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Why Bariatric Patients Should Incorporate Meal Replacement Options into their Diets

Why Bariatric Patients Should Incorporate Meal Replacement Options into their Diets

October 30, 2018

As dietitians, we often talk to weight loss patients about “watching what [they] eat.” However, a growing body of evidence tells us that the formula for success may be less about watching and more about something else: Writing.

Specifically, writing down food intake in a daily journal. Here’s a closer look at five ways in which keeping a food journal can help bariatric patients with weight loss adherence in order to reach their weight loss goals.

Deciding to pursue surgery is only part of the weight loss equation. Just as critical is a commitment to lifelong changes aimed at maximizing the impact of bariatric surgery. The good new is that many tools are available to help patients make healthy choices in order to achieve their weight loss goals. Meal replacement products are one particularly effective resource.

Here’s a closer look at the important role meal replacements can play in the lives of weight loss patients, along with why certain meal replacement products are better than others when it comes to supporting optimal weight loss and weight management.

Beyond Surgery

We hope that pre-op and post-op patients are aware that bariatric surgery in itself is not an automatic means to the desired end. Results are not guaranteed. Rather, they depend on the choices patients make.

Research published in the academic journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity states: “Bariatric surgery aims to provide long-term weight loss and improvement in weight-related comorbidities. Unfortunately, some patients do not achieve predicted weight loss targets and many regain a portion of their lost weight within 2–10 years post-surgery. A review of the literature found that behavioral, dietary, psychological, physical, and medical considerations can all play a role in suboptimal long-term weight loss.”

Which begs the question: What, specifically, are they talking about when they talk about “behavioral, dietary, psychological, physical, and medical considerations”?  A number of factors, including emotional obstacles, bad habits, aversion to exercise and environmental factors.

Therefore, to address these obstacles and set patients up for success, proactive measures must be in place. One measure that helps patients across several of the aforementioned considerations: Bariatric meal replacement products.

Why Meal Replacements Work

We’ve established that weight loss patients face many challenges when it comes to adopting lifelong healthy behaviors, which is one of the reasons why bariatric meal replacement products are so helpful.

As Densie Webb, PhD, RD tells Today’s Dietitian, “Meal replacement formulas offer clients and patients a premeasured amount of food with specific calorie, protein, and nutrient levels, eliminating the need to weigh, measure, or estimate portion sizes.”

Simply put, meal replacements remove a significant obstacle to adherence and make it easier for patients to comply with caloric restrictions while still meeting their nutritional requirements.

And the research is clear on this: Meal replacements work.

For example, the Look AHEAD trial determined that weight loss patients who integrated meal replacements into their diets not only lost a significant amount of weight, but also supported improvements in biomarkers linked with metabolic syndrome.

When combined with exercise, meanwhile, the payoffs are even greater.  Say researchers from the University of New Mexico: “Meal replacements are proving to be a successful option for creating dietary caloric deficits. However, for prolonged weight regain prevention, the exercise professional's role is truly paramount in motivating clients to maintain their reduced body weight.”

Given their promise for supporting weight loss, it’s hardly a surprise that the meal replacement market is predicted to rise by a CAGR of 7.1 percent between 2018 and 2023, according to Mordor Intelligence.

However, all meal replacement options aren’t the same. And some, especially popular weight loss shakes, are hiding shockingly high amounts of sugar — some upwards of 20 grams a serving!

At the same time, they may fall short on another key ingredient: protein. Plus, continues Webb, “Liquid meal replacements often are short on fiber and don't provide all of the phytochemicals found in plant-based foods.”

A smart alternative to liquid meal replacements is Achieve from Rational Foods. Each convenient serving is loaded with nutrients, including 20 grams of protein and just 160 calories. They also deliver in the plant-based department thanks to real, organic fruits and vegetables , such as butternut squash, pear, banana, strawberry, green apple, carrot and raspberry. Plus, they’re portable and shelf-stable — meaning that whenever unanticipated roadblocks arise, weight loss patients always have a healthy choice within reach.

Contends Lloyd Stegemann, MD, FASMBS, for the Obesity Action Coalition: “No matter what procedure a patient chooses, the key to weight-loss surgery is getting the patient to use their weight-loss operation to implement lifestyle change. Each of the available surgeries truly is a ‘tool’ that will help to control hunger and portion size, but that’s it! The rest is up to the patient.”

Dietitians can help set their bariatric patients up for success by reinforcing the importance of bariatric-friendly eating, including providing an introduction to meal replacement products and why they work.