The Importance of Pre-Op and Post-Operative Bariatric Diets

The Importance of Pre-Op and Post-Operative Bariatric Diets

Alex Brecher

There’s a lot that affects weight loss related to bariatric surgery, but what you eat is the key to success before and after your procedure. A smart pre-op diet can make surgery safer, while the post-op diet lets you heal properly and set the stage for hitting your weight loss goals. Here is information on why pre-op and post-op diets are so important, and what the typical recommendations are. Be sure to ask your own surgeon or healthcare team for specific instructions for your own case.

Importance of the Pre-Op and Post-Op Bariatric Diets

Before and after surgery, the pre-op and post-op diets are necessary for safety, nutrition, and weight loss.

Your surgeon may ask you to follow a pre-op diet for these reasons.

  • To lose extra weight before surgery to lower the risk of complications
  • To shrink the size of your liver to make it easier for the surgeon to visualize what is happening during surgery
  • To practice the type of diet that you might follow after surgery in order to make sure that you will be able to do it, including both meal patterns and food choices

After surgery, the post-op diet progression can serve these purposes.

  • Include appropriate foods and textures to allow your body to heal properly
  • Get protein and other nutrients that are essential for muscle mass, metabolism, and overall health
  • Let you practice and establish patterns that can help you lose weight according to your goal

How to Follow the Pre-Op Diet

Before surgery, your surgeon may ask you to follow a weight loss diet for several weeks. Losing weight before surgery lowers surgery risk. The plan may be low-carb.

For a few days before surgery, your pre-op diet may be a liquid diet. It probably will include a few protein shakes or meal replacement shakes daily. The BariatricPal Store has Protein Shakes, Protein Hot Drinks such as Protein Cocoa, Protein Smoothies, and Protein Fruit Drinks. For a savory, warm change, you can try Protein Soup or Bouillon

For a day or so before surgery, you may switch to a clear liquid diet. You’ll then fast the night before surgery.

How to Follow the Post-Op Diet

The post-op diet is really a set of diets. It includes several stages that take you from a liquid diet through a diet with solid foods. By the end of it, you’ll be eating a variety of foods that you can continue to eat for the long-term.

Stage 1: Post-Op Liquid Diet

You’ll probably be on a clear liquid diet immediately after surgery. The goal is to get as much fluid into your body as you can. You may start by sucking on ice chips. Sugar-free ice pops and gelatin and broth may also be possible. 

A full liquid diet comes next. It includes protein-packed fluids, such as those mentioned above. The goal is to get as much protein as you can without stretching your pouch or sleeve. These are some liquids during this period. 

  • Protein Shakes and Smoothies
  • Protein Soup and Broth
  • Protein Cocoa, Smoothies, and Fruit Drinks
  • Milk
  • Fruit juice
  • Protein Gelatin

Stage 2: Pureed Diet or “Mushies”

When your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can move into stage 2 and add a few actual foods, though they will be completely smooth. Along with Protein Shakes and other low-carb, high-protein liquids, you can add these types of foods.

  • Applesauce
  • Mashed ripe bananas that have been strained
  • Pureed mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, possibly watered down with broth
  • Pureed cottage cheese or strained yogurt
  • Cooked pureed green beans, carrots, and other vegetables without fibers
  • Pureed cooked tuna, fish, or ground turkey, watered down with broth
  • Pureed Protein Oatmeal

To get more protein, you can add Unflavored Protein Powder to almost any pureed food. 

Stage 3: Soft Diet

This may start 3 to 6 weeks after your surgery. You can add soft foods that do not have gristle and are easy to chew. These are some examples.

  • Soft-cooked eggs
  • Tuna, ground turkey, and cooked fish
  • Ripe bananas and other ripe soft fruit, such as canned fruit or melon
  • Canned vegetables and soft-cooked vegetables, such as carrots

Stage 4: Solid Food

You can reintroduce foods one by one to make sure your stomach can handle them. Avoid foods with seeds, such as bread with seeds or sunflower seeds, string vegetables, such as broccoli stacks, and popcorn. It’s also best to avoid fried food, since it is high-calorie and fatty, and you may need to be wary of bread, pasta, and other grains, which can be gummy. 

It may still take time to incorporate certain foods back into your diet. Many bariatric surgery patients develop food intolerances, such as to meat, lettuce, or dairy products. You may regain your ability to eat these foods, or you may not. Each patient is different.

Tips for Success with a Bariatric Surgery Diet

There are some ways to improve your chances of success on the pre-op and post-op diet. Here are some tips.

  • Follow the instructions. Your surgeon or dietitian may give you general guidelines or specific meal plans. Either way, stick to the rules to succeed.
  • Ask questions. If you’re not sure, ask your healthcare team for clarification. 
  • Eat slowly. You can help yourself by chewing each bite 30 times, taking small bites, and noticing the flavors and textures of each food.
  • Watch portions. Portion sizes may be smaller than you expect, so be sure you understand how much you should be eating of each food.
  • Eat protein first. It’s the most important nutrient, after water, and you don’t want to fill up on other foods before you get enough protein.
  • Drink water between meals, not during meals. 

The most important tip is to work with your healthcare provider to make sure you’re on the right track. 

The pre-op and post-op diets can help you succeed after bariatric surgery, but it’s important to follow them properly. The BariatricPal Store can help by offering meal plans and useful Protein Entrees and Snacks, Protein Shakes and Bars, and other low-carb products. Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you’re on the right track with your diet.

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