Nutrition After Bariatric Surgery
After bariatric surgery, particularly gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, you will be required to follow specific food guidelines. These guidelines help to insure that you receive proper nutrition with minimal disruption to healing and weight loss efforts. Because you will likely be eating smaller portions, it is important to adopt a nutrient-rich, high protein diet to prevent nutrient deficiency.
Before bariatric surgery, patients meet with one of our clinical professionals to create a custom nutrition plan. You will also learn techniques and tools that can help improve weight loss and prevent weight regain after bariatric surgery.
General Bariatric Nutritional Recommendations
Balanced nutrition is essential for physical and emotional well-being, both before and after weight loss surgery. No matter where you are in your weight loss efforts, following these bariatric surgery nutrition tips can help improve your weight loss and make eating more enjoyable:
- Stay hydrated by sipping water between meals
- Enjoy small, protein-packed meals
- Take physician-recommended vitamin and mineral supplements each day
- Add new foods to your diet slowly to prevent nausea, discomfort, or vomiting
- Chew food completely before swallowing
- Drink and eat slowly to prevent dumping syndrome
Eating after bariatric surgery requires changes in food choices and lifestyle. For this reason, a bariatric diet typically begins about a week or two before the actual surgery. During this time your surgeon may have you follow a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet similar to phase one after surgery. This diet helps reduce bleeding during surgery, encourages faster healing and recovery after surgery, and shrinks your liver, which, if enlarged, can make surgery more difficult. Additionally, it can serve as an opportunity to begin your weight loss journey as soon as you make the commitment to change your health. It is also recommended that you begin increasing activity daily… for example, add 30 minutes of walking every day.
Phase 1: Liquids
For the first few days after bariatric surgery you will follow a clear liquid diet to encourage healing. Typically, patients consume broth, water, tea, and juice during this period. When your stomach is able to tolerate it, you may add milk, strained cream soup, and sugar-free popsicles or gelatin as part of your liquid diet. Most patients find they can only consume between one and three ounces of liquid at a time.
Phase 2: Pureed Foods
During the second phase, patients are slowly able to add pureed foods to their diet. This phase typically lasts a few weeks while your stomach continues to heal. You will be encouraged to begin drinking protein shakes or adding pureed foods such as:
- Lean meats
- Low-fat Cottage cheese
- Soft fruits – no sugar added
- Cooked vegetables
- Low-fat Yogurt
It is important to mash or blend foods to oatmeal consistency. Additionally, you should avoid drinking liquids for 30 minutes before or after a meal. Drinking too close to a meal may increase capacity by causing food to exit too quickly from the stomach. It is common for patients to feel satisfied by eating three 3-5 ounce meals a day plus a high protein snack.
Phase 3: Soft Foods
Patients can begin adding soft foods within a few weeks of having bariatric surgery. Soft foods consist of items that can be easily chewed and digested. Some excellent options include:
- Eggs or egg dishes, such as omelets.
- Flakey fish
- Ground or minced meats
- Soft or cooked, skinless vegetables and fruits
Phase 4: Solid Foods
Most bariatric patients begin adding solid foods back into their diets within two months after having weight loss surgery. Our nutritionists will help you create a customized plan that maximizes weight loss. While you are able to incorporate many new foods back into your diet, some foods may be still be too difficult for your body to digest. As a rule, foods that are very tough, stringy, or crunchy should be avoided as they may cause gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, or vomiting. A few tips to follow while adding solid foods back into your diet include:
- Chew food thoroughly
- Dice and chop all solid foods to aid in digestion
- Add new foods slowly to find which foods you can tolerate
- Avoid breads, fried foods, and fibrous vegetables
- Choose tender, lean cuts of meat
- Wait to incorporate tough foods such as popcorn, nuts, seeds, and granola
- Skip carbonated beverages, including sparkling water
- Reheated or microwave foods may be too dry or tough
Preventing Nutrient Deficiency
During gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery your stomach and/or intestines are altered to reduce the amount you can consume in one sitting. These adjustments can affect your ability to fully absorb nutrients from food. This is called malabsorption. Reinforcing your diet with additional supplements can help prevent nutritional deficiency. During your meeting with our nutritionists you will discuss proper supplementation to reduce your risk of nutrient deficiencies. Monitoring blood work periodically is necessary to detect nutritional deficiencies and should be performed for the rest of your life.
Following nutritional instructions after surgery can aid in weight loss, reduce recovery time, and keep you focused. Before your procedure, your surgeon will provide you with specific nutrition and supplement instructions. Observing these instructions can prevent problems such as nutrition deficiency, nausea, vomiting and dehydration.
To learn more about gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or gastric banding at the Surgical Specialists of Louisiana, register for one of our free, surgeon-conducted seminars. Our doctors can answer your questions and help you on your road to a healthier new you.