Picky Eating and Bariatric Surgery (Part Two)
Back to School, Back to Meal Planning: Blog Series Part 5
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)
Spoiler alert 🚨 In this series we will also cover batch cooking, cooking for one and stocking your freezer!
Picky eating and bariatric surgery
In the first part of this blog topic on picky eating and bariatric surgery, I spent a lot of time talking about mindset.
You can read (or listen) to that full post here, but as a quick recap I highlighted these two points:
Avoid labeling yourself as a picky eater
Focus on what you are willing to eat (not what you aren’t)
For this part two, as promised, we are going to dive into a little more of the specifics around mealtimes and food. Though the mindset piece is really helpful before moving forward!
Common reasons for food preferences
As both a dietitian and a mom, I have had my share of experience with someone struggling to like a food. Forcing the food down is not only unenjoyable, it may also make the dislike for that food even stronger.
Instead it helps to know what is it about that food so you can start to explore other ways to prepare it, flavor it, omit it form a recipe or other ways to change the meal.
Very commonly, texture is a limitation for food enjoyment. This can impact mouthfeel which does impact appetite for that food. When I asked the question on the survey what factors impact food preferences, texture was number one.
Now something to note is that if someone is more sensitive to texture after surgery than they were before, I would want to ask follow up questions regarding eating behaviors.
If a post-op patient is avoiding solid protein because they find it “dry” or “heavy” I would encourage using broth in cooking or reheating, as well as focusing on smaller bite sizes and pausing in between bites.
This one would seem obvious, right?! You should enjoy the TASTE of the food if you’re going to eat it!
Taste change does occur after surgery (the exact reasons aren’t totally known). It is very common for patients to develop an aversion to sweet tasting drinks. We see it even more in Gastric Sleeve patients. It also doesn’t help that liquid diets include so many sweet flavored waters and protein shakes.
My tip if taste is holding you back from introducing more foods in your diet is to name what you don’t like about it.
The great news about flavor is that it’s nearly limitless. Do you not like the taste of chicken breast itself or just the marinate that was on it? Would you be more open to Italian flavors than Mexican flavors?
Explore what it is about your taste preferences that influence your food decisions. You can even look at a menu online and read the descriptions, paying attention to your immediate reaction when you hear ingredients named. Then think about why you had that reaction.
This one also seems obvious but let’s talk it out a little.
Have you heard that our sense of smell is responsible for 80% of what we taste? It’s why we plugged our nose as a kid if we had to take a medicine!
If you find yourself sensitive to smells, you may notice a meal in the Crockpot all day is either increasing or decreasing your appetite to eat it later that day.
Cauliflower is a great example for me. In the dark days when riced cauliflower wasn’t available in the freezer section, I had to do it myself. By the time my cauliflower was chopped, steamed and blended (with garlic and Laughing Cow Cheese® because its amazing) the smell in my house was honestly a little offensive.
If smell influences your food choices you might consider how or even where to cook food that decrease the smell. When I was pregnant I put my slow cooker in the garage so I didn’t smell it all day!
How you feel after you eat it
It wasn’t too surprising to me that 45% of the respondents said becoming more particular about food was something new for them since having bariatric surgery.
There are several reasons why this might happen. For one, nausea can occur early after surgery and especially if someone is dehydrated. When your nauseous you are more sensitive to smells and can start to develop food aversions. So water intake can be a huge factor in food preferences.
Eating behaviors is another huge player when a patient start having food aversions (strong dislike of a certain food). If I have a patient reach out to me that they can only eat yogurts and soups and cannot even stomach the idea of any meat, I would be suspicious of the bite sizes and speed of eating when they tried meat.
If you’ve gotten sick on meat time and time again, it makes sense it would create an aversion to meat for you. If that describes you, I would encourage working with a dietitian and a mental health professional to work through anxiety or fear around the food as well as how to best eat the food.
Like I mentioned in the part one blog, I would highlight all the proteins you are willing to try and start slowly with one at a time. Focus on tiny bites (black bean or pinkie finger nail) and pause in between each bite to note how you’re feeling.
While sometimes it is a food intolerance since surgery, many times it’s more related to how you ate it (or prepared it) rather than the food itself.
Again it may seem obvious but it is very fair for your food to LOOK appealing!
If you’ve been eating soft protein foods for too long, it might start look really boring.
You may want to play around with plating your food differently, adding more color with veggies or garnishes, using a new fun plate or bento box container.
This is another area to name what it is that is turning you off about the food so you can peel back the layers to why it holds you back from that food!
Moisture certainly is related to the texture conversation but worth mentioning in its own section.
I have several tips on keeping moisture in your food (you can read a full blog here) but one tip I highly recommend is using a meat thermometer.
Many times meat is overcooked because of the fear of undercooking it! Use a meat thermometer and remove the meat from heat when its 5 degrees away from the desired temperature!
A new resource for Premier Access Members! The “Don’t Jump to Conclusions” Placemat
Oh yes, it’s a “Don’t Jump to Conclusions” mat!
Truth is, it can be really hard to think through how food sounds or feels or tastes during the moment. This mat is designed to help you think and reflect through the meal WHILE it’s happening!
You will write down what time you started your meal, how much was on the plate, your bite sizes, how the food smells, looks and tastes!
These questions in front of you also support mindful eating to help you be aware of the moment.
For example, you’ll be more likely to slow down and think through the bites if you’ve written down what time you started!
It also allows you to be very honest with yourself and the food. You don’t have to eat this food again if you didn’t like it. But would you try again if you could change one thing?
Right now, this “Don’t Jump to Conclusions” mat is available as a download to Bariatric Food Coach Premier Access Members (if you’re a member, click here for the mat).
If you’re able, I recommend printing and laminating it! Then use the Vis-a-Vis markers to make your notes and wash them away.
If you’re interested in purchasing this “Don’t Jump to Conclusion Mat” in a printed and laminated version for $15, you can email me here. (If there is enough interest I will add it as a product to the website!)
Stay tuned, next in the series is Batch Cooking!
One of the biggest tips around batch cooking is having really help kitchen tools! We’ll talk about how to save yourself as you plan your menu and prepare a lot of food in advance!