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BF Basics: The Bite Test

I have a friend. Let’s call her Jenny.

She recently tried quinoa for the first time. She was cleared to eat this uber-healthy super food and she’d come up with a nice curry recipe to go along with.

The next day she reported to me that she got sick after eating it. The quinoa got stuck, she said.

Now this is entirely possible (although quinoa is a small grain so I was more suspicious of the meat in the equation). Either way, she got sick and wanted to know HOW to eat quinoa without a repeat incident. So I started by asking a few simple questions:

Me: Was this the first time you’d eaten quinoa?


Jenny: Yes


Me: Did you do a bite test first?


Jenny: No

I reference bite tests a lot but I don’t think I have ever explained WHAT a bite test is. It’s a tool a Bariatric Foodie can use to to see if a food is safe for THEM to eat. This is after you’ve done your due diligence with the nutrition label and paid particular attention to carb and sugar counts.

Because a food can be fine for 99 other post-ops and NOT be fine for you. And while it is true that you can go into each eating experience with an adventurous heart, when you do so you find yourself in the same situation Jenny was in: she THOUGHT it was the quinoa, but she ate everything together, so she really couldn’t be 100% sure.

In the beginning, you want to be as sure as you can be. And a bite test helps. So here’s how you do one in three RIDICULOUSLY easy steps.

Step One: The Bite

When approaching a new food, you sort of want to tread carefully. Even if it’s something you’ve had a million times pre-op, treat it as if you’ve never had it before. Serve yourself a smaller than normal (even for you) portion of it to start with.

Then…simply take a bite. Not a huge bite, but not a tiny one either. A reasonable bite. Remember the point is to see if you have a reaction to the food. A big bite might elicit a reaction simply because it was too big of a bite. A tiny bite might not be enough to elicit a reaction (if you are to have one) at all.

Chew it the appropriate amount of times. Swallow.

Step Two: The Wait

This one is sort of self explanatory. Next you wait. I suggest about 3 minutes or so. For RNY pouches, reactions usually happen pretty fast. If something isn’t going to sit right, you feel it almost instantly. I suspect that’s similar across all surgery types.  

What are you waiting for? Well, there are various ways food reactions happen to us. They include:

  • “Foamies” (for me this happens when food gets stuck and my mouth begins to produce a foamy sort of saliva, I THINK intended to help get the offending food back out fast).
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness (symptom of the infamous “carb coma”)
  • Gut pain 
  • If you are experiencing dumping syndrome it isn’t uncommon to experience rapid heartbeat, sweating and an intense urge to lie down
Pay attention for any of these symptoms. And for those who are non-ops and pre-ops thinking, “Really? All that from one bite?” Ask a post-op who has ever gotten sick off food before. Yes, it can happen off of just one bite. And the sad thing is that one bite takes two seconds to go down and sometimes 2 hours to come back up. And woe to you if you eat too fast and have eaten things on TOP of the offending food. Misery!
Anyway…
If you have a reaction…well, now you know. Don’t eat any more of it. At least not of that batch. As our systems heal, we begin to be able to tolerate foods we once could not. So in a few weeks or months, try it again if it’s important to you. With a bite test, of course.
If no reaction then…
Step Three: REPEAT!
That’s right…repeat step two again. Because those of us that are surgically altered KNOW that even if that bite went down ok…that, too, could have been a fluke. (Lesson here, folks? Don’t trust your digestive system! Kidding…sorta…) Testing again will put your mind at ease that, yes, you really CAN eat this food.
Now…some caveats.
Inevitably there are going to be post-ops who use this information for evil instead of good. I do NOT recommend bite tests for the following:
  • To test your sugar capacity
  • To intentionally make yourself sick to prevent yourself from eating other things (and yes I’ve seen that happen before)
The first…well, my official opinion on sugar dumping is this: treat it like Russian roulette. The bullet may be in the chamber, it may not. Do you REALLY want to know or are you content to just assume it IS and not pull the trigger? I dunno about you but I like living. It’s addicting. 🙂
Also, just because a food worked THIS TIME does not guarantee it will work every time. That’s why eating at a reasonable pace is important. If you eat at a good pace and pay attention to your reaction you can not only tell if a food is going to make you sick, you can also tell when you’ve reached that mythical, magical state called satiety (satisfaction). It’s a beautiful place. There’s glitter, rainbows and ponies!
So…that’s the bite test. Now, here’s where you listen to Nik and HEED her words (think “Ides of March” people). Before you introduce any new food post-op…ANY NEW FOOD…you need to do a bite test. It will save you the trauma of getting violently ill and you’re more likely to know exactly what made you sick.

K? Good. You may now return to your regularly scheduled fabulousness.

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One comment

  1. Even at almost 6 years out, there are foods that I've eaten recently and did fine and I eat today or tomorrow and it will cause severe discomfort of some sort. Go figure! Not as much anymore and when it does happen, I'm always taken back. AND I remember, the pouch does still work!