New Jersey Bariatric Center
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Avoid Summer Dieting Pitfalls With These Weight Loss Surgery-Approved Tips

By Dana Babeu, R.D. | July 2, 2015

From the beach to the ballpark and everywhere in between, medical weight loss and weight loss surgery patients (LAP-BAND®, Gastric Bypass and Gastric Sleeve) can still make healthy choices when navigating these classic summer-fun scenarios!

Ahhh, summer!  School’s out, it stays light longer and the days of struggling with boots and jackets are a distant memory.  It’s easy to see why summer is the favorite season of many.  But with schedules more relaxed and the smell of food grilling in the air, it’s also easy to fall prey to some unhealthy summer eating habits. Whether you’ve undergone bariatric surgery such as gastric sleeve, bypass, or LAP-BAND®, or you’re trying to watch your weight and make nutritious choices for other reasons, the following tips may come in handy when you’re faced with  summer eating pitfalls.

The scenario: You’re headed to the beach for the day and have no idea what food venues are nearby.
The solution: BYO – Bring your own...  cooler, that is.  Arriving prepared for a day of sand and sun doesn’t have to mean eating greasy fast food or expensive boardwalk fare.  And who wants to spend valuable beach time searching for something to eat, anyway.  Pack handheld foods like hummus, veggies, turkey or low-fat cheese on a low-carb wrap, grapes and apples, and a few healthy munchies like almonds or popcorn.  No utensils required!  Freeze water bottles the night before to pull double duty as ice packs and calorie-free hydration.  And don’t forget the beach toys!  Taking a walk or playing Frisbee on the sand can be a great way to burn calories and get your heart pumping.

The scenario: You’ve planned a family trip to a theme park and there’s a strict “no outside food or drinks allowed” policy.
The solution:  Research the on-site dining options before you go.  Depending on your destination, there may be some healthier fare like wraps or salads available.  Plan your choices ahead of time so you won’t be as tempted by less nutritious ones once you’re there.  Have a big breakfast before you go and travel with some non-perishable nuts or low-sugar protein bars for the ride home.  If all the choices seem less than ideal, then focus on protein as much as possible.  Stir-fried beef with broccoli, a small burger or hot dog without the bun, and even an order of chicken fingers are better choices in a pinch.  Find a place to sit so you take time for your meal, chewing well and eating slowly. Eat just enough at the park to feel satisfied and have a healthy, balanced dinner later on.

The scenario: Your travel plans require a flight to get where you’re going and airline food is not your cup of tea.
The solution:  Check the carrier’s policy as to what, if any, outside food is allowed on the plane.  Some flights are nut- or peanut-free and be sure to ask about fluid restrictions, as well.  If you’re allowed to bring snacks, stash a plastic bag with low-sugar KIND or Quest bars, homemade trail mix, good quality beef or turkey jerky and portable fruit in your carry-on.  Some cheeses like wax-packaged Mini Babybel can last two to four hours without refrigeration, which should allow plenty of time to get through the security line.  If carrying on food is a no-no or you’re departing from a small airport, prepare or pick-up a healthy meal to eat while you wait to board the flight.  When all else fails and you find yourself with nothing to eat but airport or airline food, avoid anything made from white flour (think pretzels, crackers, bagels) and deep-fried or high-sugar fare.  Soup, salad, a wrap or cup of yogurt can usually be found somewhere and will satisfy hunger without adding extra baggage when you arrive at your destination.

The scenario: Your calendar has a BBQ marked on it almost every weekend for the next month.
The solution: First, congratulate yourself on being so popular!  Next, think about what you can bring to the table, literally, that will ensure there will be something healthy to eat.  BBQ’s usually have a couple of positive things going for them when it comes to healthy eating – there is likely to be some sort of protein to choose from and hosts will rarely turn down your offer to bring a dish (or two).  Healthy foods that travel well and can feed a crowd include a tossed green salad (great for topping with some grilled chicken or a meatless burger), a raw veggie and hummus platter (so much better than chips and dip), or a fruit salad for light and refreshing dessert.  Not only will you have something good to choose from, but other nutrition-conscious guests will thank you.

The scenario:  Your niece graduated from college and the party is at a restaurant where you’ll have to navigate the buffet.
The solution: Don’t arrive hungry!  Since parties often start in the early or mid-afternoon, we tend to skip lunch and are starved by the time the food is served.  So adjust your mealtimes that day by having a late breakfast, small lunch or high protein snack on the way.  Another helpful strategy is to take your time lining up to fill your plate.  Walk the buffet first, decide what foods to choose and then go to the end of the line, literally.  Since we eat first with our eyes, we’re less likely to overdo it when food looks less perfect and has been picked over.

The scenario:You’ve made plans to spend the day with friends at a local park and will be bringing along a picnic lunch.
The solution:  Pack a healthier basket by forgoing the standard picnic fare of sub sandwiches and chips.  Instead, make a fiber-rich salad with whole grain pasta, garbanzos, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, baby spinach and fresh basil.  Greek yogurt is a great stand-in for sour cream.  Use it to make a high protein, low-fat ranch or onion dip for carrots and celery.  Roll up slices of turkey and cheese for protein or pack a container of tuna or chicken salad.  Throw in some sliced watermelon or frozen tubes of squeezable yogurt for dessert and you’ve got a satisfying lunch that won’t weigh you down.

The scenario: Batter up! You’re headed to the ball park for a day of sun, fun and (if you’re not careful) a stomach full of empty calories.
The solution:  Do the best you can with what’s available.  This may not be the easiest place to eat super healthy, but even within the realm of typical stadium food there are some better choices than others.  Start by bringing your own small stash from home if you’re able.  Items that travel well and discreetly include nuts, dried unsweetened fruit, beef jerky and protein bars.  Setting a spending budget can also prove beneficial for your waist and your wallet.  Once you’re faced with choices about how to spend your dollars and calories, follow these tips – Instead of peanuts and Cracker Jacks, stick with just the bag of peanuts.  Better yet, share it, since calories from nuts add up fast.  Better lunch choices include a grilled chicken sandwich, turkey burger, wrap or a single hot dog.  Steer clear of high-  and empty-calorie foods like soft pretzels, stadium pizza, nachos and frozen ices.  And don’t wait for the seventh inning stretch to get up and walk around.  Take advantage of all those stairs!

The scenario:  It’s county fair time and you want a splurge!
The solution:  Splurge -- in moderation.  Since festivals and fairs are some of the most challenging places to eat healthy, it’s a good time to plan a little extra indulgence.  As with any outing, it’s best to bring along some nutritious snacks like nuts, fruit and protein bars.  But let’s face it, the smell of cheese steaks and funnel cakes cooking is almost impossible to resist.  So plan ahead for a few extra calories by eating very mindfully in the days before and following.  This does not mean skipping meals or “saving up” calories, but carefully choosing nutrient dense foods in anticipation of a less healthy meal or day.  At the fair, pick one food you simply must have and go for it.  Then supplement with the healthy snacks you’ve got stashed away.  Some ways to shave empty calories while still enjoying your indulgences include scooping out the insides of rolls and sharing sides like French fries or desserts like funnel cakes and cotton candy.  Try to include some protein or veggies with your meal like a sausage, pepper and onion sandwich or a shrimp cocktail with tomato and mozzarella salad.  But if pizza and fried Oreos are what you’re craving, have a small portion and enjoy every bite.  Just be sure to get up the next day, drink a lot of water, and get back on track with your healthy choices right away.

Armed with these tips and strategies, you’ll be able to navigate summer eating like a pro.  Just remember it’s all about finding a reasonable balance.  If we eat for nutrition and fuel 90 percent of the time and for pleasure the remaining ten, we can enjoy the best of summer cuisine and still feel great in our bathing suits all season long!

Dana Babeu, RD, is a registered dietitian at New Jersey Bariatric Center, a medical & surgical weight loss center with offices in Springfield, Somerville, Hoboken, East Brunswick, Hackettstown and Sparta, New Jersey. She provides pre-operative and post-operative nutritional counseling to New Jersey Bariatric Center’s Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve, LAP-BAND (gastric band) and revision patients, in addition to dietary counseling for patients in our Medical Weight Loss program.
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