Atrium Health Navicent Weight Management

Dietary Life after Surgery

Young woman eating healthy cereal and fruit

In order to fully recover and effectively lose weight after having weight loss surgery, it is important for patients to follow nutritional and dietary guidelines. Dietary life after surgery means changing both what foods are eaten and the portion sizes of the food that is consumed.

Dietary Changes Immediately After Surgery

As part of transitioning into dietary life after surgery, it is important to follow the guidelines recommended by doctors and nutritionists in order to let the body fully heal. For the first several days after weight loss surgery, patients are only allowed to drink liquids. Two to three ounces of clear liquids will be allowed first, which will be followed by low-fat milk. Liquids allowed during this stage include:

  • Chicken, beef or vegetable broth
  • Decaffeinated coffee or tea
  • Unsweetened juice
  • Sugar-free popsicles
  • Skim or 1 percent milk

The doctor will monitor the patient to ensure that the liquids are being tolerated on the healing abdominal area and stomach pouch. Once this has occurred, pureed and soft foods will be encouraged. These foods should be mashed until they have the consistency of a smooth paste. Foods can be blended in the blender with one of the approved liquids listed above.

Several weeks after weight loss surgery, soft foods can be added to the diet with the doctor's approval. Hard, crunchy, and spicy foods should be avoided during this stage in order to prevent gastrointestinal upset or abdominal pain from occurring.

Choose Healthy Foods

Three to four months after surgery, normal, healthy foods can be consumed. The focus should be on eating low-fat, high-protein food, such as chicken breast, lean pork, fish, beans, lean cuts of beef and low-fat cheese and cottage cheese, which assist in the healing process.

Fruits and vegetables will help provide fiber that will keep the patient's digestive system regular. Raw vegetables may cause some abdominal discomfort, however, so ensure that vegetables are cooked or roasted before consuming. Fibrous or stringy vegetables, such as celery, corn, cabbage, or broccoli, may also not be well tolerated and should be tried one at a time in order to see their effect on the body.

Foods high in sugar and high in fat should also be avoided as part of the diet after weight loss surgery. Fried foods, cookies, candy, and ice cream may not be well tolerated by the stomach, causing vomiting and nausea. If a small treat is desired, try eating a very small portion of the treat along with other healthy foods.

Control Portion Sizes

Portion sizes of the food that is consumed must be changed as part of dietary life after surgery. Because the stomach pouch is much smaller than before, patients will feel full quicker than before surgery. The patient should always stop eating as soon as he or she feels full. Eating past this point can cause the pouch to stretch.

The opening into the intestines is much smaller than it was before surgery. Because of this, it is important to chew your food thoroughly in order to prevent blockage or pain from occurring. Chew each bite until it is the consistency of pureed foods.

Vitamin Supplements

Depending on the type of weight loss surgery, different vitamin supplements will need to be consumed in order to ensure all of the patient's nutritional needs are met. These vitamins may include:

  • Multi-vitamin
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B12

Water and Other Liquid Restrictions

It is important to never drink water or other liquids while eating. Liquids should be consumed by sipping a few ounces at a time throughout the day. Water, tea, coffee, unsweetened juice and sugar-free sports drinks can all be consumed. Carbonated beverages should be avoided as the bubbles can cause abdominal discomfort.

Complications of Not Following the Nutritional Guidelines After Weight Loss Surgery

Not following the dietary guidelines after surgery can cause the following complications to occur:

  • Dehydration from not consuming enough liquid outside of meals
  • Dumping syndrome, which causes vomiting and diarrhea from eating foods too high in sugar or fat
  • Constipation from not eating enough fiber
  • Nausea or vomiting due to eating too much food, eating too quickly or not chewing food enough
  • Weight gain from eating too many calories

Making dietary changes and stopping old bad eating habits may seem overwhelming at first, but doing so will aid in weight loss, help the body to recover, prevent complications from occurring, and help the patient to achieve their health and weight loss goals.