Can I eat popcorn after gastric sleeve surgery?

By Derek

Can I eat popcorn after gastric sleeve surgery?

I am sure you are like most people when it comes to this question, but there is more to this answer than just a simple yes or no.

As you may or may not know, your diet and eating habits will have to drastically change following bariatric surgery, no matter what surgery you have.

One category of food that can be particularly tricky, since there is such a wide variety of choices, are snack foods, and that is where popcorn fits in!

The short answer… Yes, you will be able to eat popcorn again, but it won’t be right away.

As you will read about later on, there are different phases of eating following bariatric surgery and certain foods have to be avoided and only fit into specific phases.

No matter which types of Bariatric Surgery you have you will need to follow the strict guidelines for the 4 phase diet which we have outlined below.

Bariatric 4-Phase Post-Op Diet

4 Phase Post-Bariatric Surgery Diet

After surgery you’re instructed to follow a specific diet that progresses you from only liquids to solid whole foods. This progression is designed to accomplish two things:

  • Jumpstart your weight loss
  • Protect your pouch as you heal

Phase 1 – Characterized by liquids only. What this means is nutrient sources should be taken from high protein supplements. Portion size should be approximately 1-2 oz. every 15-30 minutes. The goal should be to consume at least 64 oz. of fluid per day. Phase 1 should also be supplemented with Bari Life Multivitamin Powder– it allows for the easiest absorption while the patient is healing. The entire diet will typically consist of protein supplements only.

Phase 2 – Pureed Foods. Portion size: 3 tablespoons (1.5 oz). This phase is characterized by pureed foods. Because protein helps promote healing and patients are limited in space for food, we recommend protein foods only. The food group containing the highest amount of protein is the meat group. Patients can have any type of meat except red meats. From a consistency standpoint, think cottage cheese (very soft, very moist). Phase 2 should also be supplemented with Bari Life Multivitamin Powder– it allows for the easiest absorption while the patient is healing. Continue to supplement the diet with protein supplements.

Phase 3 – Soft Foods. Portion size: 2-3 oz (limit to 1 oz of fruit or vegetables – focus should be on protein). When patients reach phase 3, they can often tolerate foods of normal consistency. Generally, patients can tolerate fruits and vegetables as well as ground beef. We ask them to avoid all other red meat and starchy vegetables (ie, corn, peas, and potatoes). Continue to supplement the diet with protein supplements.

Phase 4 – Solid Foods. Portion size: 4-6 oz (1/2 – 2/3 meal should be a protein source). Additions to the diet are red meat and starches. Starches should be limited to 1 oz. Continue to supplement the diet with protein supplements.

Once you reach the final phase, solid foods, it will become increasingly more difficult to avoid the foods that you love or were used to eating prior to surgery.

And of those foods, popcorn seems to be a big one for a lot of people.

Now for the big question that everyone wants to know.

Can I eat popcorn after gastric sleeve surgery?

Most people view popcorn as a relatively healthy snack since it “can” be low calorie, high in fiber and low in fat, but how most people eat popcorn is not ideal!

Sure, eating a single serving bag without butter or toppings probably wouldn’t be too bad, but even if you do eat your popcorn that way you will still have to be weary about something else.

Popcorn can expand in the stomach which can lead to damage in your new stomach pouch which is something you want to avoid at all costs.

This can lead to something called “dumping syndrome” also called rapid gastric emptying, which occurs when food, especially sugar, moves from your stomach into your small bowel too quickly.

When this happens you will likely feel some of the following effects:

  • Feeling bloated or too full after eating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Rapid heart rate

Since popcorn is mainly carbohydrates (a form of sugar) it can quickly lead to this issue especially if you sit down and eat a whole bag in one sitting.

Post-Bariatric Hypoglicemia

Post-bariatric hypoglycemia image of various levels of blood sugar

Popcorn is also a high glycemic index carbohydrate food which means it can cause a spike and then sudden drop in blood sugar shortly after eating which can lead to an array of issues. One of them being post bariatric hypoglycemia.

Post-bariatric hypoglycemia (PBH) is a real issue for many patients which means you have to be that much more careful when eating/snacking.

Here are some tips to consider when that craving kicks in:

  • Limit your servings in one sitting (don’t eat the whole bag)
  • Don’t add additional butter
  • Don’t’ add toppings
  • Look for lower-fat options at the store
  • Buy single-serving bags (typically 100 calories)

Along with popcorn, there are other snack foods you will want to avoid because they are either too high in calories or can cause similar problems as popcorn.

Here are a lists of some foods you will want to avoid: (can lead to discomfort and dumping syndrome, and PBH)

  • Chips
  • Donuts
  • Surgery cereal
  • Poptarts
  • Cookies
  • Sodas (yes, sodas count because they have calories)
  • Anything fried
  • Anything spicy
  • And of course popcorn

It’s pretty easy to see that the foods listed here can be delicious and convenient but none of them are worth the short term and long term issues they can and probably will cause if you let yourself slip up and indulge.

Now, we are not saying that avoiding these foods would be easy, but we can promise you that your future self will thank you for making better food choices.

None of the above-listed foods are worth your long term success and health, just remember that the next time you feel one of them calling your name.

The Bottom Line on Eating Popcorn After Sleeve Gastrectomy

With all of the information we laid out in this article we believe it’s best to avoid popcorn all together until you are in the final phase of the diet, and even then you still need to be cautious and mindful of how you are eating.

Although popcorn is not inherently bad we believe there are many other food choices that you can pick that will give you more bang for your buck without having to worry about the issues that can come with eating popcorn and other foods like that.

Ask yourself this question every time to reach for something to eat…

Will this hurt or help your long term success?


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