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Your Diet Right After Weight-Loss Surgery

The first several weeks after weight-loss (bariatric) surgery are an important time. As your body heals, you move from a liquid diet to pureed and soft foods. This gives your body a chance to adjust to the changes created by the surgery.

What is the diet right after weight-loss surgery?

This short-term diet takes you through the 4 to 6 weeks right after weight-loss surgery. It helps you gradually ease back into eating solid foods.

The diet described here is used after the most common types of weight-loss surgery, sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass. If you have another type of weight-loss surgery, such as gastric banding, your diet plan may be different.

How can this diet help you?

One goal of this diet is making sure you get plenty of fluids. That helps prevent constipation and kidney stones. It provides fluids that are needed to burn stored body fat. And it helps ward off dehydration, a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough fluids to work its best.

Another goal of this diet is meeting your protein needs. Your body requires extra protein during rapid weight loss. If you don’t consume enough protein, your body will take it from your muscles. Getting plenty of protein from foods and supplements helps maintain your muscles and strength. It also promotes a healthy metabolism.

Does this diet have any risks?

Your post-op diet plan may be affected by your type of weight-loss surgery and rate of healing. Work with a registered dietitian nutritionist who is familiar with weight-loss surgery. Your dietitian can provide a diet plan that is tailored to your specific needs.

Which foods should you eat?

The diet for the first 4 to 6 weeks after weight-loss surgery has 4 stages. You move through the stages as your body gradually becomes able to handle more food types and textures.

Step 1: Clear liquid diet

This stage usually begins within hours after surgery. It includes liquids that contain:

  • Little to no sugar or calories

  • No caffeine, carbonation, or alcohol

Examples are water and unsweetened decaf tea. Take frequent, small sips rather than trying to drink a lot at once.

Step 2: Full liquid diet

After a day or two on clear liquids, you dietitian may tell you to add liquids containing:

  • Low sugar and calories

  • Up to 25-30 grams of protein per serving

  • No caffeine, carbonation, or alcohol

Examples are clear broth, low-fat or skim milk, and diluted 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Your dietitian may also recommend protein shakes or other drinks with added protein.

Sip drinks frequently throughout the day. Within several days, work up to at least 7½ cups (60 ounces) of fluid daily to prevent dehydration.

Step 3: Pureed diet

About 10 to 14 days after surgery, your dietitian may tell you to add foods you can eat without chewing. That includes foods such as applesauce and soup with no chunks of food. It also includes foods that have been pureed. This means processed in a blender until smooth.

High-protein foods that can be pureed include lean meats, poultry, fish, and cooked eggs. To get enough protein, you may need to keep using protein shakes or powder as well.

Other foods that can be pureed include soft-cooked vegetables and soft, skinless fruits.

Step 4: Soft diet

After about a week on a pureed diet, your dietitian may tell you to add foods that can be mashed with a fork or don’t require much chewing. Have 3 to 5 small meals or snacks per day. Include protein-rich foods each time you eat.

High-protein foods that are soft include finely chopped or ground meat and poultry, flaked fish, soft-scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, soft-cooked beans, and soft tofu.

Other soft foods include soft-cooked vegetables (no peel), cooked cereal, soft fruits (no skin or seeds), and canned fruit (in its own juice).

Which foods should you pass up?

Don’t have foods and drinks that contain:

  • Caffeine, found in regular coffee, black tea, and energy drinks

  • Carbonation, found in sparkling water and sodas (some of which also contain caffeine)

  • Alcohol, found in wine, beer, and liquor

  • Added sugars, found in sugar-sweetened drinks, desserts, and sweet snacks

  • Saturated fat, found in fatty meats, whole milk, and full-fat cheeses

Tips for following this diet

  • Sip liquids slowly. Don’t use a straw, which can increase the swallowing of air.

  • Once you start adding foods, take your time eating. Allow at least 20 minutes for meals.

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

Suggestions for planning meals

These are sample menus for Stage 4 (a soft diet):

  • For breakfast, small servings of scrambled eggs, cooked cereal, and canned mixed fruit (packed in its own juice)

  • For lunch, small servings of finely ground turkey, cooked squash, and applesauce.

  • For dinner, small servings of flaked broiled fish (no breading) with soft-cooked carrots and green peas.

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