GUEST POST: After bariatric surgery you always have three choices when lunch time comes around:
- Skip lunch
- Go out to eat
- Eat a packed lunch
Although skipping lunch may have its short-term benefits such as getting more work done, it does have significant shortcomings. You will miss an opportunity to meet your protein goals for the day. But most importantly, you will likely experience low energy, become “hangry” and reach for anything in sight (yes even that pastry or candy bar). Skipping meals sets yourself up for disaster because it can lead to overeating later in the day. Nobody wants that!
The second choice, eating out, can be be a reasonable option for someone that has undergone bariatric surgery. Going out to lunch provides a fun break from work and can lead to positive interactions with coworkers. Plus, more and more restaurants are offering healthful options. But let’s face it … eating out can become expensive if you are doing it everyday. And there is a higher likelihood that processed foods will sneak their way back into your diet. So while eating out can be an occasional event after surgery it should not be the norm.
The last option, eating a packed lunch is the most budget friendly and healthful choice after bariatric surgery. You will have control over which foods you are fuelling your body with and packing your lunch is less expensive. So now the next question…what should you pack in your bariatric lunch?
A satisfying lunch provides four components:
- Protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, beef, pork, eggs or beans. Aim for 3-4 oz of protein.
- A high fiber carbohydrate such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, or butternut squash.
- Healthful fats such as olive oil, avocados or nuts.
- Herbs & spices such as cumin, oregano, basil, garlic, chilli powder, Italian seasonings or onion powder.
A combination of these four components will help you feel satisfied and fuelled until your next meal. Please check out my Top 10 Dietitian Approved Foods to Eat After Bariatric Surgery for food item suggestions.
Specific bariatric lunch ideas include:
- High protein salads
- High protein snack packs
- Lettuce wraps
- High protein soups
All of these can be made ahead of time and still taste good.
Leftovers are always my first choice when it comes to packing a healthy lunch. They are easy and brainless. I suggest placing your leftovers directly into the container you use for lunch right after dinner to save a step in the morning.
Revamping leftovers is another favourite tactic of mine. Leftover chicken? Make a chicken salad. Leftover pork? Consider a BBQ pork lettuce wrap. Re-purposing leftovers can be a fun and creative process. What leftovers do you like to reuse? There are lots of ideas on the bariatriccookery.com website for inspiration.
Meal Prep on the Weekend
If you are a planner, meal prepping your lunches on the weekend can be a huge time saver. I suggest not making your lunch more than 4 days in advance for optimal freshness. The best make ahead meals are ones that reheat well such as soups or high protein casserole dishes (aka Zoodle lasagna). Other options could include portable mason jar salads that stack the lettuce on top so the lettuce does not get soggy.
Buy a New Lunch Container
When you buy a new water bottle are you excited to use it for the first time? Does it remind you to drink more water? The same thing goes for a new lunch box. Forget the brown bag! Go out and get a new lunch box or bento box that you feel good about. Having something you are proud of will inspire you to use it more often.
Bariatric Bento (available in two combos – for details see here)
If you are starting to pack your lunch for the first time aim to bring your lunch twice a week. If you are a seasoned pro please share your tips on how you pack your lunch in the comments below.
Kristin Willard is a Registered Dietitian who teaches bariatric patients how to eat healthy and maintain their weight after surgery. Join her Free Facebook Group to get recipes ideas and nutrition info while she creates her website, BariatricWholeLiving.com
Images copyright © Bariatric Cookery (UK) Ltd