If you are preparing for bariatric surgery, the single most important factor you will need to focus on is improving your diet. Both pre-op and post-op, your diet will determine how your body responds to the procedure, the duration of your recovery, and your ultimate weight loss. The bariatric surgery diet is designed to prepare your body to respond positively to the operation and train your system to form new eating habits to achieve your weight loss goals.

Following this diet requires adherence to a strict regimen of food consumption, particularly in the time immediately before and following your surgery. Once your body has healed and is ready to accept solid foods again, it is crucial to know what you should eat to maintain a healthy weight and fuel your wellness journey.

About The Bariatric Surgery Diet

Purpose

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Bariatric surgery is designed to help you reach significant weight loss goals by reducing the capacity of your stomach and causing you to eat smaller portions of healthier food sources. Bariatric surgery is highly effective because it makes it impracticable to eat large amounts of food in one sitting, allowing you to eat smaller meals while remaining full and satisfied.

As bariatric surgery is an invasive procedure that reduces the size of your stomach, your body must undergo a process of preparation and healing to experience recovery and achieve significant weight loss. As effective as the surgery is, if you do not adhere to a healthy diet plan once your body recovers, you will derail your weight loss efforts. The bariatric surgery diet is specifically tailored to help you retrain your mind and body to accept smaller portions and the right nutritious foods while fueling the healing process and speeding up your recovery.

Nutritional Considerations

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The bariatric surgery diet focuses on cultivating a healthy mindset towards eating while fueling your body in such a way it burns high amounts of fat. The bariatric surgery diet includes key nutrients, foods packed with protein, and foods low in sugar, caloric content, fiber, and fat.

Your body requires high amounts of protein to promote tissue growth and healing, which is essential following this surgery. Protein not only allows your incisions and surgery area to heal fast but helps you build muscle so that any weight you lose comprises fat.

Foods high in sugar will derail your weight loss efforts in no time flat, so the bariatric surgery diet forbids these sources completely. Sugary foods may also make you ill after bariatric surgery, causing “dumping syndrome” and hitting your digestive system too quickly.

Fat is harder for your body to process and digest following bariatric surgery, so avoiding unhealthy fats that inhibit your weight loss efforts and cause stomach upset is key. As the bariatric surgery diet is fairly strict, particularly right before and right after the procedure, it is important to make sure you are getting sufficient amounts of vitamins and mineral nutrients in your daily intake. Most doctors advise bariatric surgery patients to take supplements and multivitamins like B12, calcium, folate, and iron to counter the limited nature of this diet.

10 Things To Know 

Overview

If you are preparing for bariatric surgery, it is likely that you have tried other methods of weight loss and been unable to reach your optimal weight loss goals. For many, bariatric surgery is not only essential to achieving considerable weight loss but to preserve their health and ultimately their lives.

Such a significant change cannot be brought about without intensive lifestyle and diet alterations. The bariatric surgery diet is well worth the results it reaps, but it may be frustrating and challenging at first as you get used to your limited diet options. However, if you follow these dietary restrictions closely and allow your body to heal properly, you will be able to re-introduce a greater variety of food sources into your diet, preserving your health and life in the long run.

1. Following A Liquid Diet Pre-Op Is Essential

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Before you can undergo this procedure, prepare your body. To lessen fatty stores surrounding your spleen and liver, it is essential to follow a strict liquid-only diet before the operation. Otherwise, your surgery may be pushed to a later date or stopped mid-procedure due to high levels of risk. If your liver is enlarged with fat, continuing with the surgery could pose a danger to your health.

Be safe and follow this liquid-only diet. It will not last forever, but it is worth it in the long run. For the 1 or 2 weeks before your procedure, stick to protein or meal replacement shakes. Stay away from sugary drinks, or those containing carbonation and caffeine. You can enjoy broth, but avoid any soups containing solid foods.

Vegetable juices are allowed, as are very thin servings of cream of rice or wheat. Depending on your situation, your doctor might allow you to have tiny portions of vegetables and lean protein. This is not likely, but some patients can incorporate minute amounts of these food sources into their diet pre-op.

2. Week 1 Post-Op: Stick To Clear Liquids

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For the first week following your surgery, clear liquids will be your meal staple of the bariatric surgery diet. This period can last anywhere from 1 to 7 days depending on your unique situation and what your doctor advises.

You will need to have around 1 or 2 ounces of clear liquids every hour to maintain your energy and nutrient levels. Clear liquids like water, fat-free broth, fat-free milk, and sugar-free gelatin are typically allowed at this stage.

3. Weeks 2 And 3 Post-Op: Incorporate Pureed Foods

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After the initial 1 to 7-day period has passed, you can enhance your diet to include pureed foods, along with some protein shakes. Speak to your doctor regarding the pace right for you. As your stomach size will be drastically reduced, this stage of the bariatric surgery diet allows you to consume small, frequent meals during the day.

You will need to make sure you are consuming around 60 to 70 grams of protein every day and around 8 glasses of clear liquids. Avoid caffeine, carbonation, simple starches, and sugars. Foods like egg whites, protein shakes, pureed lean meats, pureed fish, fat-free soft cheese, and fat-free cottage cheese are common choices.

These foods should be pureed with liquids like water, fat-free broth, or fat-free milk. Consume your clear liquids and pureed foods separately and refrain from drinking any liquids 30 minutes before or 60 minutes following your meal. Any clear liquids or pureed foods you consume should be taken in slowly to allow your stomach to process them properly.

4. Weeks 4 And 5: Introduce Soft Foods 

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You will be excited for weeks 4 and 5 as this stage of the bariatric surgery diet allows you to bring soft foods into the mix. Any food you can mash with a spoon, fork, or knife is generally allowed, including soft, lean meats and stewed vegetables. You will want to continue consuming around 60 to 80 grams of protein each day and getting your 8 glasses of clear liquid in.

Protein sources like lean chicken, lean turkey, fish, fat-free cheese, fat-free cottage cheese, tofu, and egg whites are allowed. Easily mashed fruits and vegetables like potatoes, carrots, green beans, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas, and avocados are excellent options.

5. Week 6: Back To Solids 

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At last, week 6 of the bariatric diet brings you back to solid foods. While you may rejoice that this day has come, you will still need to stick to a strict dietary regimen that adheres to your weight loss goals. Your diet will comprise lean protein sources, vegetables, some grains, and little to no sugar. This stage of the bariatric surgery diet should be a lifelong change you stick to forever.

Your doctor will help you decide what solid foods you can reintroduce and which ones you should hold off on. Remember to eat small meals throughout the day, chew your food thoroughly, and chew it slowly. Do not consume food and water simultaneously and continue drinking 8 glasses of water every day. When eating a meal, focus on your lean protein first, eat your vegetables next, and any complex carbohydrates last.

Avoid processed or highly refined foods, sticking to the most natural sources possible. There are foods which will be hard for you to digest and should be eaten sparingly or not at all at this stage of the bariatric surgery diet. Foods like pork, beef, shellfish, whole grains, nuts, corn, and beans can all cause upset. Speak with your doctor about the foods that are best for you.

You will eat cooked and raw fruits and vegetables, but these should be incorporated slowly. Avoid eating more than a tiny quantity of sugar or fat and only enjoy carbonated or caffeinated drinks in minute amounts.

6. Approaching Exercise Post-Op

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After you reach the maintenance stage of the bariatric surgery diet, you will need to incorporate healthy exercise into your daily schedule. Exercise lightly during weeks 2 and 3 of the bariatric surgery diet.

Activities like walking, biking, running, weight lifting, hiking, and aerobics are great options. As a general rule, try to incorporate around 30 minutes or more of exercise into your life 5 to 7 days out of the week.

7. Foods To Include In Your New Post-Op Diet

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Your new post-op bariatric surgery diet is designed to help your body continue to achieve high amounts of weight loss, form better foods habits, and fortify your body with key nutrients. You can enjoy healthy sources of fat like salmon, avocados, sardines, nut butters, and coconut oil.

Stick with lean proteins and stay away from overly greasy or spicy foods. Stay away from whole milk and choose skim instead. Make all your meals count, eating foods like eggs, meat, fruits, and vegetables that are packed with nutrients in every bite. Plan and prep your meals ahead of time so you always have healthy options to choose from and stay away from sugary foods that will derail your wellness regimen.

Avoid junk food and fast food in all its forms. Try to eat at home more often so you will not be as tempted by unhealthy foods at restaurants. Your doctor will advise a plan of supplements and vitamins to complement your new diet, so follow his or her directions to the letter. With every new food you reintroduce, take it slow and allow your body time to adjust. Keep your portion sizes small, with every meal being no larger than the size of your fist.

8. Forming New Food Habits: Keep It Fresh

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Part of forming new food habits with your bariatric surgery diet is to keep things fresh. Your bariatric surgery diet needs to include farm fresh eggs, turkey, chicken, and dairy, freshwater fish, and foods grown in the earth like fruits and vegetables.

Stay away from genetically modified and processed foods, sticking to 3 to 5 ingredients max. Do not fry your foods. Bake, cook, or grill them instead. Choose chicken broth or vegetable broth rather than oil. If a recipe calls for oil, try using yogurt or applesauce instead. Spice your food rather than pouring butter or olive oil on it.

9. Forming New Food Habits: Focus On Protein

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Protein will truly be one of your main focuses on the long-term bariatric surgery diet. You will need to consume around 80 grams each day. Since your stomach size will be greatly reduced, eat your protein first in each meal, eat it slowly, and spread it throughout the day.

10. Forming New Food Habits: Stay Hydrated

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Finally, part of forming new food habits with your bariatric surgery diet is staying hydrated at all times. Drink not only water, but incorporate liquids like skim milk, protein shakes, and non-caffeinated herbal tea to ensure you are getting sufficient nutrients.

Keep your liquids and meals separate, leaving about an hour in between eating and drinking. Sip your liquids slowly throughout the day and you will meet your hydration requirements without issue.

Conclusion

The bariatric surgery diet is one that requires consistency and dedication. It may be a rough start at first, requiring you to change your mindset and approach to food consumption. However, following this way of eating is imperative to prepare your body for a successful surgery, allow you to heal post-op, and help you achieve your weight loss goals in the long-run. Stick to your diet regimen and you will notice your body and brain retraining themselves to accept reduced portions of healthy, nutrient-dense foods in no time.

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