Dining out with friends after bariatric surgery is not the stresser most of us assumed (and feared) when we started this process. Most restaurants have healthy options these days and staff is accustomed to requests for all kinds of dietary needs. In fact, restaurants are offering options to attract people on popular high protein/low carb diets, similar to most bariatric nutrition plans.
Before surgery we worry that restaurants won’t have bariatric friendly options, or that we won’t be able to withstand the temptation of our favorite slider foods. We don’t want our strange new eating habits to make our dining companions uncomfortable. For most of us, those worries never manifest into something real. Instead, the biggest challenges are forgetting to take small bites, taking a break between bites, chewing thoroughly, eating too fast and the sticking to the practice of no drinking 20 mins before and 30 mins after eating.
Embrace your new life and focus on what you CAN eat, not what you can’t. Early on, we have fewer foods we are able to eat, but with a little creativity we can dine out even while on liquid and puree stages.
The Bariatric Dining Card
Most surgeons will give you a card which states that you have a medical condition which limits your total food intake to small portions. The card is used mainly to inform your server of your needs without having to explain it every time. Some people find it helpful when asking to order a half or smaller portions of meals or items from the children’s menu.
I don’t use one. Most restaurants will have bariatric friendly options or are willing to adjust menu items to comply. Children’s menus are rarely helpful because they offer options such as mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs and cheeseburgers, grilled cheese and spaghetti. Those things aren’t bariatric friendly.
Prepare Yourself in Advance
Know where you are going so you can check out the menu online. Most chain restaurants post the nutritional values of their entire menu online. Before leaving for the restaurant, make it a point to know what you need to meet your daily nutrition goals. How many grams of protein do you need for that meal? If you are balancing your macros, how many carbs can you have without blowing your goals? How many calories are available to stay within your goals?
How I Do It
1 year out from RNY, I eat out several times a week. Over time, I have developed guidelines that work for me.
- Stick to the rule not to order anything with bread, rice, pasta, fried foods or sugary foods
- Before sitting down, ask the server not to bring the basket of bread, crackers or chips
- Request small portions, e.g. half orders or a la carte items (this saves money!)
- Ask friends if they will split portions (splitting meals is like having a 50% off coupon!)
- Order veggies, veggies and veggies
- Grilled chicken breast or shrimp skewers are always good choices
- Notice and enjoy every bite
- Do not drink while eating
- Stop eating when full. It’s better to waste food than feel uncomfortable because you had to clean your plate
- If the temptation is too much just take a bite or two of something fabulous from the plates of friends
- No alcohol. Alcohol is empty calories and has lots of carbs, but many of us make exceptions with small amounts on special occasions.