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Just because you’ve had or are having bariatric surgery doesn’t mean you won’t be able to eat at your favorite restaurants ever again! We all need breaks from cooking meals every once in a while. You will just have to make smart choices that will fuel your body with the nutrients it needs. Keep reading along for some helpful tips that can take some of the anxiety away from going out to eat.

The most important thing you can do is research the restaurant menu ahead of time. Find some items that sound appealing to you, but that will also stay in line with the healthy dietary limits you need to follow to achieve your weight loss goal. Planning out your choice ahead of time will help reduce the temptation later when you are hungry. You might be surprised at how accommodating some restaurants can be to your requests!

  • Look for items that are baked, broiled, roasted, grilled, sautéed, or steamed
  • Choose lean protein sources like chicken breast, shrimp, turkey, fish, mussels, scallops, and tofu instead of sausage or beef – and eat your protein first!
  • Avoid menu items that are fried, battered, crispy, tempura, creamy, in a cream sauce or alfredo
  • Skip the bread basket – it is empty calories that will fill you up
  • Ask for substitutions on sides like roasted veggies, a side salad, or fruit instead of fries, chips, potatoes, onion rings, or other high carbohydrate/high fat sides
  • Ask for dressings, sauces, butter, gravy, or sour cream on the side, or ask for lemon or lime wedges to give your food flavor and moisture without adding calories and sodium
  • Don’t rush – eat slowly and savor every bite, enjoying the conversation of your company
  • Choose broth based soups over creamy ones, and vinaigrettes over creamy dressings
  • Depending on the restaurant, appetizers tend to be mostly fried or high calorie foods – but this is not always the case. Sometimes choosing a healthier appetizer can be a better choice because it will be smaller than an over-sized entrée
  • Ask for the waiter to bring a to go box with your entrée so you can box up half your meal for another time or split an entrée with someone

Here are some better choices from different types of restaurants:

Japanese Cuisine – Sashimi, edamame, miso soup, seaweed salad, ceviche, tuna tartar, Naruto sushi roll (uses thinly sliced cucumber instead of rice), steamed shrimp dumplings

Italian Cuisine – Caprese salad, minestrone soup, mussels marinara, oysters, salad with grilled chicken/shrimp/salmon, chicken cacciatore, chef salad, broccoli rabe, wilted spinach with garlic, grilled vegetables, sautéed Swiss chard, grilled calamari, roasted/broiled chicken or fish

Chinese Cuisine – Egg drop soup, hot and sour soup, egg foo young, mixed vegetables with tofu, chicken or shrimp, chicken and broccoli, chicken with snow peas, moo goo gai pan (chicken and vegetable stir fry), steamed vegetables. Some Chinese restaurants have a “healthy” section with steamed or sautéed vegetables and proteins. Ask for sauces on the side as they are high in sodium and sugar!

Mexican Cuisine – Ceviche, chicken tortilla soup, seafood soup, taco salad (minus the shell), churrasco, black beans, salsa, burrito bowls without the rice, chicken or shrimp fajitas without the tortilla, pescado veracruzano, siete mares

Greek/Mediterranean Cuisine – Hummus and veggies, mezze platter, chicken shawarma, chicken kabobs, Greek salad, lentil soup, tahini salad, red cabbage salad, baba ghanough, Israeli salad, tabbouleh

Breakfast – Cottage cheese with fresh fruit, veggie omelets, eggs Florentine, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, oatmeal with fruit, poached eggs, Greek yogurt parfaits, hard boiled eggs, egg whites, fruit cups, Canadian bacon, low carb breakfast wrap

Lastly, pay attention to how you feel after eating. Are you feeling satisfied, confident and in control? Or stuffed, uncomfortable and guilty? The more you go out to eat and have a positive experience, the more confident you will feel that you are in control and that the food does not control you. You don’t have to avoid restaurants altogether after surgery, and can enjoy social outings without feeling like you are off track.

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Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Baulick, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-4730 or cbaulick@garnethealth.org.

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