  Guess what.  It is not okay. 
 
Do you remember when the “fat-free” phase was all over the planet? I grew up with it.  I would get myself a diet coke, and some fat-free fig newtons, and guess what …. I got fatter, and hungrier.  You would think I would remember this when choosing the low-carb chocolate, cookies, bars, chips, and cake. This is a very slippery slope.  
 
If you need to snack, why not snack wisely?  Here are some snacking options which I feel are a huge upgrade when compared to the pre-packaged stuff.
 
Olives, nuts, seeds, high-quality deli meat, hummus, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, cucumber slices, any veggie slices, frozen berries, a teaspoon of nut butter, 1/2 an avocado, dark chocolate, small amounts of cheese, pickles, 1/2 chicken breast, 1/2 can of tuna or salmon, etc.
 
Do you see how the above list is just “whole foods”?  They have one or two ingredients.  
 
Now, check the list of ingredients on those “low-carb packaged snacks”.  Ya, it’s a whole list of ingredients and who the heck knows what most of them are?  I don’t consider this a healthy snack. This is something you eat in a “pinch” when there are no whole foods available. 
 
I promise you, eating these pre-packaged snacks can and will stall the scale.  If you want to rev-up your engine and get back on track, then please stop buying these snacks and stick to whole, live, fresh, natural, good quality FOOD.  
 
I don’t want to be the food police. You need to police yourselves.  I need to police myself constantly.  When pre-packaged snacks move into my cupboard, I am setting myself up for a re-gain or a big scale stall.
 
Do you see the same thing happening in your weight loss journey? This is not just about weight loss. It’s about upgrading our diets to something we can be truly proud of and a diet that will keep us healthy long-term.
 
Sheri Burke RHN
 

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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