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Are you supposed to snack after bariatric surgery? If you search around on the internet you will find answers ranging from ‘yeah, just eat when you’re hungry’ to ‘absolutely not-if you snack, you’ll gain weight!’ Bariatric snacks can be be a big mystery.
The real answer from a bariatric dietitian is that it depends!
Reasons for Bariatric Snacks
To decide whether or not you should snack, think about your reason for snacking. First think about whether or not you are hungry? Or maybe you’re bored? Possibly anxious? Maybe tired? Especially if you have recently eaten you should think through how hungry you are.
Second, if you find yourself eating for reasons other than hunger on a regular basis, work on finding other things to do to satisfy this craving. If you’re bored, try learning something new to keep yourself busy.
Third, if you are self-medicating with food to deal with anxiety or stress this does not benefit you in the long term; reach out to your bariatric program or family doctor for a referral to a behavioral health professional as the next step to manage these issues. Don’t feel embarrassed. Your bariatric program and doctor are there to help you, not judge you.
Finally, if your meals are more than five hours or so apart from each other you should consider a snack to keep you from getting too hungry. Snacking could help prevent you from getting too hungry and overeating at your next meal.
Bariatric Snacks are Important to Meet Nutrition Needs
Depending on how far out from surgery you are, eating snacks can make sure that you can meet your protein needs, even while eating very small portions.
Next reason is fiber, which is another nutrient that is challenging to get enough of after bariatric surgery. Including snacks can make all the difference in meeting fiber needs after bariatric surgery. Choosing bariatric snacks made from plants can make it a lot more likely that you will get enough fiber.
Snacking is also delicious! In my opinion, if you have a chance for an additional tasty opportunity in the day, you should take it!
Energy Levels and Hunger
Bariatric snacks can help to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. Not eating enough throughout the day and ending up eating most of your food late at night is problematic for most people. For example you may get a stomach ache and you may have low energy levels during the day when going too long without eating.
Having bariatric snacks can also help to keep you from getting too hungry. If you find that you’re getting hangry at 3 PM every day and your evening meal isn’t until 7 PM, you should probably consider incorporating a snack into your routine. It doesn’t have to be complicated, keep it simple!
It may also just be your preference to include bariatric snacks. You can choose to plan in part of your food in the day as a bariatric snack instead of just three meals. Deciding to break the food you eat into 3 meals or 3 meals and a bariatric snack is up to you!
The time of day that you eat and/or how many times per day you eat is less important for weight loss and maintaining your weight loss than how much you eat. Therefore if eating at certain times or eating a certain number of times per day makes it easier for you to eat the right amount of food to reach your weight loss goals, then that is the right plan for you.
Now that you’ve decided that bariatric snacks are right for you, you are probably wondering what is the best way to snack?
How to Eat Bariatric Snacks
The first thing to consider is getting the portion of your bariatric snack right.
Try for about ½ of the amount of protein you would eat at a meal as a starting point. This could be ⅓ cup edamame, ¼ cup mixed nuts, 2 ounces of tofu, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a protein bar, a serving of vegan jerky, a serving of vegan protein yogurt (see below), or a smoothie.
Next add in a vegetable. A ⅓-½ cup portion of these foods works for most people. They can be frozen, fresh, or even canned.
The final important part of your vegan bariatric snack is a source of carbohydrates. You could choose fruit, whole grains, potatoes, or sweet potatoes. Including carbohydrates is vital to a satisfying vegan bariatric snack.
Plan ahead to prevent yourself from grabbing something unhealthy. To have the best success with vegan bariatric snacking keep snacks ready to go. Foods such as nuts, seeds, hummus, vegetables, fruits, high protein vegan yogurt, and plant-based protein shakes are great options to have pre-portioned to grab and go.
As much as you can, pay attention to your bariatric snack while you are eating it. Sit down at the kitchen table, away from work or entertainment and eat your snack. You are more likely to be satisfied with your snack if you focus on it while you are eating it.
Now that you know the how to’s of vegan bariatric snacks, here are some ideas:
Vegan Bariatric Snacks
Hummus with Vegetables or Triscuits or Flackers
‘Dessert’ Hummus with Fruit
⅓ cup of dessert hummus (try this recipe and use a calorie-free sweetener to keep it low sugar), ⅓ cup fruit of your choice
Nut Butter with Fruit
2 tablespoons of nut butter (peanut, almond, etc.) or 2 tablespoons of PB2 or 1 tablespoon of nut butter + 1 tablespoon of PB2 with ⅓ cup of fruit of your choice. Apples or bananas work great here.
¼ cup roasted chickpeas makes a great quick snack. You can make them yourself or there are several brands that you can buy. Here is one option: Saffron Road
Fruit with Vegan Protein Yogurt
1 serving vegan soy yogurt mixed with a scoop of vegan protein powder (here is one option) and top with ¼ cup berries
Vegan Protein Yogurt with Crumbled Nuts on Top
1 serving vegan soy yogurt mixed with a scoop of vegan protein powder (here is one option) and 1 tablespoon crumbled nuts on top
½ cup of cooked refried beans topped with 1 tablespoon of chopped onions and a light sprinkle of vegan cheese if you would like.
Chickpea Tuna Salad on Rice Cakes
Make a quick chickpea tuna salad and put ½ cup on rice cakes. A recipe that I’ve been loving lately for chickpea tuna salad can be found here.
Of course you can make your own vegan jerky but there are premade options that you can try too. Primal Strips is one great option that has a variety of different flavors to choose from.
Vegan Protein Bar
There are quite a few options available. You may have to try a few to find one you like. Here is one option: No Cow
½ cup shelled edamame, salted if desired
Vegan bariatric snacks are a great way to meet nutrition needs after bariatric surgery. The decision of whether or not to include snacks is different for each person. After reading this article you have the tools you need to make the best decision for you!
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Ashley Krautkramer, RD, CSOWM, CD, CDCES is a vegan and bariatric nutrition expert with more than six years of experience. She is a board certified specialist in obesity and weight management.