The Four Stages of a Post Bariatric Surgery Diet

Bariatric surgery is a life-changing procedure that has the potential to change how you look, feel, and function. It also impacts how you fuel your body, especially in the immediate post-operative phase.

Your specific post-op diet will depend on recommendations from your healthcare provider, but there are general trends that will keep you feeling your best, as quickly as possible.

bariatric diet

 Your surgeon will advance you through each phase of the diet, starting immediately after surgery and guiding you through to the lifelong maintenance phase. No two patients are identical, but there is a usual progression of recommended foods through your recovery. Plan to start slow and with small portions, realizing that eating will become easier over time. Initially the focus is on acute healing and nourishment, making sure your body thrives. Later, you will have a program of healthful food maintenance that will keep you feeling and looking your best.

In this article we will discuss the basic progression of diet in the weeks after surgery, so you can be prepared for this exciting new phase of your life.

Stage 1: Clear Liquid Phase

Immediately after surgery, your physician will order a clear liquid diet. Typically, you will have food that is gentle on your system like water, broth, or gelatin. Your intake will be minimal at first, starting with just an ounce or two, and will progress as you can tolerate. Some patients do not feel like eating at all after surgery, especially if they are nauseous due to anesthesia, but every person is different.

Stage 2: Full Liquid Phase

From post-op day 2 to 14, you will likely move to a full liquid diet. During this phase most surgeons recommend drinking six 8oz glasses of water each day and introducing slightly thicker liquids. Foods that might be on your meal plan at this stage include:

  •         Nonfat or low-fat milk
  •         Unsweetened applesauce
  •         Low-fat yogurts or puddings
  •         Blended broths and low-fat soups
  •         Refined cereals like cream of wheat or oatmeal
  •         High-protein smoothies

Eating small servings of nutrient-dense soft foods and drinking ample water will help your body continue its healing process. Some doctors recommend adding vitamins, but do not take anything outside of your doctor’s orders. Vitamins that are sometimes added to your diet include multivitamins, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

Stage 3: Soft Food Phase

Usually around 2 to 8 weeks post-procedure, your surgeon will transition you to more pureed and soft foods diet. Introducing a new food is a slow process, and includes taking a few bites every 20 minutes or so and allowing your body to adjust to its new intake. You will want to take small bites and chew everything quite well before swallowing.

Recommended soft foods for this stage of your diet include:

  •         Yogurt
  •         Hot cereals
  •         Noodles
  •         Soft, well-cooked, or mashed vegetables
  •         Scrambled egg whites
  •         Lean fish
  •         Soft fruits like peaches or melons
  •         Lean ground beef, pork, or chicken

Usually you will avoid breads, grains, or non-ground meats during this phase. Additionally, you need to drink small and frequent sips of water throughout the day.

Stage 4: The Progression Phase

Approximately 2 months after surgery, you will be eating around 900-1,000 calories a day, with an emphasis on proteins. To maintain a balanced intake of nutrients you should plan a variety of foods to include:

  •         3 servings of dairy
  •         3 servings of meat or protein
  •         3 servings of starch
  •         1 serving of fruit
  •         2 servings of soft vegetables

Most foods you choose should be nonfat, lean, or low-fat and you should limit bread and rice. When choosing fruit servings, avoid dried fruits with skin, and make sure vegetables are well-cooked. Portion size is around ¼ cup for solids and ½ cup for liquids, and at this point, more calories will come from food than from high-protein smoothies or liquids. Generally, you can discontinue vitamins and supplements, but of course this is up to your doctor.

In this phase, avoid raw vegetables, breads, nuts, and popcorn. You’ll want to continue focusing on hydration, drinking at least 2 liters of water a day. While you can increase the variety of food choices, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid poorly tolerated foods.

Goals of the Bariatric Surgery Diet

When designing a post-surgery meal plan there are 5 key principles to consider: small portions, high protein, healthy carbs, low fat/sugar, and fresh ingredients. Adhering to these principles gives you a substantial variety of nutritious and satisfying foods to enjoy.

Certainly, the way you eat is going to change but remember, you are not in this alone. You will have a dedicated team alongside you including your doctor, nurses, nutritionists, and hopefully friends and family to support you. You can even find online support groups where you connect with others going through the same experience. Many of these meet in person or online and are quite helpful,  providing an opportunity to vent feelings, ask questions, or even trade recipes that adhere to a healthy post-bariatric recovery. There is an entire community of resources available to you as a bariatric surgery patient. By committing to this lifestyle change, you can discover new connections, and gain a new sense of health and wellbeing.

The surgeon you select is also an incredibly important factor in your bariatric surgery outcome. Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez Ruiz with VIDA Bariatrics is a board-certified, bilingual bariatric surgeon licensed in the United States and Mexico. With a Ph.D. from the University of Texas Health Science Center, she has helped thousands of patients successfully meet their weight loss goals by offering the highest level of surgical care and expertise. Dr. Rodriguez Ruiz is also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. With over ten years of experience and more than 5,000 surgeries, she and her team at VIDA Bariatrics can answer any questions you may have if you are considering bariatric surgery.

A lifetime of feeling better is within reach. Schedule a consultation to learn more about how our Bariatric Surgery program is right for you. 

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