For bariatric patients and anyone trying eat healthier and lose weight, cooking your own food instead of buying take out is an enormous first step. It stands to reason that if we buy healthier foods, we will eat better foods. But, how do we buy better food?
We’ve got 3 tips for our gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band patients who are trying change their lifestyles and to eat healthier:
1. Shop with a list
This is huge. In order to not get distracted by flashy sales and new products, you must shop with a list. Plan out the next few days worth of meals and write down all the ingredients you will need. You should even plan out some snacks since healthy snacking is crucial to meet your protein requirements after bariatric surgery.
2. Read the labels
You may think all items, such as yogurts, are similar but that’s far from the truth. Read the Nutrition Facts labels of several different products before selecting the one that’s best for you. Look for serving size, calories, carbohydrates, trans fats, fiber, and names of ingredients. You may think you’ve found a great product only to realize that it has two servings in the container and now you have to double the calories. If the label lists trans fats, look for a different product. Trans fats have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. See if you can recognize and can pronounce all of the ingredients. Natural ingredients are generally better than those created in a laboratory. Look for products containing dietary fiber, not only does fiber help create a feeling of fullness, but it helps lower blood cholesterol. Plus, you don’t digest fiber, so even though grams of fiber count as carbohydrates, your body doesn’t actually absorb those calories.
3. Buy mostly from the perimeter of the store
Most supermarkets are designed to house the fresh and refrigerated foods along the perimeter walls, with the processed and shelf stable foods in the middle aisles. Aim to buy most of your foods from the perimeter, which will include fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry, and fish, and dairy products like milk, eggs, yogurts, and cheese. Good choices can also be found in the middle aisles (like nuts, beans, olives, and canned tuna), but be mindful to stick to your prepared list and don’t go for impulse buys.
You may find the first few trips to the grocery store take longer than you’re used to, but once you’ve found your go-to products, your shopping time will decrease. You may even find that you like grocery shopping even better when you shop off a list instead of browsing through every shelf to search for meal ideas. The goal is to break bad food buying habits (like buying foods just because they’re on sale) and learn a better way to shop for healthy foods. If your refrigerator and pantry are stocked with fresh, low calorie, high protein, and high fiber choices instead of high calorie, high carbohydrate, highly processed choices, you’ll have no choice but to eat healthier!
These tips are offered by Dr. Shillingford, M.D., P.A., a board certified surgeon specializing in laparoscopic, robotic, and bariatric surgery. Dr. Shillingford performs gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and gastric band surgery at one of South Florida’s few hospitals designated as a Center of Excellence for Bariatric Surgery by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. Some of his patients come from local areas, such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but his reputation and skill also attract patients from as far away as Orlando, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Tampa, Fort Meyers, and Naples. His weight loss surgery patients are often seeking advice on how to form healthier eating habits, and it starts with buying better food.