Picky Eaters and Bariatric Surgery (Part One)

Steph Wagner MS, RDN

September 7, 2022

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Picky Eaters and Bariatric Surgery

(Part One)


Back to School, Back to Meal Planning: Blog Series Part 4


Check out the blogs we’ve covered so far in this series:

Back to School, Back to Meal Planning (survey results and tips to meal plan faster)

Meal Planning Styles

Meal Planning Writer’s Block



Spoiler alert In this series we will also cover batch cooking, cooking for one and stocking your freezer!

Picky eating and bariatric surgery

Some patients already consider themselves a picky eater before they have bariatric surgery. Other patients feel the surgery turned them into a picky eater.

One of my favorite things to do when I start creating a resource for post-op patients is to send a survey. This time around, my survey on picky eating was answered by 40 post-ops.

Picky Eating Survey Results

Question #1: Were you picky before surgery or are your preferences new since surgery?

55% always picky
45% surgery has changed my preferences


Question #2: What about food impacts your preferences towards it? (Multiple answers were allowed)

55% texture
52.5% taste
52.5% smell
45%  how it feels after I eat it
37.5% appearance
30% moisture


Question #3: Have you noticed if the way you eat a food changes the experience? (Bite sizes, speed of eating)

60% my bite sizes and speed don’t impact my food preferences
35% yes, if I slow down I can tolerate the food more
32.5% yes, if I take small bites I can tolerate the food more


Question #4: Check the boxes of the food you would not eat

40% dark meat chicken
37.5% fish
37.5% raw veggies
35% shrimp
35% pork
22.5% steak
22.5% turkey
15% salads, leafy grens
15% spices
12.5% ground beef
12.5% chicken breast
12.5% tomato based sauce
12.5% dairy
10% cooked veggies
7.5% eggs

*Other foods written in: tofu, avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, peppers and sardines

Question #5: What foods do you tend to stick with the most?

This question had a large variety of answers but the most notable was how many post-ops said CHICKEN!

Picky eater mindset (and some tips)

Not only have I been a dietitian for well past a decade, I also have children. Picky eating is not new to me!

In next weeks part two of this blog, I will jump more into questions to ask yourself about specific meals and food experiences.

However, there is a step before that I’d like to stop and focus on. Which is why we are here in part one in the picky eater and bariatric surgery conversation.

Let’s talk about mindset. (Have you noticed this is a buzzword lately? )

I encourage you not call yourself a picky eater. Why? Because it becomes part of your identity. It can put you into a box even more than necessary if you label yourself as a picky eater.

This is a common conversation with introducing foods to kids who struggle to eat new things. It’s best to not say “you are such a picky eater” but instead use language like “maybe you’ll like it another day.”

If that feels silly to you because you’re an adult and you haven’t liked certain foods your whole life, I understand that too. But consider saying things like “I will be learning what food I like for the rest of my life” instead of “I’ve been picky my whole life.”  It’s a mindset shift that might allow you to work through why you don’t like certain foods, which is what we will dig into next week.


picky eaters highlight bariatric food list

Highlight the foods you WILL eat

One strategy I have used for nearly every year I’ve been a dietitian, is to print off my bariatric food list and have the patient highlight every food they are willing to eat in bright pink or orange.

It can feel very limiting and overwhelming to consider all the foods you won’t eat.

I can’t tell you how many overwhelmed patients I have sat with because “all the foods you are telling me to eat are the ones I won’t.”

Some patients feel their picky eating is what led them to struggle with their weight because they only like starchy foods or sweets.

This is another area of mindset shift. Let’s flip the script and talk about what you WILL eat instead of what you will not. Those bright pink or orange words on a paper can help dissipate the feeling that you can’t eat anything!

This can also help when you see recipes on my website and can think about how to swap out the foods you WILL eat for some of the foods you won’t eat.

*The Bariatric Food List is a members resource. Members can access it here! 

Become a Member

Mindset shift your picky eating

In this part-two blog, we will dig deeper into questions to ask yourself about specific foods, meals or feelings you have (physically and mentally) around eating.

Until then, try to reframe your thinking to what you WILL eat and that you aren’t a picky eater…you are learning. You’ll be learning about food the rest of your life.

When you’re ready, you can move on to part two here! 


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