14 Tips for Dining Out After Weight Loss Surgery

14 Tips for Dining Out After Weight Loss Surgery

Alex Brecher

Most people get weight loss surgery (wls) to live a better life. Part of living better is to create a new, healthier lifestyle. While some people fear eating out after wls, part of living better is also finding ways to make healthy choices in a wide variety of settings, and enjoying the simple things in life in a way that isn’t harmful to your progress. Dining out lets you have a break from cooking, grocery shopping, and washing the dishes. It can be a chance to relax with friends or family, to celebrate special occasions, or to close the business deal. 

You can get a healthy meal at almost any restaurant—even after wls! There’s no need to choose between eating out and sticking to your plan. You can have both. The BariatricPal Store has products that can help you while you’re at a restaurant, and there are some strategies that can help, too. Here are some tips for dining out after bariatric surgery.

  • Stick to the basics.
  • Always keep your goals and your post-op diet rules in mind, no matter where you are. In general, look for proteins and vegetables, eat slowly, and avoid fatty foods, refined starches, and sugars. And, keep portion sizes small. By following the basic guidelines, you’ll be able to come out ahead no matter what.

  • Bring a medical alert special request card.
  • The goal is to get a small portion when you order your food, but some restaurants won’t let you order a smaller portion or order from the kid’s or senior citizen’s menu if you don’t otherwise qualify. If the server doesn’t let you, show them a Medical Alert Special Request Card. The BariatricPal Store has a card you can take to restaurants that explains that you have a small stomach and a medical necessity for smaller portions.

  • Find some protein, and make it lean.
  • Almost every restaurant offers a variety of protein options, but are they lean enough for your post-op diet? You can almost certainly find something. Skinless chicken, fish and seafood that haven’t been breaded, beans, and veggie burgers are all good options. If nothing else, you can even ask them to give you a hard-boiled egg, scoop of cottage cheese, or portion of canned tuna. A restaurant is sure to have some form of lean protein you can eat.

    Fried and breaded chicken, fatty steaks, and cold cuts are choices that probably aren’t the best for your post-op diet. It’s also better to avoid sauces that can be high in fat and/or sugar.

  • Swap vegetables for appetizers and sides.
  • Appetizers and sides can be terribly high in carbohydrates and calories. Eating from the bread basket or basket of chips when you first enter the restaurant and sit at the table, sharing fatty dips and fried appetizers with your table mates, and having potatoes, pasta, or rice with your main course can be devastating for your weight loss surgery diet and weight loss goals. 

    Instead, try to get vegetables instead. You might be able to stick to raw vegetables while others are eating appetizers, or order a small salad to eat before the main course while others are eating higher-calorie fare. Ask for fresh fruit, a side salad, or steamed vegetables as a side instead of a starchy option. You’ll save hundreds of calories and a lot of carbs.

  • Make smart menu swaps.
  • Don’t be shy to ask for substitutions when ordering! Your server has heard it all before, and there’s no need to be embarrassed to request reasonable alterations. You can always ask for an entrée without extra sauces and for sandwiches without mayo or butter. You can order a burger without a bun and a burrito with the fillings in a bowl instead of in a tortilla. 

    You can also ask for extra vegetables. For example, you might get more lettuce and tomatoes on sandwiches, and order extra vegetables on pizza. 

  • Skip caloric beverages.
  • Sodas, coffee with sugar, alcoholic beverages, and juices all have lots of calories. Stick with plain water or ice water if you’re planning to drink at the meal. If you’re not supposed to have a beverage with the meal due to the rules of your post-op diet, then skip the beverage altogether.

  • Share a meal.
  • Restaurant meals are known for being too big, but you don’t always have a choice about the size of the portion you are served. One solution is to share a meal with a friend or whomever else you are with at the restaurant. Some restaurants have a surcharge for sharing. That can be frustrating, but it can be worth the money when you consider that it’s a good investment for your health. 

  • Pack up half to take home.
  • If you order a meal that’s too big, ask the server immediately for a to-go container. Before you start eating, divide your meal into what you want to eat at the restaurant, and the extras. Pack up the extras before you take your first bite so that you’re not tempted to overeat while seated at the restaurant. 

  • Order from the children’s or senior menu.
  • The good thing about child-sized portions is that they’re usually smaller than the same item listed on the regular menu. The same is true with senior meals. However, be careful, especially about ordering from the children’s menu. Often, the options on the kid’s menu are not part of a post-op weight loss surgery diet. Mac and cheese, PB and J sandwiches on white bread, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, and pizza are common choices. You can do better.

  • Choose a restaurant with bariatric-friendly foods.
  • If you have a say in which restaurant to go to, look for a restaurant with items that you can eat. A tapas restaurant may be a good choice because it has smaller portions. Or you might look for a restaurant with simple grilled foods, such as grilled shrimp or chicken, or a restaurant that lets you special order your meal. If you’re not sure, you can always call the restaurant to see if they have something you can eat. 

  • Check the menu before you go.
  • See what is on the menu before you go to the restaurant. If possible, check the nutritional information, too. It’s often available online, or you can phone the restaurant for it. Decide on the items you want to order, and stick with your decision. Once you get to the restaurant, don’t even look at the menu if you fear that it’ll tempt you into ordering something less healthy.

  • Eat slowly. 
  • Eating slowly helps you eat less. It helps you feel full after eating less food, and it helps you enjoy your food more because it gives you a chance Plus, it helps with digestion, and that’s always appreciated after weight loss surgery! 

    Do you need help eating slowly? If you’re not interested in counting your chews, or if you tend to get distracted when you do, consider a Smart Fork in a Discovery Pack Smart Fork and Knife Set by Slow Control. It gives you a discrete signal when you’re eating too fast. Just take it into the restaurant and use it instead of the cutlery provided by the restaurant.

  • Focus on non-food parts of the experience.
  • Why are you at a restaurant? Is it to enjoy the company? Is it to take a break from the hectic feeling of daily life? Is it to talk business with work colleagues? If it’s for any of those reasons, you’ll get a lot more out of the experience if you focus on those things. When you focus on the company, and you talk and listen carefully instead of eating quickly, you can end up eating less and getting more from the occasion. 

  • Take your own dressing.
  • Some restaurants have light dressings that you can get on the side. Or, you can ask for low-calorie alternatives, such as mustard, salsa, or tomato sauce, to put on your salad. That way, you can potentially save hundreds of calories compared to getting a full-fat or creamy dressing. 

    Another option is to bring your own dressing. The BariatricPal Store has Calorie-Free Dressings in all kinds of varieties. Flavors include Asian, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Ranch, Zesty Italian, Balsamic Vinaigrette Thousand Island, Caesar, and French. But that’s not all! Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette, Pear and White Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Italian with Sun Dried Tomato are just a few other choices. If you’re not sure how you’ll take it into the restaurant, use a leak proof container, such as one compartment from our 4 Compartment Twist Lock Sealable Snack Jars and Portion Control Lunch Box

    Eating out can be one of the most lovely simple pleasures in life. You don’t need to give it up after wls. Sticking to the basic rules of your bariatric surgery diet and being prepared for the occasion can help you feel good and keep you on track.

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