Snacking habits are a hot topic in the bariatric community. There are both healthy and unhealthy ways of snacking for those with tiny tummies…can you tell the difference?
Many bariatric surgeons do not recommend snacking after bariatric surgery because it may trigger the same unhealthy habits that bariatric patients exhibit before surgery. on the other hand, many people who have had bariatric surgery find it necessary to snack during the day to meet their nutritional requirements for nutrients such as protein as they often have issues with early satiety, particularly in the early days after surgery.
Selecting appropriate snacks could help complete your nutritional needs without slowing your weight loss. To accomplish this, it is important to learn how to snack on nutrient rich foods.
Dangers of Snacking after Bariatric Surgery
After bariatric surgery such as the sleeve gastrectomy, your new stomach pouch can hold only a small amount of food at one time. This automatically helps limit your food intake at each meal, and theoretically, for the entire day. In addition, your hunger hormone ,ghrelin is diminished and so you are unlikely to be craving for food between meals.
However, if you fall into the habit of grazing on small amounts of food throughout the day, you really can slow down your weight loss progress, stop it altogether, or even start to gain weight. Even if the items you are grazing on are considered to be healthy options, they can still add up to excess calories and limit your ability to lose weight.
Snacking can go from a nutritious pick me up to being a problem very quickly. Here are some ways that can happen:
- Mindless snacking: This happens when you are not actually thinking about what you are eating e.g eating while watching TV
- Snacking when you are not hungry: Some people snack when they are tired, upset, lonely, frustrated or bored.
- Snacking on unhealthy foods: Choosing foods with low nutrient density such as biscuits, cakes and chips.
- Snacking all the time or grazing: Grazing is nibbling throughout the day, but never completely satisfying hunger and/or food cravings.
The difference between healthy snacking and grazing
Healthy snacking is eating planned food between meals with consideration of nutritional quality. Mindful selection of snacks results in an energy boost and fuelling the body with important nutrients. Grazing is mindless, daylong feeding that never completely satisfies hunger. Grazing often results in over consumption of calories and consumption of foods with poor nutritional value.
Returning to poor eating habits after your bariatric surgery will lead to a slow weight loss or weight regain down the track. Weight regain doesn’t usually occur in the early stages following bariatric surgery as your appetite will be at its lowest point and your portion sizes will be very small. However, you are at risk of weight regain a few years down the track if you do not address poor eating habits during the early post-operative phases.
Tips to help conquer unhealthy snacking
Keep a food journal: when unhealthy snacking has occurred, make a note of what you ate and how you felt at the time. Can you identify a particular time, place or emotion which led to unhealthy snacking and can you think of some strategies to avoid this behaviour in the future?
Have a place to escape to: Have a list of things you can do and places you can go when you are tempted to partake in unhealthy snacking. For example, go for a walk, water the garden, put on some good music or call a friend.
Ask for help: Your dietitian and psychologist see this kind of issue often an can help you to work through it. You can also ask for support and guidance from your family and friends.
Only eat at the dining table: Sit at the dining table for all meals and snacks. Nibbling on food in the kitchen or in front of the television/computer will not help satisfy appetite and will not support your goal towards a healthier diet and lifestyle.
Plan ahead: Plan your snacks ahead of time and have them pre-prepared and ready to go. Some good snacks include: hard boiled eggs, reduced fat cheese, tuna, nuts, fruit, raw vegetables, natural yogurt, protein balls, beef jerky.
Mindful eating: Sit down at a table with minimal distractions and if practical, use utensils to eat your snack. Be mindful about every bite you eat. Take a bite. Taste your food. Be thoughtful about it.
Not hungry?Only snack when you are actually physically hungry! If there is not a physical need to eat such as hunger, low blood glucose levels or a need to meet your protein requirements, then do not force yourself to eat.
Constantly hungry? If you are constantly hungry in between meals, you may need to take a closer look at your food choices at main meals. If you are opting for liquids or slider foods instead of solid lean protein sources, you are not likely to feel full for very long.
What makes a healthy snack?
Healthy snacking can be beneficial. Small serves of select food between meals can curb your appetite at meal times, which reduces the risk of overeating at meal times or stretching your stomach. Snacks should be carefully assessed for their nutritional quality.
A healthy snack provides important nutrients and energy, without exceeding daily calorie needs. Healthy snacking may take some extra planning, since all options at fast food and convenience stores are often inappropriate.
Excellent snack choices include a small serve of:
Fresh fruit and natural low fat yogurt
Low fat cottage cheese and wholegrain crackers
Vegetable sticks and hommus/avocado/cottage cheese/tzatziki
Mixed nuts and dried fruit
When buying pre-packaged snacks, look at the nutritional panel.Aim for food which are:
High in protein (at least 5 g per serve)
High in fibre ( at least 3 g per serve)
low in added sugars ( less than 2 g per serve)
Low in saturated fat (less than 2 g per serve)