In the first few weeks following surgery, you will not be able to eat much of anything. The body needs time to recover and heal from surgery before you can start eating a regular bariatric diet. Your bariatric surgeon will provide you with a post-op meal plan that is specifically designed to promote recovery and provide the body with adequate nutrition.
During the recovery period, your diet will slowly progress from liquids to solid foods. It can take from 4 to 12 weeks to work your way through the diet progression, depending on the type of surgery, speed of recovery, and the body's tolerance for new foods. It is important to follow the doctor's guidelines and not add new foods to the diet until your doctor has instructed you that it is okay.
The first phase of the diet progression is clear liquids, which are liquids you can see through, such as: water, tea, diluted non-acidic fruit juices (apple, cranberry, grape), broth (beef, chicken, vegetable), protein fruit drinks, sugar-free gelatins, and artificially sweetened non-carbonated beverages.
Once the body is able to tolerate clear liquids, you will begin to add full liquids, which are liquids you cannot see through, to your diet, including: low-fat cream soups, protein shakes, skim milk, low-fat yogurt, sugar-free pudding, and sugar-free gelatin.
Pureed foods are soft foods that have been blended into the smooth consistency of baby food and do not contain any chunks. Chunks of food can get stuck in the stomach opening and cause pain and vomiting. To puree foods, mix high-protein foods with broth, skim milk, or low-calorie sauces in a blender and puree until smooth. Other acceptable food options might include pureed soup, cream of wheat, and cottage cheese.
Soft foods are foods with texture that are tender and easy to chew, such as ground or finely diced lean meats, canned or soft fruit, cooked vegetables, rice, pasta, oatmeal, and eggs. During this phase, you are learning to chew your food completely, about 30 chews per bite, so that the food turns to mush before swallowing. Eating a meal will take about 30 to 60 minutes.
Once you are able to eat soft foods without any significant difficulties, your bariatric surgeon will begin adding solid foods to your diet. Foods will be added on a gradual basis to make sure it is tolerated by the digestive system. It is important to schedule and plan meal times, as food should be eaten slowly and chewed thoroughly. The diet will focus on a low-fat protein sources and healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
The primary focus of the post-op diet, similar to the pre-op diet, is to provide the body with a sufficient amount of protein to recover and function properly. The body does not store protein, so it must be replenished everyday. The daily minimum protein requirement is approximately 50 to 60 grams for women and 60 to 70 grams for men. Following bariatric surgery, protein supplements will help you meet your daily protein requirements.
When you come home from surgery, you will probably not feel like going grocery shopping. It will be much easier for you if you prepare ahead of time and go shopping before surgery for the foods you will need after surgery.
Although your bariatric surgeon will provide you with a specific list of recommended food items, some of the commonly suggested food items for bariatric surgery post-op diets are:
With the reduced food intake after bariatric surgery your body will receive less fluids from food, making it all the more important to drink water or other liquids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
In addition to water, acceptable liquids include tea, sugar-free flavored drinks, and sugar-free sport drinks. When drinking, slowly sip about 1 to 2 mouthfuls at a time, and do not use a straw as this can add unwanted air to the stomach. While it is important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, do not drink with meals or within a half hour before or after a meal, as it fills the stomach and does not leave sufficient room for food.