While good nutrition is important for everyone, it’s especially vital for bariatric patients because the post-op stomach holds less food. Therefore, if nutrition isn’t prioritized, the result can be health-compromising malabsorption and deficiencies. There are some things patients can do, however, to get the nutrition they need, starting with the following six strategies.
Dietary guidelines after bariatric surgery are carefully designed to limit calories while providing nutritionally balanced meals. While these guidelines may initially be overwhelming, following them can mean the difference between success and failure for weight loss patients.
But how can patients follow these guidelines if they don’t understand them? Patients who thoroughly acquaint themselves with the expectations following bariatric surgery are much more likely to follow them. Registered dietitians can help on this front by reinforcing these guidelines with their clients in order to promote understanding prior to surgery.
According to research from Kaiser Permanente, keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss. However, the majority of people are consuming more calories than they think, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.
Specifically, say researchers, “At least two-thirds of all participants underestimated the calorie content of their meals, with about a quarter underestimating the calorie content by at least 500 calories.”
While maintaining a food diary is a useful way for bariatric patients to track their caloric intake and nutrition, a food journal is only as good as it is accurate. Registered dietitians can help patients be more accurate by educating them on how to read food labels and determine accurate portion sizes.
“At least two-thirds of all participants underestimated the calorie content of their meals, with about a quarter underestimating the calorie content by at least 500 calories.”
Alcohol isn’t recommended after weight loss surgery, and for good reason. Says the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: “Alcohol contains calories but minimal nutrition and will work against your weight loss goal. For example, wine contains twice the calories per ounce that regular soda does. The absorption of alcohol changes with gastric bypass and gastric sleeve because an enzyme in the stomach which usually begins to digest alcohol is absent or greatly reduced.”
In other words, alcohol is an impediment when it comes to maximizing nutrients for bariatric patients.
Five small, protein/plant balanced meals a day offer the best nutritional value, or think mini meals — five small meals a day, or a small meal every three hours.
If a patient is eating five small meals a day, each meal should include at least two ounces of protein, which should be eaten first. Patients should also avoid skipping meals as well as snacking between meals, which can add calories without sufficient nutrition. Lastly, all liquids should be consumed between meals, not during.
Registered dietitians can help their weight loss clients by reminding them that bariatric eating is all about deriving maximum nutrition from minimum food. Another way to look at it: When a meal is no larger than a fist, nutrient density matters.
Vitamin and mineral supplements, including a chewable multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D, iron and sublingual vitamin B12, are pivotal part of the post-bariatric lifestyle. Failure to take them on a daily basis can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
In addition to counseling patients about supplements, registered dietitians should insist that their weight loss clients routinely have blood work done in order to assess their vitamin and mineral levels.
For people with weight problems, the need for bariatric surgery often arises from a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits. However, bariatric patients need to let go of these behaviors and embrace new ones.
This is much easier to do when more appealing options are available. Registered dietitians can help bariatric patients make healthy choices by educating them about the many delicious and nutritious bariatric-friendly foods. In addition to lean meats, poultry, fish, non-fat dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables, meal replacement options like Achieve from Rational Foods help ensure that weight loss patients always have healthy options on hand.
Good nutrition is the imperative for bariatric patients — not only for weight loss, but for overall health and wellness. These six tips offer invaluable guidance for patients looking to meet their nutrition goals.