There are many factors that can lead to unwanted weight gain. Unnecessary snacking is definitely one of those factors. When you have some extra downtime throughout the day, you might find that you are trying to fill that time with food. The last thing you want to do is fall back into old habits. The following tips are important for anyone looking to avoid unwanted weight gain from snacking, but especially for a bariatric patient who may rely on some snacks throughout the day to reach protein goals and to maintain a healthy lifestyle after surgery.
1. Establish a Routine
Routines are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Whether you have had bariatric surgery or not, determining a schedule for your day can lead to higher productivity levels and better food choices. It is common to find yourself looking for something to snack on when you have excessive downtime, so planning a routine for your day can fill up some of that extra time.
After bariatric surgery, alteration to the body’s normal anatomy can affect hormonal balance and sense of hunger. Coming up with a daily schedule of meal and snack times can be important to ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need and maintaining a healthy balance. This will also result in less grazing throughout the day that you might not even realize you are doing. After bariatric surgery, meals may become more frequent due to smaller portions and tolerance of what your stomach can handle. At some point down the line this can mean that you are eating 4-6 small meals/snacks per day and that’s okay, but make sure you have a routine set in place. This way you are getting these meals 3-4 hours apart and, as a result, balancing out blood sugar levels.
When you have a better idea of what your day is going to look like and what time you will be eating, you will become more mindful of extra calories you are consuming throughout the day.
Make the best of your downtime. Plan your day to include some exercise like walking the dog, hiking, yoga, and so on.
2. Track Your Daily Intake
Accountability can play a huge role in what decisions you are making. When you know someone is tracking your food intake, you become more aware of what you are putting into your body and may think twice about eating that bag of chips. Whether it is planning to weigh yourself a certain day each week, or using a food tracker like MyFitnessPal, or planning to exercise with a friend, all of these options can help to keep you more accountable for your decisions.
Using an app like MyFitnessPal is a great tool to keep you on track with your food intake, water intake, and even weight loss. You can become a part of a community of other MyFitnessPal users that provide recipes, exercise routines, and social support. When you have to physically input what you are consuming on a daily basis, you are more likely to make better choices.
3. Stay Hydrated
The brain regulates hunger and thirst in the same complex, so they are often confused. Remembering to stay hydrated can decrease the amount of times you want to reach for a snack. Consuming around 48-64 ounces of fluids every day should be the goal. For bariatric patients, it is important to remember to not drink fluids with your meals. Drinking fluids with meals allows the food you are consuming to thin out and move through your stomach faster. This can decrease the amount of time you feel full for and can result in overeating and weight gain. It is also common after surgery to vomit when foods and liquids are consumed at the same time, solely because the fluids have nowhere to go in the newly constructed stomach pouch. Aim to drink 1-2 cups of fluid between each meal and snack.
Hydrating doesn’t have to mean just drinking plain water. If you are a bariatric patient, it is important to choose low-calorie options and stay away from carbonated beverages. If you are looking for a flavored water option, you can even add different fruits (lemon, raspberry, orange), vegetables (cucumber), or herbs (mint) to offer some variety.
4. Everything In Moderation
Portion control is everything, even when you are snacking. Always be aware of the nutrition facts label and serving size. When you find yourself reaching for that family size bag of snacks, take a second to look at the serving size. Go ahead and portion out the necessary amount into a small bowl, and store the bag away.
Sit down and enjoy what you are eating. Take your time, eat slow, and avoid distractions. This can result in feeling fuller faster and longer, eating less, and more awareness. You are also giving your body the time to acknowledge what is being consumed, and hormones are released to promote satiety.
Do not deprive yourself of your favorite foods, just remember to eat in moderation. When you deprive yourself of the options you really like, you’re going to crave them more and when you do end up caving in, you tend to overeat. When you want to choose your favorite food options it is important to understand portion control, when you are eating, and how often you are consuming those options that may not be at the top of the healthy list.
5. Healthy and Balanced Food Options
Most people reach for the easy and convenient option when it comes to meals and snacks, especially when you are on the go. Choose food options that include protein, healthy fats, and fiber-filled carbohydrates. These options leave you feeling fuller longer and it doesn’t take much to be satisfied when consuming these.
A main focus after bariatric surgery is protein intake. It may be hard to reach the recommended 60-80 grams of protein per day, so throwing in a healthy snack between meals may help you reach this level. When it comes to meals and snacks, remember protein first. This idea will ensure you are reaching your protein goals before you feel too full to consume anything else. Additionally, adding fiber to your diet results in feeling satiated because it takes longer to digest. Healthy fats are also beneficial because they trigger satiety signals, they help absorb fat-soluble vitamins in the body, and they add flavor to food.
Some smart options include, but are not limited to (be aware of the diet phase you are in post-surgery and what foods may be tolerable for you):
- Hard boiled egg
- Tuna pack with whole grain crackers or celery
- Protein shake
- Protein bar
- Vegetables and hummus
- Roasted garbanzo beans or roasted edamame
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Celery with peanut butter or apple with peanut butter
- Greek yogurt and almonds
- Turkey roll up with low-fat string cheese
It is important that if you are going to snack, make it worth your while. Don’t immediately reach for the bag of chips, learn to snack smart. Sometimes a snack can be necessary to maintain blood sugar levels, offer some extra protein, and give your body the boost it needs until your next meal. When this is the case, it is important to choose snack options that won’t add excessive calories without you even knowing.