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Is It Better to Skip a Meal or Eat Fast Food as a Bariatric Patient?

Woman sits in drive through line contemplating her healthiest fast food option in a pinch after bariatric surgery

The simple answer to whether to skip a meal or opt for fast food is that neither is optimal, but we all know life happens sometimes, and some circumstances are out of our control. There is a lot of preparation and education required before undergoing bariatric surgery. After surgery, you will have to continue to follow up with your doctor and may want to consider seeing a nutritionist. They can still be challenging even if you prepare for situations such as skipping a meal or eating fast food. The best thing you can do is prepare as much as possible but also be flexible. Let’s dive deeper into the problematic scenarios you may find yourself in before and after weight loss surgery and tips on handling them.

Scenario #1 – I’m Working on Losing Weight Before Bariatric Surgery…is it Better to Skip a Meal or Eat Fast Food?

This is going to depend on a few different factors. First, what are you going to order? There is nothing wrong with going to a fast-food restaurant once in a while if you keep your dietary restrictions in mind. Maybe you had a stressful day, nothing went as planned, you are hungry, and the only available option is fast food.

If you want to lose weight, don’t order the double bacon cheeseburger, a large order of fries, and a chocolate milkshake. Of course, that sounds delicious and might help you feel better after your stressful day, but if your goal is to lose weight, then it is not your best option. Fortunately, many fast-food restaurants now have nutritional information to help you make a food decision that fits your goals. They also may have an array of healthier options or substitutes. Maybe order a burger but hold the cheese and bacon. Get fruit and water instead of fries and a milkshake. Even better, you could go for the grilled chicken salad but be aware of how many calories the salad dressing adds. Bottom line? You can still have a meal at a fast-food restaurant in several different ways.

In most cases, it’s best not to skip meals. You will binge eat later because your hunger catches up to you. If you suffer from certain medical conditions such as diabetes and take insulin, skipping meals is not a good idea either. In this scenario, the best option would be not to miss a meal and choose a healthy option from a fast-food restaurant.

Keep mini-meals or snacks with you to prepare for these challenging days and remove the uncertainty. Carry a few protein bars in your car. Fruit is also a great option for on-the-go snacks. Hydration is critical before and after surgery, so get in the habit of bringing a water bottle everywhere.

Scenario #2 – I’m Working on Losing Weight After Bariatric Surgery…is it Better to Skip a Meal or Eat Fast Food?

The answer to this question will depend on how long it has been since your surgery. Following bariatric surgery, you will be on an all-liquid diet for about two weeks. After that, you will transition to pureed, soft, and finally solid foods. This entire process usually takes about six weeks. It is essential to follow the dietary guidelines our office or your healthcare provider put in place because they will prevent post-op complications.

A milkshake might sound like good pureed food after surgery, but it is not. You will want to avoid foods high in fat and sugar, like a milkshake. They could cause you to become sick or nauseous and make you vomit or cramp. Your body is in a transition period after surgery while it adjusts to some significant changes! The post-op bariatric diet emphasizes protein, fiber, and hydration. Foods with high fat, sugar, oil, or carbs should be avoided.

If you are more than six weeks post-op after your surgery and can eat solid foods, the best option would be not to skip a meal and instead choose the healthiest fast-food option available. Try a salad with grilled chicken and light dressing on the side or a sandwich without the bun. If you are getting reacquainted with solid foods, eat slowly to prevent getting sick, and stay hydrated (but avoid drinking fluids 45 minutes before or after eating). Keep healthy snack options and fluids around you when possible.

The Bottom Line

It would help if you didn’t skip meals because, in most cases, you will consume more later in the day when hunger catches up to you. Instead, be prepared and always carry snacks and fluids with you. When fast food is your only option, there are several ways to choose a healthy meal. Try swapping out the fries for fruit, having grilled instead of fried meat, or just having a salad. You can still enjoy fast-food options while working on losing weight, but in the end, it’s best to have control over what you consume, and the best way to do so is with proper meal planning.

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