What are carbohydrates?
- Essential macronutrient made up of naturally occurring sugars, starches and fiber
- Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body, especially the brain
- Some carbohydrates, like fiber, are not broken down, but they have a beneficial effect on the body like lowering bad cholesterol, promoting bowel regularity, and regulating blood sugar levels
Should carbohydrates be restricted in the diet?
Most people have a misunderstanding of carbohydrate intake because of fad diets that restrict or eliminate this macronutrient. Not all carbohydrates are bad. For example, many people are shocked to find out that fruits and vegetables fall into the carbohydrate category.
You should never restrict any specific food group unless it’s medically necessary for food allergies, intolerances, etc. When you restrict food groups, this can be unrealistic for long periods of time. It can result in yo-yo dieting that can limit your long-term weight management. Also, eating from a variety of food groups allows you to consume the essential nutrients needed to survive.
When is it okay for a bariatric patient to incorporate healthy carbohydrates into the diet?
Toleration to certain foods may be a barrier to carbohydrate intake. The following are ways to deal with toleration issues after bariatric surgery:
- Stay away from raw vegetables during the first 3 months post-op unless given further instruction by your dietitian. It’s recommended to consume cooked vegetables until this point.
- Fruit is usually eaten sparingly for maximum weight loss. This is not because fruit is bad for you, it just tends to be higher in carbohydrates in comparison to vegetable sources. When you reach your goal weight, you can then add the extra carbs that come with fruits.
- Whole grain sources like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat products are great options if you can tolerate them. If you cannot tolerate these options, stick to vegetables and starches.
Each bariatric surgery center has a unique set of guidelines particular to that program, so be sure to follow your surgery center’s instructions on fruit and vegetable intake and what is allowed during the eating phase you’re in.
What is the recommended daily intake of carbohydrates for a bariatric patient?
It’s important to have a healthy balance in your diet. Adding in healthy carbohydrates can provide vast health benefits. Always focus on protein first in order to promote healing and preservation of lean muscle mass. Then, the intake of carbohydrates is determined by tolerance and the diet phase you are in.
- Typical carbohydrate intake 6 months out is 90 grams/day
- Typical carbohydrate intake a year and further out ranges from 100-130 grams/day
These levels promote weight loss while still preserving lean muscle and protein. Carbohydrate and caloric intake can be calculated and adjusted by your dietitian if weight loss is still the goal.
What are some examples of healthy carbohydrate options to choose from?
When healthcare providers promote the intake of carbohydrates, they are referring to fruits, vegetables and whole grains NOT refined carbs like pastries, cookies, cakes, white rice, white bread, etc.
Will carbohydrates make you gain weight?
Excess consumption of protein, carbohydrates, or fat can lead to weight gain. That is why portion control and moderation are so important. To be honest, weight gain is more likely to occur because of increased consumption of junk food, sugar-sweetened beverages and baked goods (pastries, cakes, cookies, etc.) rather than from an increased portion of brown rice, whole wheat bread, pasta, fruits, or dairy products. Following a healthy, balanced diet after bariatric surgery will promote success throughout your weight loss journey.