Bariatric Surgery Diet
Bariatric surgery will completely change the way you eat - from the types of food your body will tolerate to how much food you can eat at any one time. It will help control your hunger and make it easier for you to limit your eating. The bariatric diet plan will focus on minimizing calories and maximizing nutrition to help you lose weight and be healthy.
Adding Solid Foods to the Diet
The bariatric diet begins before surgery with your pre-surgery diet and continues after surgery with your recovery diet. The post-surgery diet will gradually progress from liquids to soft foods, until the body is ready for solid, normal foods again. Once your body has sufficiently healed from surgery and adjusted to the digestive changes, your surgeon will start to add solid foods to your diet.
- The diet progression through recovery can take up to three months, but it can also occur sooner. It all depends on the extent of surgery and how your body adjusts to the changes.
Once you start adding solid foods to your diet, you will want to try new foods slowly and one at a time. Start with only a spoonful of the new food and chew it completely, making sure it reaches a mushy consistency and does not contain any chunks before swallowing. Before taking another bite, pause and make sure the food does not cause any discomfort, pain, or nausea.
If the new food causes problems, don’t continue eating it at this time. After waiting a week, you may be able to try the food again and not have any problems. Sometimes, reintroducing the food further into recovery affects the body’s ability to tolerate it.
Predicting Food Intolerance
After bariatric surgery, especially the procedures that involve rerouting the digestive system, your body will respond differently to the foods you eat. Some foods may be difficult to eat and get stuck in the stomach opening, other foods may be difficult to digest and cause intestinal problems.
- Food intolerance is difficult to predict since specific reactions vary between patients.
Although food intolerance varies among bariatric patients, some foods are known to cause problems with particular types of bariatric procedures. Depending on your surgery, your doctor will alert you to the food choices that must be avoided or eaten with caution.
Counting Calories and Grams
Since you will only be eating a small amount of food, it is important to choose foods that are healthy and nutritious. For the first one to two years, when most of the weight loss occurs, you may be eating as little as 800 calories per day. After that, you will be eating about 1000 to 1200 calories per day to maintain weight loss. Meals will focus on protein rich foods, such as lean meat, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and soy products. The diet will also include nutrient rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Eat the protein foods first - they are the most important.
By the time you begin eating solid foods, you should be well aware of the importance of protein in your diet. Not only is protein the focus of the pre-op and post-op diet, but it is an essential part of your bariatric diet for life. The body needs daily protein to recover after surgery and maintain normal body functions. The amount of protein that should be eaten each day is about 50 to 60 grams for women and about 60 to 70 grams for men. For many people, protein supplements are helpful in meeting this requirement.
Foods to Avoid
Some foods should be avoided after bariatric surgery, either because they are unhealthy or not well tolerated by the body. Although problem foods may vary from one type of bariatric surgery to another, some of the common foods to avoid are:
- Dry, sticky, or fibrous foods, such as tough meat, bread, pasta, rice, raw vegetables, and skins of fruits and vegetables, may get stuck and cause problems
- Carbonated beverages can cause bloating and discomfort
- Beverages high in calories do not satisfy hunger or provide nutrition and ruin weight loss efforts, including milkshakes, regular soda, fruit drinks, meal replacement drinks, alcoholic beverages
- Foods high in calories, fat, and calories, including desserts and other foods with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients
A New Way of Eating
Not only will the foods you eat change after bariatric surgery, but the way you eat will change too. The eating guidelines will vary based on the type of surgery, but some of the common instructions given to bariatric patients are:
- Choose healthy, nutritious foods, with a focus on protein rich foods
- Schedule your meals for the day and stick to the plan
- When you feel full, stop eating, even if you haven’t finished your meal
- Eat slowly so food doesn’t enter the intestines too quickly- about 30 minutes per meal
- Chew food thoroughly - it should be mushy, not chunky
- Limit snacking
- Drink water and other calorie-free fluids throughout the day, aim for 64 ounces daily
- Do not drink anything with meals or for 30 minutes before or after eating
Bariatric surgery helps control feelings of hunger and limits how much food you can eat at any one time, but it doesn’t control how often you can eat and it won’t stop habitual or emotional snacking. It will be up to you to avoid unhealthy snacking, which will increase your daily calories and defeat your weight loss efforts. In some cases, the bariatric diet may include a high-protein based snack, but generally snacking should be avoided.
You will need to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, about 64 ounces daily, to keep yourself from becoming dehydrated. Liquids should be calorie-free, sugar-free, and non-carbonated, such as water, tea, and artificially sweetened beverages.
- To help you get all the liquids you need each day, it's a good idea to keep a bottle of water with you at all times.
When drinking, sip slowly. It should take about 30 to 60 minutes to drink one cup. Also, avoid using a straw as this can add unwanted air to the stomach.
Although you will be sipping liquids throughout the day, you should not drink with your meal or within 30 minutes of a meal, either before or after, as your stomach does not have enough room for both liquids and food after bariatric surgery.