After weight loss surgery especially early on, your food portion sizes can be tiny, you may or may not feel hungry and you likely aren't able to easily meet your nutrition targets without eating small regular meals during the day and supplementing. When you speak to a few people, your surgical team and get onto your favourite Facebook support group you may end up confused as to whether you should be eating 3 meals during the day, 4-6 meals or just grazing all day long. It may even seem like you are eating and drinking all day! (A strange phenomena since all your life the emphasis may have been to not eat much...)
So what is it that you should be doing? Advice varies depending on the person, the type of surgery, what you are eating and how far from surgery you are as your portion sizes do change over time. This is best advised on by your surgical team.
However we want to discuss the topic of grazing on food during the day. Regardless of where you are at or the advise you have been given or how hungry your are. Grazing in a way that is mindless is not recommended after surgery. Why? Grazing can lead to you consuming more kilojoules / calories than you realise. Yes you may be eating small serves and you may be making healthy choices but too much of a good thing can still stack up in calories...
But 'I am hungry every 1 to 2 hours' I hear you say. Those who live in influential countries such as Australia, America, Europe often have the problem of having too much food choices. And variety is good but we get use to never experiencing the feeling of hunger or when we do, reaching quickly for something to get rid of it. But, feeling a little hunger is ok, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you need food. You could be feeling like you are 'hungry' for a other reasons such as:
- You're dehydrated and need fluids
- You're tired and need rest
- You're bored and need to get busy
- You're stressed
- You're feeling emotional
- It's that time of the month (for the ladies anyhow)
So before you conclude you need to eat, check these options first.
But back to grazing... Regardless if you're someone who's been told to do 3 main meals a day or 4-6 little means per day, here are some things to consider when planning out your meals:
- Plan out your meals and snacks for the day. Have a meal plan with healthy choices, avoid including too much extra things, otherwise you can end up eating it all.
- Include healthy unprocessed foods for your meals and snacks. While it is important to have protein and small portions, if you are only including processed deli meat, packaged cheese and crackers, bacon balls, rice crackers, you are missing out on other nutrients that you need such as vegetables, fibre, calcium etc
- Have set times to eat rather than simply eating all day long. Pack what you need and stick to your time table.
- Eat mindfully, be aware of what you are eating even if it is tiny.
- Chew your food well until it's a liquid paste before swallowing. This will slow you down, help you feel more satisfied and help you get the most nutrition out of your food.
- If you are feeling hungry between meals, take a look at what you are eating, are you having foods that have protein and fibre to fill you up? If you're having the right things and still hungry, snack on low calorie vegetables e.g. vegetable sticks, cherry tomatoes - at least this will contribute to getting good nutrition
- Check your fluid intake. Are you getting enough fluids during the day, rather than reaching for another snack between meals, try taking the time to sip on your fluids.
These are just a few tips but it's important to remember, having a little hunger is not a bad thing if you are eating right. Grazing all day can rack up the calorie count so before you reach for another snack, take a look at what you are having for your meals and snacks, what your routine is like, your fluid intake etc, work on some of the tips I've included in the above article and enlist your bariatric dietitian to help you get into a good eating routine.