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Nutrition after Bariatric Surgery

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about nutrition after bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery includes laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, roux-en-Y, and sleeve gastrectomy. Nutrition goals after bariatric surgery are to lose weight, absorb nutrients, get enough liquids, and prevent health problems. You will need to follow 4 stages of nutrition recommendations after bariatric surgery. Your dietitian will tell you when you can move from one stage to another and help you choose foods at each stage.

What do I need to know about health problems after bariatric surgery?

Health problems that can occur after surgery include vomiting and dumping syndrome. Dumping syndrome is a condition that occurs when food moves from your stomach into your small intestine too quickly. It can cause nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea after you eat.

What is the first stage of nutrition recommendations?

On the first day or two after surgery , you will only be allowed to have clear liquids. These liquids will be low in sugar or sugar-free, caffeine free, and not carbonated. You may be given plain water, sugar-free flavored beverages, or decaffeinated coffee or tea. You may also be given clear broth, sugar-free gelatin, and sugar-free popsicles. Sip the liquids very slowly to help prevent vomiting. Do not use a straw. This helps prevent you from taking in extra air.

What is the second stage?

Seven days after surgery , you will continue to have clear liquids. You will also add full liquids that contain protein. Protein helps you heal after surgery. You will follow this stage for about 1 week.

  • Drink 48 to 64 ounces of liquid each day. Half of the liquids you drink should be clear liquids and the other half should be full liquids. Choose liquids low in sugar and fat. Examples include fat-free or 1% milk, soy milk, protein shakes, light yogurt, and sugar-free pudding. You can add extra protein to liquids by adding protein powder to them.
  • Have 5 or 6 small liquid meals each day. Each meal should be made up of 8 to 10 ounces of liquid.
Sources of Protein

What is the third stage?

  • At about 2 weeks after surgery:
    • Eat 4 to 6 meals that contain soft protein foods. Foods should be soft, moist, diced, ground, or pureed. Meats such as ground meats, poultry (chicken or turkey), and fish can be ground, pureed, and moistened. To moisten these foods, add gravy, bouillon, or light mayonnaise. You can also have eggs, bean soups, cottage cheese, low-fat cheese, and yogurt.
    • Eat about ¼ cup of food for each meal. You may find that you can only tolerate a few tablespoons of food at each meal or snack at first.
    • Drink 48 to 64 ounces of clear liquids every day. Do not drink liquids with your meals. Wait 30 minutes after you eat to drink liquids.
  • At about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery:
    • Eat 4 to 6 meals that contain soft protein foods and soft vegetables and fruits. You can now have well-cooked, canned, or peeled fruits and vegetables.
    • Eat about ½ cup of food for each meal. Eat protein foods first. Eat slowly and chew your food very well.
    • Drink 48 to 64 ounces of clear liquids every day. Do not drink liquids with your meals. Wait 30 minutes after you eat to drink liquids.

What is the fourth stage?

About 7 weeks after surgery , you will be able to start eating regular solid foods. Follow these nutrition guidelines for the rest of your life.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Eat protein foods first. Choose tender, well-cooked meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and soy foods. Do not add fat when preparing these foods. Include fruits, cooked vegetables (without seeds or skins), and carbohydrates.
    Healthy Foods
  • Eat to 4 to 6 small meals. Eat about ¾ cups of food for each meal. Eat slowly and chew your food very well.
  • Try new foods slowly. Slowly add foods with new textures that may be hard to tolerate. Try adding one new food each day to see how well you tolerate it. These foods include rice, pasta, breads, and tough meats such as steaks or pork chops. Avoid raw, fibrous fruits and vegetables such as celery, corn, pineapple, and oranges.
  • Drink 48 to 64 ounces of clear liquids every day. Do not drink liquids with your meals. Wait 30 to 60 minutes after you eat to drink liquids.

What general nutrition guidelines should I follow after bariatric surgery?

  • Take your vitamins and mineral supplements every day as directed. After your surgery, your body will not absorb enough vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. Chewable or liquid supplements may be recommended for up to 6 months after surgery. The supplements you need depends on the type of bariatric surgery you had. Your healthcare provider will tell you which supplements you need and how to take them. You may need to take supplements for the rest of your life.
  • Drink liquids as directed. This will help to prevent dehydration. It may be helpful to sip 1 cup of liquid over an hour to get enough liquids. Stop drinking liquids within 30 minutes before your next meal. Do not have drinks that are carbonated (sodas), or that have caffeine or alcohol. Ask your dietitian or healthcare provider when you can have these drinks again.
  • Eat at scheduled times. This will help you prevent grazing throughout the day and eating more than you should. Eat slowly and chew your food very well. Take at least 20 minutes to finish your meal.
  • Avoid high-fat foods and sweets. Sweets include sugar, honey, jam, jelly, cake, candy, or cookies. High-fat foods include fried foods, bacon, sausage, or fatty meats. They also include butter, margarine, regular mayonnaise, and sour cream. Other high-fat foods and sweets include whole milk, ice cream, cakes, cookies, and desserts. These foods can cause dumping syndrome. Sweets and high-fat foods are also low in nutrients and high in calories. They can cause you to regain the weight you have lost.
  • Go to follow-up visits with your dietitian as directed. Your dietitian can help you follow the nutrition guidelines after your surgery. Your dietitian can also help you choose healthy foods to maintain your weight loss over time.

When should I call my dietitian?

  • You have nausea, stomach pain, or are vomiting even when you are not eating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your nutrition choices.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.