Why do bad foods go down the best?

Steph Wagner

September 1, 2016

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Why do bad foods go down the best?

why do bad foods feel the best? blog header image for does your pouch prefer junk food after bariatric surgery

Does your pouch prefer junk food? 


The culprits

Popcorn. Crackers. Cheese Nips.

These are foods you know you aren’t supposed to be eating after weight-loss surgery. You don’t need a class from a dietitian to know that! But why is it that these foods go down so easily after your weight loss surgery?

This is not a fun conversation as a bariatric dietitian, but it is a common one. My patient tells me the only food that seems to sit well are the foods I’m telling her not to eat.

The good news is that a few simple tips and she can see even better results plus spare herself from the slippery slope of other carby foods de-railing her completely.

Here are a few common scenarios I hear from post-ops:

All three of these scenarios are SO common. Truthfully, each of them are very much validated. I get it. But I also have good news. There are options and exploring them are well worth it in the long run.

Why the culprits go down easier

It’s true. High starch foods DO go down more easily. Let me explain why.

All foods start “mechanical” digestion in the mouth when you chew.


With carbohydrates (crackers, chips) the enzyme digestion process STARTS in your mouth with your saliva (salivary amylase).

If you set a saltine cracker on your tongue and left it there, it would start to taste sweet instead of salty. This is because the salivary amylase is breaking down the carbohydrates into sugar. The enzyme digestion process has begun.

Note: This doesn’t happen with protein. More on that in a moment.

This means, by the time a cracker or pretzel or popcorn reaches your stomach pouch, it’s been digested pretty darn well beforehand. It is much softer and therefore hits the stomach softer but also absorbs and transits faster.

Back to protein. While some enzyme digestion of protein starts in the mouth, it primarily gets digested by hydrochloric acid and proteases in the stomach.

When a solid protein like chicken reaches your stomach pouch, it’s only just started to be digested. Your stomach is harder at work on a protein.

Which means if you have eaten a teensie bit too fast or too large of a bite, you are going to notice it with a protein. It hasn’t been soften up before it reaches that tight little stomach pouch. (By the way bite size is the common issue. I recommend bites the size of a black bean.)

If you go too fast on some popcorn, no problem. If you go too fast on turkey chili, feels like a problem. This is also why protein is so great for weight-loss. It takes longer to digest so you aren’t hungry for a longer amount of time.


The tactic to defeating the culprits

I know I’m a broken record but you really want to take smaller bites and eat slowly.

This practice is not going to mean starches don’t sound good or will continue to feel better on your stomach.

What it DOES mean is that you can tolerate the protein and feel comfortable after your meal, even if it isn’t AS comfortable as Sun Chips. At least this gives you a shot at making the right choice. You still have to MAKE the choice and that is something no one can do for you.

As someone’s Mom might say, “just because something goes well and feels good doesn’t mean it’s a good idea!”

No, your body isn’t telling you something. No, you aren’t deficient in something that you have to eat because it feels good. Don’t trust those feelings.

Starches feel good because they are soft and mushy and are easier to tolerate. You do still have to make good choices! Listen to your body for cues of fullness and get to know what your body is telling you for true hunger and true satiety (feeling satisfied after a meal) but don’t trust it to tell you want to eat. You have to use your noggin’ for that part.

A note on finding crunch

Oh yes! For some it’s not as much about it going down easier than protein but rather about finding crunch and flavor.

This is where it takes getting creative. Raw veggies like bell pepper or snap peas with Laughing Cow Cheese. Pickle spears. Cucumbers dipped with salsa.

You can also try some protein chips made by Quest (ad) or HealthWise.  Either can be purchased online and Quest chips can be available at some grocery stores or nutrition stores.

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Steph Wagner, MS RDN


11 thoughts on “Why do bad foods go down the best?”

  1. Such a timely and needed article for me to pull me up short before I started down the wrong path.  Thanks!

  2. I am two and a half years out and I can still sometimes have trouble with meat. I never quite know if chicken is a friend or foe.

    I often supplement with high protein dairy and eggs. I enjoy Greek yogurt with some fruit or I make it into a high protein veggie dip.

    If I am on the go, I try to pack some extra cheese slices, eggs, or yogurt. That way I am not not risking pain and I can still make better choices.

  3. Awesome post. I always wondered about this but never wanted to ask why. I need to reread this every time I tell myself that something is easier to eat.

  4. @Susan I’m so glad this has been a helpful article for you! It’s certainly something to revisit from time to time :)

  5. I have gained 24 lbs back and I had surgery on my hip in Feb of this year. What can i do to help lose this unwanted weight?? I had sleeve surgery 3 or 4rs ago and I don’t know what to do snacking is so hard to stop.

  6. @Charlene grider Regaining weight after surgery is the number one reason why members join my site and online community. Through my coaching and resources, and the support and encouragement of the members it’s possible to get back on track! Feel free to email me if you have more questions (steph@foodcoach.me) or you can click here to find out more and join – https://www.bariatricfoodcoach.com/product/premier-access/

  7. Great timing for this blog post … I’ve been wondering myself why some starches and “bad” food go down so easily, and I feel protein sitting in my stomach working its way through.

  8. @Charleen Alves if you click on Member Resources and then “Bariatric Food List” you will find the food list I recommend in order of priority. It lists protein first, then non-starchy vegetables, then fruits and then healthy fats.

    It does not include starches (bread/pasta/rice/potatoes) or sweets as those are the ones to keep close watch on. You can always email me at steph@bariatricfoodcoach.com for more specific questions or watch a video course for more about my recommendations!

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