Healthy nutrition guidelines after a bariatric surgery

After a successful bariatric surgery, adhering to healthy nutrition guidelines is essential for long-term success and healthy weight maintenance. A little negligence or lack of control in your food habits can adversely affect your speedy recovery, digestion, nutrition, and the expected outcomes from the surgery. 

Weight loss surgery is done for a purpose; the purpose to reduce weight by shedding off the extra fat. What you eat matters a lot after the surgery, as it will help you heal faster, reduce the weight gradually, and feed your body nutritiously without re-accumulating the fat. 

The doctor who performed the surgery or a registered nutritionist can help you with the right choice of food and a crafted meal plan for your condition. 

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More about diet  

The diet recommendation varies from person to person. It is also designed in a phase-wise manner to slowly get you back to the process of eating solid foods. How your body reacts to this food and how quickly you heal, will decide how fast you move from one stage to another. Usually, a person starts eating regular food after three months of the surgery. A few instructions that remain common while recovering from the surgery are listed below:

  • Drink a minimum of 2 L of water daily to avoid dehydration. 
  • Do not drink water while having food. Prefer water 30 minutes before or after your meals. 
  • Avoid sugary and fatty food. 
  • Eat very small amount of food at a time. 
  • Do not consume alcohol till you are completely back to normal food consumption. Keep a check on the amount to be taken at once. 
  • Avoid caffeine initially for a few days. Coffee and tea can be started gradually afterwards.
  • When started with solid food, chew them properly for easy digestion.
  • Eat and drink very slowly to avoid “dumping syndrome”, which is a common condition post the surgery. It is characterized with nausea, vomiting, sweating, diarrhoea, and dizziness due to sudden fall of foods and liquids in the small intestine when someone eats larger quantity of food in a haste. 
  • Report any unusual body symptom to your doctor immediately.  
  • If prescribed with vitamins and supplements, take as directed by your healthcare provider. 

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Phase 1: Only Liquids 

Next day of the surgery or so, you would be given only clear liquids: veg clear soup, coconut water, mineral water and the like. Once you are able to digest the clear liquids, other form of liquids would be administered like: broth, fruit juice, decaffeinated tea or coffee, skimmed milk, or very dilute butter milk.  

Phase 2: Pureed Foods

The next phase of food introduction to your diet might start after a week of tolerating the liquid food well. It includes only mashed up foods and pureed or strained food items. The consistency of the food should always remain like smooth paste without any solid food particles at all. 

You can have small portions of pureed food, typically 4 to 6 spoons at a time, for three to six times a day. Make sure that you are eating very slowly spoon-by -spoon extending the food time to 30 minutes for each meal. 

 A few food items you can puree and have them as meals are listed below:

  • Cooked cereals like oats, broken wheat porridge (dalia), corn flakes, flattened millets (jowar or bajra flakes), semolina porridge etc.
  • Scrambled eggs 
  • Ground meat, poultry, or fish
  • Cooked vegetables 

You can use items like milk, butter milk, fruit juice or water to make the purees of solid food. 

Phase 3: Soft Foods

After having pureed foods for a few days with no reported complication, you can talk to your doctor about starting the soft foods.  

The items you can choose to have are mostly those which you pureed in the phase 2 of your post-surgery diet plan. They include, 

Cooked cereals, porridge, upma, scrambled eggs, ground meat, cooked vegetables, oat meals etc. 

A few more additions in this phase include, 

  • Cottage cheese 
  • Cooked rice
  • Boiled eggs or omelette  
  • Fresh fruits without skin 

Make sure you chew the food properly, taking time, to puree them before swallowing. You can have three to five servings of soft food in a day or three servings alternated with three servings of liquid food in a day. One portion should be a maximum of half to two-third of a coffee cup. 

Do not start with any kind of deep-fried, crispy or crunchy food at this stage. Give time to your stomach to adjust with different varieties of food slowly. 

Phase 4: Solid Foods

You can return back to eating normal and firmer foods after around eight-to-nine weeks of your surgery. This also depends on how well you have adjusted with the soft solid foods. You can try eating the normally cooked home foods as for other family members. However, a few points to keep a check on are listed below:

  • Your food routine will consist of three meals a day with a maximum of 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups of food at a time. They can be alternated with liquid foods in between.     
  • Feeding 80% of your hunger at a time is advisable. Do not overeat ever.  
  • Introduce one new food at a time to see how well you are adjusting to it.
  • Sometimes you might feel abdominal cramps, nausea, or vomiting sensation after having new foods. It’s normal, yet you need to report to your doctor for any symptom getting severe. 

A few food items that can be a little difficult to digest in this phase include,

  • Raw fruits and vegetables  
  • Red meats 
  • Fried & spicy foods
  • Dry fruits and nuts 
  • Carbonated drinks  

After tolerating the solid foods for a few days, you would gradually gain strength to digest varying types of food items ranging from snacks, raw food, cooked food, and even fried foods. Life will come back to normal with you having a better body and overall health. Just keep feeding yourself the best of nutrition and keep following up with your doctor as scheduled.  

Note: Everybody is unique in terms of body constitution, genetics, risks, and responses. This diversity can make your food requirements after the surgery different from others. So, make sure you get a personalized diet plan recommended from your doctor or dietician that can bring the best results for you.