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Life After Bariatric Surgery: Reading Nutrition Labels

Reading Food Labels

Reading nutrition labels is an important part of reaching weight loss goals and maintaining a healthy weight after bariatric surgery. 

For the Sleeve Gastrectomy, reading nutrition labels helps prevent weight loss stalls from eating foods too high in carbohydrates and sugars. 

For the Gastric Bypass, reading nutrition labels helps avoid dumping syndrome and weight loss stalls from eating foods too high in carbohydrates and sugars. 

For the Loop or Standard Duodenal Switch and Revision surgeries, reading labels helps reduce the risk of malnutrition by choosing the right types of foods that are high in protein.

Let’s take a look at a food label, and review what to keep in mind throughout your journey to healthier living. 

Trans Fats

Trans fats are found in processed and fried foods. They increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol. When looking at a label, this should be as close to 0 grams as possible.

Total Carbohydrates

Keeping total carbohydrates less than 15 grams per serving and per meal helps with weight loss. We recommend keeping total carbohydrates less than 50 grams per day for the first 6 months after surgery.


Fiber is found under total carbohydrates on the label and comes from plant sources like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and whole grains. It may also be added to processed foods.

For the first 4-6 months after surgery, keep fiber less than 5 grams per serving on food labels. High amounts of fiber early on can cause bloating and gas pain.

While you are in the weight loss phase after your surgery, fiber should be coming from your fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, beans, and legumes are high in carbohydrates and should be avoided until you are ready to maintain your weight.

Net Carbohydrates (Net Carbs)

Once you are ready to maintain your weight, net carbohydrates can now be used. At this point, you are likely reaching your protein goal easily from food, and have the space for bulkier, higher fiber foods. 

To calculate net carbs, simply take total grams of carbohydrates and subtract fiber grams. In the example above, you would take 37 grams of carbs and subtract the 4 grams of fiber to give you 33 grams of net carbs per serving. Keep net carbohydrates less than 50 grams per day for weight maintenance.


Total sugar should always be less than 10 grams per serving for all food products and less than 5 grams per serving for all beverages. This helps with weight loss and to help reduce the risk of dumping syndrome. Remember, keep total sugar less than 25 grams each day from drinks and foods combined.


Protein grams should always be higher than the total sugar on the label. This is important to make sure that you are eating foods that serve a purpose. Protein helps maintain lean muscle mass, which helps improve your metabolism.

For the Sleeve and Gastric Bypass, women should be having 60-80 grams of protein each day and men should have 80-100 grams. Anyone having the LOOP or Standard Duodenal Switch or a Revision should have between 80-100 grams of protein each day as well.

Ingredients List

When looking at the ingredients list on any food item, a good rule of thumb is that foods that are less processed typically have a shorter ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount used in the product to the one that is used the least. This might help explain why a product is high in sugar. It’s likely closer to the beginning of the ingredient list. 


Being mindful of nutrition labels is an important part of healthy living after bariatric surgery and helps with maintaining your weight loss goals. 

If you are struggling with maintaining your weight loss, please give our office a call to schedule a nutrition evaluation by a dietitian.

Katie Ott, MS, RD

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