Fill Up not Out

Fill Up not Out with These Bariatric-Friendly Foods

April 15, 2024

Fill up not out! Have you noticed you’re hungry a lot lately and don’t feel satisfied? Some foods make you feel more satisfied than others, and this feeling of fullness is called satiety. Several factors affect hunger. The type of foods you select definitely affects how satisfied you feel. Before we get into specific foods, let’s look at the role food plays in the production of hormones which affect your hunger. For example, the macronutrients protein and carbohydrate affect the production of neurotransmitters or brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin that affect appetite. Obesity is a disease that causes a malfunction or dysfunction in the regulation of your appetite. Guess what it’s connected to? The brain. Research suggests that signals which physically tell you that you’re hungry OR full are controlled by your brain. It appears that the brain is not only involved in regulating hunger and feeling full but also with eating for pleasure, or what’s known as hedonic eating.

Hormones Called Leptin and Ghrelin

Have you heard of hormones called leptin and ghrelin? When your stomach is full, the brain signals the release of leptin to send the satiety message. In obesity, this signaling has its wires crossed and is not working correctly. The result is feeling hungry and overeating when you’re actually full. The hormone ghrelin is tied to the stimulation of the desire to eat, and it may work overtime. One of the short-term benefits of sleeve gastrectomy is a decrease in the production of ghrelin due to the removal of a significant part of the stomach, resulting in a decrease in appetite. As a result of these messed-up signals, you may never feel satisfied, and you may feel that constant or nagging hunger. When you lose significant weight, as you have through surgery, the opposite of what you think should happen often does. You think you should feel full and not so hungry. But that malfunctioning signal that tells you that you’ve had enough isn’t doing its job, and the hunger hormone ghrelin often increases. No wonder you’re frustrated.

The good news from current research suggests that GLP-1 (whose real name is glucagon-like peptide-1) may have an important role in regulating appetite because it also acts as a hormone. It’s a player too in signaling with the brain whether you’ve had enough to eat or you’re hungry. Looking closer, the weight loss and diabetes drugs Wegovy and Ozempic are in this class of drugs called GLP-1. Wegovy and Ozempic mimic GLP-1. The drug targets areas of your brain that help regulate appetite and how much you eat. Basically, the drug improves communication between your gut and brain. It works in the brain to curb your appetite and also works in the stomach to slow down how fast the stomach empties, which results in feeling less hungry and more satisfied with a smaller portion. These medications and others that are coming onto the scene may be used selectively to partner with other lifestyle changes after surgery, such as the selection of foods that are filling.

Back to the foods that fill you up, not out. The right percentage of macronutrients like protein and carbohydrate will always be very important in your journey since choosing foods that fill you up can definitely help with satiety so you don’t regain weight.

Fill Up Not Out

Eat your protein food first. Yes, please. Long-term success depends on an adequate intake of protein today, tomorrow, and each day down the track. You’ll start to notice that you’re not as hungry and feel comfortably full on less food. One big reason to reach your protein goal each day is that protein supports your metabolism. The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism rate will be and the more calories your body will burn.

Three of my favorite go-to protein rich foods that fill you up are eggs, cottage cheese, and fish. I keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a snack and as part of a quick breakfast. Take your leftover veggies that need to be used, sauté and add to scrambled eggs, or make into an omelet. Nutritionally, eggs are very high-quality protein and also contain beneficial naturally occurring nutrients or phytonutrients in the yolk for your eyes. Eggs keep you feeling full.

Another favorite food that fills you up is cottage cheese. You’re either a cottage cheese fan or you aren’t, but if eggs aren’t your thing, cottage cheese is another good option. It’s high-quality protein, filling, and keeps away hunger. You can add fruit to it for a lot more flavor and nuts, depending on if you’re having a smaller snack or building a lunch bowl.

Fish is another powerful protein that satisfies your hunger, and it doesn’t have to be a pain to fix. Tuna or salmon in a can or pouch are perfect to keep in your pantry and become a go-to.

Yes, You Can Eat Carbs

You’ll love this news. There are numerous carbohydrate foods that fill you up, not out. Yes, carbs, and yes, you can eat carbs. The trick is to be picky about your carb choices. Two carbs that are my go-to for fiber and to fill up are the ancient grain farro and black beans Well, any bean, actually, but I love black beans. I want to stay full and have energy for the day. Both of these contain fiber and are referred to as complex carbohydrates because they take longer to break down and are more satisfying. I use farro in place of rice as a side, in a bowl with a protein source and veggies, with marinara sauce and melted cheese, all kinds of ways. I do the same with black beans. Melt cheese over them for a snack or lunch. Use in black bean soup, quesadillas with vegetables and a whole grain tortilla, or as a side. All of these foods work well in the bariatric lifestyle. Portion size is the key, and it all depends on how much you are eating every day, which is determined by your activity level and workouts as well.

Don’t forget about your salad greens and low calorie vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc. They have so few calories per bite. Combine alongside beans or farro to fill you up with fewer calories.

Two other foods that fill you up are avocado and nuts. You’re probably thinking…wait a minute, these are high in fat. Yes, they are, but a little fat is very filling, and in small amounts, typically doesn’t cause dumping. Avocados contain the better-for-you fat called monounsaturated, which not only satisfies you, but also has an anti-inflammatory effect. Win-win. Top your black beans or farro with a small slice or two. Serve alongside your fish. Add to your salad greens. Or top your scrambled eggs with a slice of avocado.

Let’s Talk Nuts

Let’s talk nuts. Once you’re back to eating regular foods, nuts can really satisfy. A small amount goes a long way toward helping you feel full. Walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, peanuts…doesn’t matter. The fiber in nuts is filling, plus they contain the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats along with vitamin E. Try almonds, walnuts, or peanuts in high-protein oatmeal, sprinkle in a salad, or a stir-fry.

Remember to think protein first and be picky about your carb choices. These smart moves will keep you on track and help prevent weight regain.

Bariatric dietitian Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Bariatric Surgery Success.

Fill Up not Out
Susan Mitchell


Bariatric dietitian Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Bariatric Surgery Success. Selected as one of the Best 35 Dietitian Podcasts, Bariatric Surgery Success was chosen from thousands of podcasts on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness. Dr. Susan helps you conquer cravings, emotional eating and weight regain after bariatric surgery with a focus on your nutrition and health, journey and success. Read more articles by Susan!