Following gastric bypass surgery, you're discharged on a multistage diet to ease recovery. Your surgeon determines the number of dietary stages you'll go through and how fast you'll progress from one stage to another. It depends heavily on your health history and whether you encountered complications during surgery. For this reason, it's crucial to follow the guidelines your surgeon and/or registered dietitian gives you. Expect to start with very small amounts of liquids or foods eaten at frequent intervals and to eat slowly to allow your system time to adjust.
The diet for many patients following bariatric surgery is a clear liquid plan. It's common to follow this plan for up to three days after your procedure. It consists of broth, flavored water, sugar-free gelatin, sports drinks, fruit juice, sugar-free ice pops, decaffeinated tea and coffee. Your doctor may recommend diluting your fruit juices and sports drinks. You'll sip very small amounts of liquid throughout the day, for example, starting with 1/2 ounce of liquid every 30 minutes and working up to 1 ounce every 15 minutes.
You doctor may choose to keep you on clear liquids for longer, but it's typical to move on to high-protein liquids on day four. You'll have the choice of foods on the clear liquid diet, with the addition of protein shakes, vegetable juice, thin hot cereals, sugar-free pudding, low-fat yogurt, fat-free milk and low-fat strained soups. The goal is to slowly work up to 6 to 8 cups of liquids and 80 to 100 grams of protein per day.
If your recovery is going well, you'll likely progress to a pureed diet about seven to 10 days after surgery. At this stage, your food choices are expanded, but you must mash them or blend them in a food processor to ease digestion. Good protein options are low-fat dairy foods, mashed tofu, scrambled eggs and pureed meat or fish.
Continue eating hot cereals to get your grains and have mashed potatoes, both white and sweet, as starch sources. Puree canned fruits and cooked vegetables for easier digestion so you get vital vitamins and minerals.
Start with a very small amount, for example, 1 to 2 tablespoons, and increase per your doctor's instructions. Eat slowly so that meals last 20 to 30 minutes. Some doctors like patients to eat protein foods first and have all liquids between meals. You may be asked to limit liquids to water and calorie-free beverages and to avoid liquids 15 minutes before and 30 minutes after meals.
Avoid foods that may cause digestive issues, like red meats, raw vegetables, nuts, popcorn, fibrous foods and raw fruit with skins.
To make sure your system is ready for solid food, your doctor may transition you to a soft diet before returning to a regular diet. This consists of soft foods that are easy to digest. You'll continue to choose low-fat, sugar-free or low-sugar options. The goal is to have three small -- 6 ounces or less -- meals and two snacks per day.
Continue avoiding raw fruit and vegetables since they're harder to digest. Have soft dairy foods, well-cooked lean meats and soft fish, scrambled eggs and beans and other legumes if tolerated. Your doctor may ask that you continue to have liquids, including water and calorie-free beverages between meals.
Your doctor may ask you to limit or avoid foods and beverages high in fat, even if it's healthy fat like that found in peanut butter, nuts, olives and avocados. Other high-fat foods to avoid include processed meats, pastries, whole milk, pastries, ice cream and fried foods. Avoid regular sodas and other beverages high in sugar.
You'll continue eating slowly to prevent digestive complications like blockage. Using small utensils and dinnerware will help you eat the right amounts. Stop eating when you're satisfied, and avoid eating until you feel full, as this may cause vomiting.
- University of California-Los Angeles: Post Bariatric Surgery Diet Guidelines
- Highland Hospital Bariatric Surgery Center: High Protein Liquid Meal Plan
- University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview: Diet Guidelines After Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass
- Floyd Center for Bariatric Services: Nutrition Guidelines After Bariatric Surgery