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Social Eating after Bariatric Surgery: What to Expect


By Dr. Dieter Pohl

Dining out may not be what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it! Whether you’re out having dinner with friends or stopping by the family cookout, here’s everything you need to know while eating out after having weight loss surgery.

What Should I Expect While Dining Out?

Before going out to eat, you might be nervous as to what to expect. “Will I be able to eat what’s on the menu?” is a common question among those who have had weight loss surgery. Even though there will be plenty of options that do not fit your dietary requirements, restaurants usually offer healthier options like lean proteins and vegetables on their menu as well. You should expect portion sizes to be large. Be prepared to ask for a to-go box to reheat the other portion of your meal at home. Although you may be anxious about eating in public with a new diet, many restaurants are very accommodating to dietary needs as long as you request it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu and always research the restaurant beforehand so you know if it's appropriate for your diet.

Can I Still Enjoy Parties While Sticking to My Diet?

Eating at a party is no different than eating at a restaurant. You should focus on filling up with protein and veggies and avoid hovering around the snack table. Parties are a great time to socialize with others and share the love of the season. Temptation will always be there so don’t arrive at the party hungry. Once there, fill up on protein and veggies first. That will make you feel fuller longer so you can focus on having fun with those around you. If you’re concerned about not knowing if there will be something to eat at the party, you can always bring something to share that you can eat. You can bring an appetizer or a protein shake or protein bar with you if you choose.

Tips for Social Eating

Choose the Right Foods

Even though you chose to dine out, you still have to stick to your diet plan.  You would be surprised what you can find that fits your diet while dining out. It may be tempting to eat food you haven’t had in a while. Avoid all fried foods and fast food restaurants. Avoid foods in cream sauces or gravies. Some menu items may have a lot of cheese, like Italian or Mexican food. Try getting simpler items that you know what the ingredients are.  Be sure to get protein and you’ll be off to a great start. Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and tofu can be a good choice since they are lower in fat than other cuts of meat. You should avoid drinks with empty calories; instead just stick to a glass of water. Limit alcohol intake after bariatric surgery especially in the first six months to 1 year. You can usually swap out French fries in any meal for an alternative. When ordering a salad, be sure to ask for the dressing on the side as many dressings contain unnecessary sugars and are high in calories.

Understand Your Eating Options

You’ll probably encounter large portions of food at the majority of restaurants you attend. The portion size of meals at most restaurants can serve more than one person! It’s important to understand your eating options at the restaurant you plan to dine at. You don’t have to select an entree from the main section of the menu, appetizers are usually smaller portions and can save you money. Another option is to share a meal with a friend. Everybody will be so busy eating their own portion they won’t notice your serving size is small.

Eat Slowly

Eating is never a race; take your time when you go out to eat and thoroughly chew your food. You might feel anxious about eating while dining out with others, but try not to worry about what people might think or say. If someone at your table is encouraging you to eat more, politely say you’re full and leave it at that. You should never feel pressured to eat with a smaller stomach than those around you; remember, your stomach is not as big as it used to be.

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