good vs bad foods after WLS 2

Good vs Bad Foods After WLS, a Dietician’s Perspective

December 4, 2017

“I heard that bananas were bad so that’s why I don’t eat them.”
“I know that avocados are bad because they are full of fat.”
“Potatoes and bread are bad, so I stay away from them.”

Are There Good vs Bad Foods After WLS?

As a bariatric program dietitian, I obviously get asked a lot of questions about food. I often get asked about how I feel about specific foods. Nutrition is a tough subject because individuals feel very strongly about certain nutrition topics or ways of eating. I’ve even heard nutrition conversations become heated and patients get angry when they disagree about how to eat or what to eat!

At least a few times a week, I get asked by patients to provide a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid, foods that are "good" and foods that are "bad." I dislike doing this for many reasons but my number one reason is that foods are not inherently good or bad. It’s just food.

That means that bananas, avocados, and potatoes are not bad. Even double chocolate fudge molten lava cake is not bad. It’s just food. When we lose sight of that, we are falling back into that old diet mentality that I want so badly for patients to escape from because they’ve been doing it for too many years already.

The Mindset of Good vs Bad Foods After WLS

Shortly after I started writing this article, I was talking with our bariatric surgeon about this very same topic. He gave a great example. He asked if water was good or bad. Most people would answer that it is good!  Water is hydrating, it’s absolutely necessary. Well, water consumed in extreme excess could lead to fatal electrolyte imbalances. At that point, is water bad? While this is admittedly a radical example, it could be argued that water is bad when consumed in such a fashion.

Another example is when I am suggesting that a patient incorporate some new foods into their diet that they have been avoiding, such as fruit. I’m always so surprised when patients respond that they thought fruit was off limits, and a “no no” after weight loss surgery.

When I ask the patient "why" they have this option about fruit, the response is typically that “I was always told fruit was FULL of sugar and that it was bad to eat when trying to lose weight.” What fruit IS full of are naturally occurring sugar, vitamins, fiber, and certain nutrients we can’t get anywhere else! Poor bananas seem to be the fruit that gets put down the most as being bad. Jaws drop when I tell patients that I regularly eat bananas in moderation.

Nutrition After WLS

We tend to be a society of extremes with an all or nothing mentality, especially when it comes to “dieting.”  Most fad diets fizzle out eventually because of their extreme nature. No carbs, no fat, no sugar, no no no!  Bad, bad, bad. What happens when we can’t maintain such severe restriction? Old habits start to creep back in and the vicious cycle begins all over again.

I sometimes suggest this:  if it’s your absolute most favorite dessert in the world, savor it, knowing it’s a special occasion or a special treat, and not something you are going to consume on a daily basis. If it’s a grocery store cookie that isn’t special or worth the couple hundred empty calories, skip it.

There are those individuals, however, who feel as though certain foods can be triggers for them. These are foods that don't have a high nutritional value or that are associated with old eating habits that they are trying their best to avoid after weight loss surgery.

This might be candy, pastries, potato chips, Frappucinos, etc.  Some individuals feel as though these foods no longer have a place in their new, healthy way of eating after weight loss surgery and I fully support that choice! There is no one “right” way to eat but I do encourage trying new things and trying to eat differently if your current eating habits are not promoting good nutrition or health or if they aren’t supporting your weight loss efforts.

As a good dietitian/teacher/counselor, I don’t like telling people what to eat. Telling people what to eat and not considering their preferences takes away the joy of food. And there’s no reason that eating after weight loss surgery can’t be enjoyable!

So, how do I categorize foods? Food is more nutritious or less nutritious. Food is more filling or satisfying or less filling or satisfying. If the food tastes good to someone or doesn’t appeal to them. Food is many things, but not good or bad.

After surgery when there is a restriction, I encourage patients to fill up on as much high-quality nutritional food choices as possible on most days and most weeks. There will be days that are more nutritious than others and I don’t expect perfection.  I do encourage a strong effort and a willingness to try a new way of eating, meal planning, and food preparation.

Let’s stop bashing the bananas, putting down the potatoes, and berating the bread.  After all, it’s just food!

Amanda Downs


Amanda Downs MS, RD, LDN is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville, North Carolina. She has a Master's Degree in human nutrition and is a member of the American Dietetic Association and Charlotte Dietetic Association. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education, Health and Sports Studies from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Amanda completed a dietetic internship at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio.