Article By: Danielle Herrera, RD, LD
Danielle Herrera is a Bariatric Dietitian who provides education and support to bariatric patients throughout their weight loss journey.
Snacking is a major component of daily life. When we get hungry before or after meals, we have a tendency to reach for something that will hold us over until the next meal. Snacking can help avoid overconsumption and assist with getting nutrients we need that are not being consumed during meals. While snacking has its benefits, people tend to choose high-calorie foods and drinks when snacking, which leads to an intake of hundreds of extra calories.
Boredom and “head hunger” will draw us to the kitchen and may lead us to choose snacks that aren’t the healthiest options. As a bariatric patient, it is important to understand the difference between eating due to hunger vs. eating from boredom to continue consistent weight loss and weight maintenance.
Hunger is rated on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “painfully hungry” or feeling dizzy and nauseous due to hunger. On the other hand, 10 represents being “painfully full” or feeling physically ill due to overeating. Bariatric patients usually cannot achieve level 10 because stomach size has been reduced considerably and overeating can lead to other severe symptoms. However, ensuring bariatric patients do not get accustomed to eating excess calories is key for consistent weight loss and weight maintenance.
So, how do bariatric patients avoid excessive snacking? Here are a few tips to consider:
1) Honoring fullness cues. After bariatric surgery, bariatric patients are unable to consume more than a few bites of food over the course of a meal. It is recommended that bariatric patients eat 3 meals and about 2 snacks per day. During these mealtimes, following your stomach’s signals and listening to when your stomach is telling you it’s full will help avoid eating excess calories.
2) Eating balanced meals. Preparing or choosing a balanced meal will help you to be satisfied longer, along with getting your protein needs first. Following the rule of “protein first” will help you maintain muscle mass and can be a source of energy. Protein should also be the focus for snacks as well. Always aim for 60+ grams of protein per day.
3) Staying hydrated. At times, we confuse thirst with hunger, which leads to snacking instead of consuming what our body is craving, fluids! Staying hydrated will help stave off some of the “head hunger” that we are prone to. As a bariatric patient, it is important to drink at least 64+ ounces of fluids per day.
4) Using portion control. Taking time out of your day to properly prepare snacks will help you avoid consuming extra calories. Aimless snacking can lead to eating too many chips, too many cookies, etc. Following the serving sizes and portioning your snacks can allow you to consume a healthy snack, along with meeting the daily intake goals you have set.
5) Scheduling snack time. Routine is important for bariatric patients. Scheduling snack time will help you remember to eat. Scheduling snack time is also a great tactic to ensure you are not snacking at all hours of the day. We can lose track of how much we snack throughout the day, so scheduling snack time can help you become more mindful of both snack frequency and quantity.
By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to starting 2022 with the correct snacking mindset. Are you hungry or just feeling bored? Are you hungry, or is your body in need of better hydration? Pay attention to what your body is telling you before indulging in high-calorie snacks on a regular basis so you don't derail progress after surgery.