- Choosing nutritious foods that support your recovery and weight loss goals after bariatric surgery is critical for your long-term health.
- Focus on eating lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and calcium-rich foods that are easily digestible.
- Making changes to how you eat, such as eating slowly and thoroughly chewing your food, may help your body digest food better.
After bariatric surgery, your stomach can only handle small amounts of food, and your digestive tract may not be able to absorb as many nutrients.
These changes make it important for you to make smart food choices after your procedure to support your overall health and weight loss.
This article reviews the most important types of food to eat after bariatric surgery and is filled with delicious snack and meal ideas.
It also includes helpful tips on grocery shopping, dining out, and explains why working with a registered dietitian is essential to your health journey.
Connect with a registered dietitian through Nourish for individualized advice on foods to eat after bariatric surgery.
Understanding Bariatric Surgery Basics
Bariatric surgery is a specialized procedure for people with obesity who have been unable to lose weight through other methods.
During the surgery, the doctor will alter the size of the stomach to restrict the amount of food you can eat, making you feel fuller faster.
Depending on the type of surgery, the procedure may also decrease the amount of nutrition the digestive system can absorb.
These changes may lead to significant weight loss and improve medical conditions related to being overweight, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
What Changes After Bariatric Surgery?
Changes to your digestive tract after bariatric surgery depend on which procedure you have.
During gastric sleeve surgery, the surgeon removes a large portion of your stomach, creating a new banana-sized stomach or “sleeve.”
This change reduces the amount of food your stomach can hold, making you feel full quicker.
During gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon makes a small pouch (about the size of an egg) by dividing the top portion of the stomach from the rest of the stomach.
The small intestine is then divided and connected to the newly created small stomach pouch.
These changes result in how much you’re able to eat and how the body absorbs and digests food.
During a gastric band surgery, the surgeon places a saline-filled ring around the upper part of the stomach to decrease stomach size and reduce food intake.
The bariatric surgeon can tighten or relax the ring size by adding or removing saline.
What Are the Best Food Choices for a Post-Bariatric Diet?
After bariatric surgery, it’s important to make highly nutritious food choices without overloading your stomach.
It’s essential to follow your bariatric surgeon’s timeline on when you can introduce certain food consistencies back into your diet.
Here are some key food groups to focus on.
Weight loss in the first months after bariatric surgery is rapid and is potentially associated with a significant loss of muscle mass.
Protein helps to prevent the loss of muscle and aids in healing.
When planning your meals, choose meats that are naturally tender, and be sure to cook them thoroughly.
You can also get protein from dairy products, hummus, and nut butters.
Try to avoid meats that have casings, like hot dogs or sausages. It is also good to avoid proteins that are fried or processed.
Here are some delicious protein choices:
- Cooked chicken or turkey.
- Cooked fish or canned tuna.
- Nut butters.
- Cottage cheese.
- Greek yogurt.
- Milk or unsweetened soy milk.
- High protein drinks without added sugar.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with lots of nutrients your body needs.
However, some fruits and vegetables may be difficult for your stomach to digest immediately after bariatric surgery.
In the initial phases after surgery, opt for fruits and veggies that are soft in texture and don’t have tough skin, peel, or seeds. Vegetables should be cooked to a soft consistency.
- Canned soft fruits in water without added syrup or sugar.
- Seedless watermelon.
- Unsweetened applesauce.
- Cooked carrots.
- Cooked spinach.
- Peeled and cooked potatoes.
- Peeled and cooked winter squash.
- Diluted and strained vegetable juice.
Carbohydrates are essential to our lives. They provide our bodies with energy and are the preferred source of fuel. Your dietitian can help guide you on how many carbohydrates you should aim for each day.
When you eat carbohydrates, it is best to combine them with protein. Here are some examples:
- Greek yogurt with Cheerios.
- Grits and eggs.
- Cream of wheat made with milk.
- Crackers and peanut butter.
- Protein Pasta and meatballs and/or cheese.
- Tortilla with cheese.
Healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can help lower bad cholesterol and are important for cell and brain health.
A dietitian can give guidance on how many healthy fats you need daily.
Focus on incorporating the following healthy fats:
- Olive oil.
- Nut butters.
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines).
After bariatric surgery, your digestive system may have difficulty getting enough calcium.
Not having enough calcium puts you at risk for weak bones. Because of this, it is important to ensure you eat enough calcium daily.
Foods rich in calcium include:
- Greek yogurt.
- Cooked salmon.
- Cooked spinach.
Eating Habits to Follow After Bariatric Surgery
While it is important to choose the right foods after bariatric surgery, learning healthy eating habits is also necessary.
These habits will help you decrease possible digestive discomfort and help you get the nutrients that you need.
- Eat about six to eight small frequent meals throughout the day.
- Eat your meals slowly.
- Chew your food thoroughly to help with food digestion.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water between meals.
- Limit your snacking between meals or choose protein-rich snack choices.
Making Healthy Choices at the Grocery Store for Your Bariatric Diet
Making the right food choices while grocery shopping may help you stick to a nutritious diet during the week.
Start with creating a meal and subsequent shopping list for the upcoming week. This will help avoid impulse purchases.
While at the store, focus on shopping around the perimeter because most processed foods tend to be in the middle aisles. Before buying an item, check the food label for nutrition information and ingredients. Try to avoid foods that contain added sugars as much as possible.
Eating Out On a Post-Bariatric Surgery Diet
Dining out after bariatric surgery can be more challenging, but it is possible.Try looking at the menu beforehand to know what foods they have on hand. Opt for grilled, baked, or steamed dishes rather than fried or heavily sauced.
Don’t hesitate to ask for adjustments to your meal, such as getting a smaller portion size, getting a side of steamed veggies, or putting the sauce on the side.
You may also consider sharing a meal with a friend or plan on taking part of the meal home to avoid overeating.
Ask for a to-go box when the meal arrives and pack up half the meal right away.
3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Eating After Bariatric Surgery
Here are some common pitfalls you can avoid to help ensure your success.
- Inadequate protein intake: Protein is crucial for your healing and preventing muscle loss.
- Drinking with meals: Avoid drinking with your meals, as this can quickly overfill your stomach and lead to stomach discomfort.
- Ignoring hunger and fullness cues: Eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel satisfied.
Be sure to have regular check-in appointments with your surgeon and dietitian. They will monitor your progress and adjust your care plan as needed.
Your keys to success after bariatric surgery are making mindful food choices, adopting healthy eating habits, and seeking guidance from a registered dietitian.
By eating the correct foods, you can support your weight loss journey and improve your overall health.
How a Dietitian Can Help
Deciding which foods to eat after having bariatric surgery can be overwhelming.
But your dietitian can help you identify which foods are best for you. Together, you can make a successful meal plan that is nutritious and delicious.
Connect with a registered dietitian through Nourish for individualized guidance on foods recommended after bariatric surgery.
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