limited food choices

Traveling With Limited Food Choices After WLS

August 3, 2022

Traveling doesn’t have to be put on hold just because you had weight loss surgery. In fact, you may have had weight loss surgery to actually enjoy travel and not be limited by your weight. Therefore, the key is to be prepared. Your limited food choices and options will be influenced by several factors: your surgery date and diet progression, where you are going, and what method of travel you choose.

Traveling With Limited Food Choices After WLS

When preparing to travel, the first consideration should be your diet progression. Are you still on a liquid only diet? Are you able to eat soft foods? Have you made it through the diet progression and are cleared to eat mostly “normal” foods? The answers to these questions will influence how and what to pack for your upcoming trip.

If you’re still on a primarily liquid diet, be sure to pack plenty of protein supplements and sugar-free beverages. Otherwise, be sure to pack protein-rich options that you know you tolerate well. It is probably not a good idea to try something new right before you get into a car or get on a plane to travel several hours.

Traveling By Car

Packing food and liquid options can easily be accomplished if you’re traveling by car. Simply gather your options and put them in a cooler. Many gas stations sell Styrofoam coolers and ice if you forget or do not have one. A few protein-rich snack options that will travel well in a cooler include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, nuts/seeds, tuna packets, hard-boiled eggs (maybe eat this outside of the car), and deli meat.

You could also purchase or create your own protein snack packs – just pick a deli meat, a few cubes of cheese, a few nuts, and package them all into a sealed Tupperware container.

A variety of fruits and veggies are also easy to pack. If you’re still on a soft foods stage, consider canned fruit in 100% fruit juice, or fruit and veggie blend baby food pouches.

If you’re traveling by plane, your choices will probably be more limited. You won’t be able to bring any pre-made protein drinks or a lot of liquids. Your best bet for protein supplements will be to pack protein powders that you can mix with milk or water at the airport or at your destination. Be sure to bring an empty blender bottle if this is the case. Other protein-rich snacks that are perfect for plane travel include nuts/seeds, beef jerky or meat sticks, dried crunchy bean snacks, cheese sticks, and raw fruits and veggies.

You May Not Need As Much As You Think

Another factor to consider when traveling is that you may not need as much food as you think. Take into consideration the new size of your stomach and how much food you can usually eat at one sitting. If you are only able to tolerate ¼ cup per meal, you probably don’t need to bring a whole quart of yogurt or cottage cheese unless that’s the only food you plan to eat. You also may not need to snack as frequently as you once did. Your main goals should be to drink enough sugar-free fluid to stay hydrated and eat/drink enough to meet your protein goals. You probably don’t need 10 different types of snacks. Having a variety of options can be great, but it can also be a trigger to mindlessly snack or fall back into old eating behaviors.

Once you’ve reached your destination, then you’ll want to consider where you’re going to eat your meals. If you are going out to eat, consider sharing a meal with a friend or family member, especially if you don’t have any place to keep leftovers. Traditional kid’s menus usually don’t contain a lot of healthy food choices. They are usually filled with items like breaded and deep-fried chicken strips, French fries, and grilled cheese.

Food At A Restaurant

When choosing food at a restaurant, be sure to fill your plate with a protein-rich food (meat, fish, eggs, beans, etc.), a vegetable, and a small serving of starch or fruit. You could ask for an appetizer plate instead of a dinner plate when sharing a meal. Most restaurants do not charge extra to split meals, although some may, so you might want to ask beforehand.

If you’re planning to eat out at a restaurant, it’s also a good idea to look at the menu online before you arrive or decide. Does it look like your only options are deep-fried foods? Consider a different restaurant, drink a protein shake, or bring a healthy snack with you instead.

If you don’t have access to many restaurants or are camping, then you might consider packing a cooler containing healthy options like the suggestions mentioned for traveling by car.

If you’re camping in the heat, make sure you have a plan to keep your cold foods cold to prevent spoiling. Not to mention enough sugar-free liquids to keep you hydrated as well.

Again, you’ll probably want to stick with a few foods that you know work well for you. The limited food choices when traveling won’t be for long, and hopefully your goal of traveling is not only eating, but enjoying the sights, adventures, and company you’re with!

Michelle Bauche, MS, RDN, LD, CSOWM is a registered dietitian working for Missouri Bariatric Services

limited food choices
Michelle Bauche


Michelle Bauche, MS, RDN, LD, CSOWM is a registered dietitian working for Missouri Bariatric Services in Columbia, Missouri. She is a certified specialist in Obesity and Weight Management and a member of the Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read more articles by Michelle!