It’s important to avoid certain foods on a post-bariatric surgery diet to get the appropriate amount of nutrition and to lose weight.
After you go home from the hospital, you will be instructed to follow a diet after having surgery; this can be quite different from a pre-surgery diet. Usually this is in 3-4 stages starting with Fluids, through to Puréed then Soft Foods, and finally what I call ‘Food for Life’. During the first few months of recovery from your surgery you will work your way up from consuming liquids to solid foods, rather like a baby weaning.
Some bariatric surgery patients make the mistake of thinking that once they are free to eat solid food they can have whatever they like. Others think that some foods are off the agenda for life and that they will be perusing the baby food aisle forever. Both beliefs are wrong – most patients will be able to tolerate most foods but are not always encouraged to do so. Here are eight foods to avoid after bariatric surgery:
1) Food with Empty Calories
Since your stomach is about the size of an egg after bariatric surgery, it will need to get enough daily nutrition by you making wise diet choices. A bariatric surgery diet means avoiding foods that provide little or no nutritional value. This includes pastries, sweets, chips, pretzels, rice cakes, and popcorn. If you eat these foods, you may end up undernourished or gaining back your weight. Foods loaded with sugar or that are fried can lead to a condition called “dumping syndrome,” in which these foods are dumped in the colon quickly after you eat them. Dumping syndrome causes weakness, cold sweats, nausea, and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.
Booze is high in calories, and it won’t be recommended as part of your post-bariatric surgery diet. Like any liquid, alcoholic beverages take up precious space in your stomach that needs to go to foods packed with vitamins and minerals during a post-surgery diet. In addition, alcohol absorption increases dramatically after surgery, which can lead to intoxication. Read more here.
Patients are usually directed to drink two litres (or eight glasses) of water (or beverages) without caffeine or sugar every day. It’s important to remember not to drink beverages with food for 30 minutes before or after a meal. This practice, essential to any weight loss surgery diet, will help you feel full and will save space in your pouch for nutrients.
3) Dry Foods
Because you aren’t drinking liquids while you eat, you may want to avoid dry foods, at least in the beginning of the final phase of your bariatric surgery diet. Foods like nuts or granola may be difficult to swallow. You can have regular cereal, but make sure it is softened by low-fat milk. Try very small pieces of these foods to see if you can tolerate them as part of your bariatric surgery diet. If not, don’t become discouraged. As your body further heals, you may be able to eat these foods later during your post-bariatric surgery diet.
4) Bread, Rice, and Pasta
Because of the starchy nature of bread, rice, and pasta, after your surgery, they can form a paste in your throat that is hard to swallow without liquid. In some cases, they can block the stoma, the hole to the pouch that is your new stomach. You don’t have to completely reject these high-starch foods, but it’s best to avoid them in the beginning. When you do eat them, try to have very small portions and make sure that you only eat small bites of each. Alternatively be inventive and choose other wrappings for your sandwiches like these here.
5) Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables
You should be eating lots of nutritious fruits and vegetables as part of your diet, but avoid hard-to-digest, fibrous vegetables. Celery, corn, broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus are foods to definitely avoid in the early days. Over time, you may be able to tolerate these foods, but in the short term, eat cooked, soft vegetables with no skin. Beans and peas are a good option because they will also provide the extra protein that you will need to maintain proper nutrition on your post-surgery diet. Soups are a great way of introducing vegetables and pulses in a soft, digestible form. Our Fridge Clear and Cupboard Raid Soup is a winner in this category.
6) High-Fat Food
Eating fatty foods after surgery may make you nauseous and they aren’t good for long-term success at weight loss. Skip the bacon, sausage, butter, whole milk, and hard cheeses and choose lower-fat options instead. Select low-fat sandwich meats, lean beef, chicken, turkey, and low-fat cheeses. There are some good choices of bariatric-friendly deli fare in our Early Summer Bariatric Newsletter. Eating too much fat on your diet can make you feel sick and may result in dumping syndrome.
7) Sugary and Highly Caffeinated Drinks
Any drink with sugar, corn syrup, or fructose is something to avoid post-gastric bypass. Drinking sugary drinks like soda and some fruit juices while on your diet can lead to dumping syndrome and may help to stretch your pouch. Ditch the fizz as recommended here and instead, choose water, unsweetened packaged drinks, decaffeinated coffee, and tea. Caffeine leads to dehydration, so as you are getting used to your smaller stomach, avoid it.
8) Tough Meats
One of the habits bariatric patients must learn while on a post-surgery diet is to chew their food really well. Check out the 20:20:20 rule. The more you chew, the easier it is to swallow and digest your food. Chewing is particularly important when you are eating meat on a bariatric diet. Lean meats are an essential part of a diet plan because getting enough protein is very important. While you are getting used to chewing more, choose meats without fat or gristle. Start with bites that are the size of a pencil eraser. Avoid steak, pork chops, hot dogs and ham. Instead, choose minced chicken or turkey, baked chicken or fish.
Do remember that this will be a learning curve and that your food experiences will not be the same as another patient – even if they had the same surgery at the same time as yourself. What you can tolerate will not be the same as another individual. Both, however, should be able to find an enjoyable regime that leads to sustained weight-loss and a good relationship with food for the years ahead.