Eating After Bariatric Surgery
Following bariatric surgery, your body will need to heal and recover before you start eating a regular bariatric diet. While your body is recovering you will slowly progress from an all liquid diet to a solid food diet. This progression can take from 4-14 weeks depending on the type of surgery and the speed of recovery. Before adding a new type of food to your diet, make sure that you are following the guidelines given to you by your surgeon, dietitian, or bariatric physician.
Here are the typical bariatric post-op phases and the foods that can be consumed during each phase. These categories are typical but it's very important that you consult with your surgeon or physician since many procedures may differ and patients react to surgery differently.
Phase 1 - Clear Liquid (Week 1) : During the first week after bariatric surgery it is very important to stay hydrated. This allows the pouch to heal while enabling you to take in nutrients to avoid malnutrition. Carry a bottle or container around with you all day to sip on so you can keep yourself hydrated as much as possible. Drink small amounts (4-6 ounces) and drink slowly (30 mins. to drink 6 ounces). When you feel full stop drinking. This first week you need to drink only liquids that you can see through. These include:
- artificially sweetened, non-carbonated beverages
- protein fruit drinks
- sugar-free gelatins
- clear broths
Phase 2 - Full Liquids (Week 2) : Full liquids are fluids that you can't see through. These can be added to your clear liquid diet 1-2 weeks after surgery. Full liquids include:
- skim milk
- creamy soups
- protein shakes
Phase 3 - Pureed Foods (Weeks 3-6) : This allows the pouch to continue healing while gradually becoming accustomed to solid foods again. Pureed foods are soft foods that have been blended with a liquid broth or skim milk down to the consistency of apple sauce or baby food. It's recommended to not eat and drink at the same time. You should stop drinking 30 minutes before you eat, and wait another 30 minutes after eating before you drink again. Foods include:
- high-protein soft foods (pureed with skim milk or liquid broth)
- cottage cheese
- mashed potatoes
- cream of wheat
Phase 4 - Soft Foods (Weeks 6-14) : As you finish healing you will be more tolerant to soft foods. Soft foods are tender and easy to chew foods such as cooked macaroni noodles. You will want to make many small meals daily from these soft foods while keeping hydrating by sipping on water between meals. These meals should include high protein foods, and each bite should be chewed 25 times. Your doctor may want you to add a chewable or powdered multivitamin to your diet during this phase. This phase of the diet usually lasts 6-8 weeks.
- canned or soft fruits
- cooked vegetables (except corn)
- ground or finely diced lean meats
Once your body has recovered from the surgery, your surgeon or physician will want to put you on a regular bariatric diet. The emphasis in this diet is on Protein. When eating, chew slowly and allow enough time for your meal, as you don't want to be rushed when eating. Remember to consume low-fat, high-protein foods to allow for an adequate amount of protein while keeping your calorie intake between 1000-1500 calories.
The recovery period for Lap-Band patients is usually quicker than the gastric bypass recovery period. Lap-Band patients may recover in as soon as 4-6 weeks, although it is still very important to transition through the diet phases patiently.
The amount of weight loss varies greatly between individuals, but the average gastric bypass patient loses about 5-15 pounds per week for the first couple of months, and then can expect to lose a pound or two per week. Just remember, if you're not willing to change your lifestyle and make healthy decisions, you can gain back all or more of the lost weight.
- Prepare for your post-op diet before you have your bariatric surgery
- Don't be shy about asking your surgeon or physician anything you aren't sure about
- Follow your post-op guidelines to avoid healing disruptions and severe stomach pain
- While staying hydrated is very important, don't drink with a straw. It can cause air bubbles in the stomach
- Choose low-calorie drinks. You don't want to add calories that don't fill you up.
- Chew your food thoroughly to the consistency of mush
- Stop eating when you begin to feel full
- Protein will become the top priority of your diet and 60-80 grams a day is usually recommended
- Join a local support group, or register for a free account at the American Bariatrics Online Support Group.