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Stabilization Diet After Weight-Loss Surgery

When you first have weight-loss (bariatric) surgery, you need to follow a special diet for about 4 to 6 weeks. During that time, you gradually move from a liquid diet to soft foods. After that, the next step is a return to foods with a more normal texture. You may hear this referred to as a stabilization diet.

What is a stabilization diet after weight-loss surgery?

This is a balanced diet based on regular foods. The diet focuses on foods that are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. It also stresses drinking plenty of water between meals.

How can this diet help you?

The stabilization diet builds healthy eating habits. These habits will serve you well, both now and in the future. They support better health and quality of life after weight-loss surgery.

Does this diet have any risks?

Weight-loss surgery may decrease how much food you can eat, how many calories and nutrients your body absorbs, or both. As a result, you may not get enough nutrition from foods alone. You will likely need to take dietary supplements for life. Ask your registered dietitian nutritionist which supplements you should take.

Which foods should you eat?

Once your body has healed enough after weight-loss surgery, your surgeon or dietitian will tell you when it's time to begin the stabilization diet. At this point, you can start easing back into eating a wide variety of healthy foods.

Add new foods one at a time while you learn how your body handles them. Gradually widen the range of foods you eat over time.

For the first several months after surgery, you will slowly increase how many calories you consume. By 6 months after surgery, many people who have had weight-loss surgery settle into a long-term pattern of getting 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day. But people vary in their calorie needs. Ask your dietitian what’s right for you.

  • Protein-rich foods are very important after weight-loss surgery. Eating protein at every meal helps you feel fuller for longer. It also helps maintain your muscle mass and promotes a healthy metabolism. Your dietitian can help you figure out how much protein you need each day. Healthy options include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, and tofu.

  • Vegetables and fruits are rich in nutrients. They help prevent nutritional shortfalls. Get at least 5 servings of these foods per day. Include a variety of veggies in many colors.

  • Grains sometimes need to be delayed or limited, so ask your dietitian for advice on what and how much to eat. When appropriate, choose whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-grain bread, tortillas, and pasta.

  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products include skim or low-fat milk, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, reduced-fat cheeses, and fortified soy drinks (as a dairy-free alternative).

  • Sip drinks with few or no calories frequently between meals. They give your body the fluid it needs to work well and burn stored fat. Water is the ideal choice. Other options include unsweetened decaf tea and fruit drinks made from "lite" powdered mix. Women should aim for at least 6 cups (48 ounces) per day. Men should aim for at least 8 cups (64 ounces) per day.

Which foods should you pass up?

  • Don’t have alcoholic drinks. They contain calories with little nutrition. Plus, weight-loss surgery may affect how alcohol is absorbed into the body, making it riskier to drink.

  • Limit added sugars and refined grains. This helps improve weight-loss results. Added sugars are found in sugar-sweetened drinks, desserts, and sweet snacks. Refined grains are found in white bread and pasta, white rice, many crackers, and refined breakfast cereals.

  • Limit saturated fat. It’s found in butter, cream, fatty meats, full-fat cheeses, and whole milk. Steer clear of fried foods as well.

Certain foods and drinks may be difficult for your body to handle after weight-loss surgery. Examples are drinks with caffeine, carbonated drinks, nuts, and popcorn. Ask your dietitian if you need to delay or not have them at all.

Tips for following this diet

  • Eat slowly and chew your food well. Allow at least 20 minutes for meals.

  • Sip beverages between meals, not with meals. Don’t drink anything from 30 minutes before a meal until 30 minutes afterward.

Suggestions for planning meals

  • For breakfast, have a hard-boiled egg, a small serving of hot cereal, and a small orange.

  • For lunch, have small servings of grilled turkey breast, lima beans, and sweet potatoes.

  • For dinner, have small servings of grilled fish, brown rice (if allowed), and cooked spinach.

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