A common question from people considering weight loss surgery is what foods they can and cannot eat after surgery. Caitlin McCullough, RD, LD, clinical dietitian with the Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center, describes what a typical diet includes (and excludes) after bariatric surgery.
How much can I eat after bariatric surgery?
It can vary by surgery type.
With a Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass surgery, the volume of food that can fit into your new stomach (also called a “pouch”) right after surgery is between 1/4 -1/2 cup (about 2 - 4 ounces). As swelling goes down, patients will be able to consume larger volumes of liquids/foods. A normal volume of food that will fit into the pouch further out from surgery is about 1 cup. This amount may vary a little from person to person.
Gastric sleeve reduces the size of your stomach by about 85%. Gastric bypass reduces the size of your stomach by about 95%. However, the amount of food that can fit into the pouch is the same for both gastric bypass and sleeve because a gastric bypass pouch empties a little while you are eating.
What does a typical meal look like for a post-surgery patient?
- Right after surgery, you will be on a non-carbonated fully liquid diet for 2 weeks. Your typical meal will consist of fluids (water, broth, tea) and protein drinks.
- After full liquids, you will advance to the puree phase for two weeks. A typical meal during this period could include dishes like pureed chili, pureed cottage cheese, thinned Greek yogurts, low-fat ricotta with marinara (such as a noodle-free lasagna), and high-protein puddings. Although this may not sound the most appetizing, it is usually a warm welcome after full liquids. You will need to have a blender at home for this phase.
- After purees, you will transition to a soft diet for 2 weeks. All meals will be very soft and moist in texture. A typical day could include eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch and baked cod with cooked carrots for dinner.
- At day 45 in your new diet, you will transition back to regular food. Foods that are harder to tolerate, like bread, rice, pasta, beef, pork, nuts and carbonated beverages can slowly be reintroduced in the following months.
Changing your diet long-termOnce bariatric surgery patients are able to physically tolerate all foods and drinks, they must keep in mind that although their stomach can accept these foods, they may not be best for weight loss. Bariatric surgery patients will often have room for only their protein dish, which should be consumed first. If patients have additional room in their pouch, they should eat non-starchy vegetables second. Our dietitians can help you create a realistic dietary pattern that works for your lifestyle and taste preferences. We're here to support you through all phases of your post-surgery diet and help you create healthy changes long-term!
Can you still eat dessert?
Prior to surgery, patients are encouraged to find healthier alternatives to their favorite desserts. That way, you can still enjoy special treats on occasion but avoid regaining weight after surgery. An example of a healthy dessert alternative is a sugar-free Popsicle in place of ice cream. We encourage patients not to keep unhealthy dessert foods in the house. To avoid further temptation, patients can ask their family members to not bring dessert foods home.The Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center registered dietitians will work with you to help you find healthier alternatives to your favorite treats.
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About the author
Caitlin is a clinical dietitian with the Lake Health Bariatric Surgery Center in Willoughby. She meets with bariatric surgery patients before and after surgery, and conducts nutrition classes.
Caitlin's favorite way to spend her free time: Grocery shopping for new healthy foods and trying out new recipes!