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The Best Bariatric Friendly Fast Food Options

bariatric fast food

Sometimes, life can be so hectic and busy that there’s no time to meal prep a healthy meal at the house. We totally get that! As a result, we polled our bariatric audience to see which fast food restaurants they eat out the most. From there, I went through each restaurant’s menu to find the best bariatric friendly fast food options to order. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through understanding when it’s safe to have fast food, how to choose bariatric friendly menu items, and eventually transitioning off fast food altogether to healthier home prepped meals instead.

When Is It Safe To Eat Fast Food After Bariatric Surgery?

The quick answer is- check with your bariatric registered dietitian. There won’t be a lot of healthy options on the early phases of diet advancement (ie: full liquid, pureed) until you’re in more of the soft solid ranges. At this stage, some Programs are okay with their patients ordering chili from Wendy’s or grilled chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A because the meat is really moist and well-hydrated. However, you’ll definitely want to bring this question up to your dietitian (preferably) before surgery so you have a solid game plan after.

Every Program is different, but at the Practice I work for, we ask patients to hold off on having starches until 3 months post-op. This includes rice, pasta, bread, corn, peas, grits, oatmeal, wraps, tortillas (even low carb!), etc. due the swelling in the stomach and high carbohydrate counts that can occur.

Once you’re fully advanced to a regular bariatric staged diet, you can enjoy all items off a Fast Food menu. However, choosing the healthiest item is of course the most important part!

How To Eat Bariatric Friendly Fast Food

Some of my patients have found really great ways to enjoy fast food every now and then after surgery. When it comes to sandwich shops, most places (ie: Jimmy Johns) will allow you to order a lettuce wrap instead of bread to hold your sandwich together. There are a lot of protein sources at fast food restaurants, but always steer away from fried and greasy options. Instead, look for grilled alternatives to protein.

If you’re ordering a grilled chicken sandwich, for example, see if you can take off 1 piece of bread and eventually work up to not having any of the bread altogether. The bread will just be extra carbohydrates and is likely ladened with butter and oils. Some bariatric patients ask for a fork and knife and just cut the protein patty in the box is comes in – or just power through holding it in their hands.

Rather than fries, see what’s on the kids menu for options. Is there a healthier piece of fruit that you can choose instead? Try not to order the “Meal” that comes with a large drink and fries and instead grab a water with a healthy side (ie: salad or fruit cup).

How Frequently Should Bariatric Patients Eat Fast Food?

Less is always more. The healthiest meals will always be meals prepped at home. If you are going to fast food every single day for lunch at work, try to “reverse engineer” your favorite items you order. If your instinct is to order a few tacos at Taco Bell, why not cook up a “burrito bowl” at home that you can then pack for lunch?

Simply steam some cauliflower rice in the microwave with a little lime and cilantro as your base, and then top with whichever protein you’d like (ie: ground turkey, grilled chicken, ground beef, shrimp) with a little shredded lettuce, cheese, greek yogurt, and salsa (if it doesn’t instigate heartburn for you).

The more you can prep at home, the healthier you will be. Therefore, start small and slowly wean off of how frequently you grab food out and about. If you go every day, try to only go every other day. Replace those days with healthier meals at home, or, simply ensure you have easy grab-and-go protein snacks that you can take with you so you’re not so hungry and desperate to drive through the fast food lane.

Having some mozzarella cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and some plain nuts can make a huge difference in helping you stay full when you need a little pick-me-up through certain energy slumps in your day. If you’re not already having a protein shake in your day, you can add one in as well to keep your car from pulling in to the drive-thru lane.

Bariatric Fast Food Ideas

To help you better understand how to navigate a fast food menu as a bariatric patient, I’ve gone ahead and recorded an entire support group call inside Banana Bariatrics going through each of these restaurant menus:

  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Wendy’s
  • Mexican restaurant
  • Chipotle
  • Potbelly’s
  • Longhorn Steakhouse
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • Taco Bell

Here’s a clip from the 1+ hour call that features my thoughts on the Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell menus!

Struggling With Meal Planning

The transition from eating out all of the time to cooking at home more times than not can be tough! To make this a little bit easier, we’ve put together a FREE Meal Planner Template that you can download in order to stay consistent with meal prepping each week!

Our FREE Meal Planner Template will help you:

  • Think of fresh new recipe ideas
  • Ensure you have bariatric friendly snack options on-the-ready
  • Choose healthier fast food and take-out options
  • Avoid inflammatory foods that can make it hard to lose weight
  • Understand macros more clearly after surgery
  • Create an easy meal prep template to use for the week
  • Troubleshoot the barriers that get in the way of your meal prep success
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