Cacao comes from beans which means chocolate is technically a vegetable, right? It's a funny meme, but I love chocolate… it's a serious question! Can I eat chocolate after gastric sleeve surgery?! Will I ever be able to enjoy chocolate again?
What Happens to Your Stomach During Gastric Sleeve Surgery
If you have already had a consultation with your doctor, then you know approximately 80% of the stomach is removed during gastric sleeve surgery. This means the remaining portion can hold only 2-3 ounces in volume.
As a result of this reduced capacity, it becomes essential for you to focus on maximum nutritional value for everything you consume. You should be eating a diet high in protein with limited fats, sugars and carbohydrates. A nutritious diet will help you maintain your weight loss and give you the best health benefits.
Although cacao beans are technically a fruit (not a vegetable), they do not qualify as part of your nutritious postop diet. Consult with your doctor, though, because it is possible to have a few nibbles of chocolate in moderation as long as you understand how it might affect your system and what types of chocolate are the better options for you.
How Does Chocolate Affect Dumping Syndrome?
Dumping syndrome is one potential side effect after weight loss surgery, most common with gastric bypass patients.
Though rare, gastric sleeve patients can experience dumping syndrome as well. This happens when food moves too quickly from your stomach to your small intestine (1). Foods high in sugar and fat make you especially susceptible to dumping syndrome.
Since chocolate can be high in both fat and sugar, you may experience symptoms such as cramping, bloating diarrhea or dizziness after eating it. These are all signs of dumping syndrome.
The types of chocolate you choose may impact your side effects. Some chocolate options may be more tolerable for you than others.
Can I Have Sugar-Free Chocolate After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?
The short answer on sugar-free chocolate after gastric sleeve surgery is maybe. Super helpful, right? Sugar-free chocolate and other candies will usually contain sugar alcohols. On a nutrient label you will see this as sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, and other words usually ending in -ol.
These sugar alcohols have no caloric or dietary value, so you want to use them in very small amounts. Remember, you want to focus on foods that will give you the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. In addition, sugar alcohols can sometimes trigger the aforementioned dumping syndrome.
Sugar-free chocolate may tide over a sweet tooth in the short-term, but ask yourself if it is worth it in the long-term. Do you want to risk an episode of quick dumping over a piece of chocolate? Is that chocolate helping you reach and maintain your health and weight loss goals?
One bonus to eating sugar-free chocolate is that the sugar alcohols can ease constipation after weight loss surgery – but be careful! They can also cause diarrhea if consumed in large amounts!
Is Dark Chocolate a Better Choice After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?
Most chocolate, especially American chocolate, is high in added sugar and fat. Dark chocolate, however, has been shown to have some health benefits due to its inherent antioxidants and flavanols (2).
If you absolutely cannot give up chocolate, then dark chocolate might help you through the cravings. Try to choose brands that are at least 70% cacao and low in added sugars. Limit your portion size to just a nibble.
Even though dark chocolate is deemed a healthier choice, it still contains 155 calories and 9 grams of fat per 1-ounce. Always check with your nutritionist to make sure this will enhance your nutrition and weight loss goals.
A good way to get that chocolate fix without going off your healthy diet is to use protein shakes. I'm not talking about Premier Protein, though it doesn't taste toooo bad, it's not my favorite. This chocolate protein powder fits the requirements my nutritionist gave me and it tastes like brownies. Literal brownies. There's no fake sugar taste, there's no chalkiness, just a delicious brownie milkshake… no BS.
You can also mix the protein powder with milk, freeze them in popsicle modes, and make fudgesicles. YUM! You won't miss the “real stuff” when you have protein-packed sweet treats that keep you on track with your nutritional goals.
Is Nutella A Good Source of Protein and Chocolate?
Nutella is a creamy hazelnut and chocolate spread that seems to be a marriage made in heaven. At first glance, you might think this is your loophole for eating chocolate after gastric sleeve surgery.
However, it's time to hit the brakes on this one and take a look at the nutrition label. In 2 TBSP of Nutella, there are 3 grams of protein, 11 grams of fat and 22 grams of carbohydrates (21 of these are sugar).
After gastric sleeve surgery, your stomach is much smaller. The sugar and fat calories in Nutella will not provide the nutrition you need.
What About Chocolate Milk?
Milk has protein! Surely a little chocolate flavor won't hurt, right? When it comes to sweets and chocolate after gastric sleeve surgery, you will be doing a disservice to yourself and your goals to be looking for that one sweet treat that allows you to have your (chocolate) cake and eat it, too.
Hot chocolate and chocolate milk are both be high in added sugars. After bariatric surgery, we need every calorie to work for us. Trying to justify sugar and fat as nutrition will only hurt you in the long run.
It is possible to use sugar-free chocolate syrups, but always consult with your doctor to make sure this is the right choice for you.
Strategies for Overcoming Chocolate Cravings
If you have always had a sweet tooth, I know how difficult it can be to get over those cravings after your weight loss surgery.
While some patients report having no appetite for chocolate after gastric sleeve surgery, others say their appetite didn't go away at all. If you are still struggling or trying to prepare for your new lifestyle, these strategies will help you get through the worst of it.
- Pump Up The Protein. Eating a diet high in quality protein will reduce cravings and keep you feeling full longer.
- Eat on a schedule. Because of the reduced size of your stomach, it is important to eat regularly and find your rhythm. This might mean you eat according to a clock rather than whether or not you feel hungry at that moment. If you make your eating into a predictable routine, then your body will know what to expect and you will not experience as many cravings.
- Plan Ahead. If you know you will be traveling or over at a friend's house, make sure you are prepared with food that is good for your situation. If you have a food plan, you are more likely to make healthy choices.
- Stay hydrated. After gastric sleeve surgery, you are at increased risk for dehydration. Drink some water rather than giving in to your sweet tooth.
- Curb the craving with more nutritious alternatives. Your exact diet plan will be unique for you. It is important you follow your doctor's and dietician's instructions. You can inquire about using PB2 chocolate powder or dark chocolate to satiate a sugary craving. Fruit might also appease your sweet tooth. Always read the nutrition labels so you know exactly what you are putting into your body.
- Distract yourself. If the cravings are getting to be unbearable, try distracting yourself with activities that are not compatible with eating. For example, painting your nails, doing a simple yoga routine, or taking a shower might be enough to take your mind off your desire for chocolate.
Gastric sleeve surgery requires significant changes in your dietary habits and routines. If you were addicted to chocolate prior to surgery, it may be difficult to satiate those cravings. In general, however, chocolate after gastric sleeve surgery should only be consumed in strict moderation and only after you have consulted with your nutritionist.
Keep in mind why you chose to get this surgery, and how you will feel when you have experienced long-term success. You are worth the effort!