Forgot Your Lunch? 3 Go-to Options in a Food Emergency

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, and owner of Level Up Bariatrics, LLC, a bariatric lifestyle coaching program that provides pre and post-op support for weight loss surgery patients. Learn more on Instagram (@level_up_bariatrics).

We’ve all been there. You’ve had good intentions to pack your lunch all week, and for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen today. But what do you do? Where do you go? Your pre-surgery self might skip lunch or indulge in your latest craving. But your standards have improved since surgery, and you refuse to go down that road. Changes that accompany having WLS include planning ahead for meals and snacks — for most of the time, anyway. However, we all have those days when things don't go as planned. If you find yourself without a packed lunch and with limited options around you, don't panic!

1) Restaurants & fast food chains (only if you must)

Here, looking at the menu in advance is important so you’re more inclined to make healthier decisions. Consider options like grilled chicken or fish with steamed vegetables or a side salad. Pick a lean protein and healthy, complex carbs. Steer clear of extra sauces, fried foods, or other heavy or creamy ingredients.

Most restaurant foods have the highest calories, fat, sodium, and sub-optimal carbohydrate choices, so order smart! Some places even offer bunless burgers or lettuce wraps as alternatives to carb-heavy sandwiches. Don't be afraid to ask for modifications or substitutions — most places happily accommodate dietary needs.

2) Convenience stores

Another option is convenience stores or gas stations... Come on, you know there are some fantastic convenience stores out there now that offer top-notch choices. While most may not be known for their healthy fare, they often carry protein bars, protein drinks, jerky, or other protein-rich items that can serve as a quick snack in a pinch.

Check the labels and watch for crazy amounts of added sugars or saturated fats. Additionally, look for the refrigerated section, usually in the middle of the store, with items like meat, cheese and nut combos, yogurts, hard-boiled eggs, fresh(ish) fruits, pre-made salads, sandwiches, etc. Surprisingly, especially these days, convenience stores offer some pretty healthy options — you just have to look for them.

3) Smoothie shops

Smoothies are always a great go-to! They’re great options for offering a full meal replacement (if you order the right ones), and they can keep you feeling full while providing amazing health benefits — leaving you feeling guilt-free. Opt for one that has a healthy balance of protein, fats, and healthy carbs. This could mean one with protein powder (plant-based or whey) plus a nut butter or avocado and your fruit. It’s also a great way to add extra superfood ingredients you usually wouldn’t get in your regular pack-your-own-lunch meal.

Just watch out for added sugars, as some smoothie choices can be ridiculously full of them. Ask how much sugar is added to your choice of smoothie for sweetener (most places use natural sugar, but it’s added sugar nonetheless) and have them reduce it if needed.

Remember, setbacks are a natural part of the weight loss journey. But with determination and a supportive network, you can overcome any obstacle that comes your way. Whether you find yourself in a food emergency or simply need some motivation to stick to your post-op diet, you have options.

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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