Tips for Eating while Traveling after Bariatric Surgery

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By Betty Yu
Physician Assistant

Summer is in full swing, and with that comes an influx of traveling, social gatherings/celebrations, and that well-earned vacation you’ve been looking forward to all year.

After weight loss surgery, eating on the go can present some unique challenges. With a little planning and a few key tips in mind you can make it much easier on yourself, which will allow you to focus on the things that matter and really enjoy your time in the sun stress-free.

Plan aheadclipboard with checklist on it

Research what food options are available in the area. This could mean picking out restaurants in advance with healthy options, or seeking out grocery stores that are within your budget and proximity where you can purchase fresh ingredients and snacks that align with your postop diet.

Pack snacks ahead of timemixed nuts spread over a table

If you are on a road trip or otherwise will be driving a far distance, your healthy food options can be limited. Keep a variety of snacks (preferably nonperishable and pre-portioned) on hand so you don’t have to fill up on fast food or gas station snacks on the way. Nutrient-dense snacks might include protein shakes, bars, nuts, jerky, cheese… This way, you’ll also save time and get to your destination faster!

Watch portion control

assorted food measuring cups

Most of us aren’t going to carry around a measuring cup or food scale while traveling. It is helpful to know what portion size you should be at, and measure it out consistently ahead of time so you have a good “eyeball” when you are traveling. Be cautious when dining out, as portion sizes can be very large—try splitting a meal with someone else, or asking for a smaller/kid’s portion, or asking for a to-go box right away so you can box up the part of the meal you don’t intend to eat right then.

Stay hydratedcolorful water bottles with units of measure

Drinking 64 oz or more plain water daily is important for your metabolism and weight loss. Being adequately hydrated is even more important when being active all day out in the hot sun. Furthermore, cravings and appetite may be worse when dehydrated. Carry around a reusable water bottle, and set timers if needed to remind you to drink.

Eat slowly and chew thoroughlystopwatch

Take at least 20 minutes to eat each meal, and try to chew each bite at least 20 times. Put your flatware down between each bite. Stop eating before you become uncomfortably full, and get comfortable with the idea of not needing to finish your plate.

Don’t skip mealsdinner plate with a clock times overlayed and portions of food at different times

Try to have a mini meal/snack every 2-3 hours—eat no sooner than every 2 hours, and no later than every 4 hours. This prevents your blood sugar from dropping too low, which can cause increased cravings and overeating. Hydrate between meals.

Keep alcohol minimalbottle of wine wrapped in measuring tape

1 in 5 adults can become addicted to alcohol after bariatric surgery. Alcohol raises your blood sugar, increases hunger, causes dumping syndrome, predisposes to certain vitamin deficiencies, and is calorically dense while not offering many of the nutrients your body needs. Remember also to avoid any carbonated beverages. Instead, you can order a sugar free mocktail, or just focus on drinking water.

Relax and enjoy your summer!

woman relaxing in the water with the shadow of an airplane flying over her.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it is a good place to start. It can be helpful to check in with your surgical team/dietician for specialized recommendations and tips before you travel.

betty yu pa c profile pic
Betty Yu
Physician Assistant