Bariatric surgery is literally a life-saver. In fact, getting gastric bypass surgery has been found to reduce the risk of death from obesity-related conditions by up to 48 percent in the 10 years after surgery. This is huge! 

But in order to get the full results that you dream of—and stay out of the hospital—it’s crucial that you are careful with what you eat afterward. 

After The Initial Recovery Period

After your initial recovery period, you can eat somewhat of a normal diet once again. Keep in mind that complete recovery from any type of weight loss surgery can take up to a month. 

During this time, it’s crucial that you don’t swallow large bites of food or overeat. If you don’t, this can lead to problems in your digestion. In fact, this is a good guideline to follow for any post-op patient, whether in recovery or not, because overeating, can lead to everything from an uptick in the severity of GERD all the way to defeating your surgery by stretching out your smaller digestive tract. 

In short, what you eat and how you eat it matters to your long-term success, so let’s walk you through some of the key foods you need to watch out for post-bariatric surgery. Avoiding these foods will help your body heal completely at the site of surgery and also assist in your ultimate weight loss goals. 

Keep reading to learn what these foods are.

Tips For Eating After Surgery

Before diving into the foods to avoid after gastric-bypass surgery, it’s important to know how to eat in your new state. Remember, this procedure is going to reduce the size of your stomach and change the way that food enters into your intestines, which will help you to remake your body from the inside out.

Some additional  tips to help you eat properly on your new diet are found here.

Drink And Eat Slowly

If you want to avoid experiencing the pain and embarrassment of dumping syndrome, take approximately 30 minutes to consume your meals. The same goes for drinking: you should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of time to drink a 10-12 ounce cup of liquid.

A 30-minute window also applies to after you eat. It’s a critical practice to wait 30 minutes before or after a meal to drink anything.

Eat Small Meals

It’s a good idea to eat a few smaller meals every day. Many patients feel comfortable beginning with six small  meals, then reducing them to four. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, when you eat matters as much as how much you eat and what foods you choose. If you’re curious about how to time meals for maximum benefit, you can learn more here. 

When you are ready to start following a regular diet again, you can reduce your meals to just three a day. How much you should eat is a question I’m asked a lot. The short answer is to target to have half a cup to a cup of food in each meal.

Drink Liquids In Between Meals

You have to avoid dehydration after surgery. Dehydration can lead to serious post-surgical issues and severely curtail your ability to function. I speak to many patients who say they have a tough time consuming enough liquid, and I understand why drinking 64 ounces of liquid could make you nervous, but it is vital to your health to make sure you get there. For those wondering, 64 ounces translates to a minimum of eight cups of fluids every day.

However, you’ve got to remember your 30-minute window before/after meals. Because if you drink too much near or at mealtime, you may feel overly full. This is going to prevent you from eating enough nutrient-rich foods.

Take The Proper Mineral And Vitamin Supplements

After you undergo surgery, your body isn’t going to be able to absorb everything it needs from the food you eat. As a result, you are going to need a multivitamin supplement for the rest of your life.Special post-bariatric surgery supplements are designed with your reduced absorption rate in mind, and can be a huge help. Be sure you talk to your doctor about absorption and what you need to take to help you succeed. 

Post-bariatric Surgery Diets: No-go Foods

While your doctor can provide you with quite a bit of information regarding what foods to avoid after your surgery, you may want to know the “why” behind that list. Most patients deal with cravings for pre-surgical foods like candy and soda, and most doctors will flat out tell you that you should never have them again. Personally, I find that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, or even a few natural ones, can be great stand-ins for when your sweet tooth kicks in, but there are limits to what you can consume, even if it’s sugar-free.  Keep reading for some of the foods you need to avoid after your surgery.

1. Food Full Of Empty Calories

After you have bariatric surgery, your stomach is going to be approximately the size of a walnut. While not much fits in a walnut shell, you still need to ensure you get enough nutrition each day by making smart dietary choices.

After gastric bypass surgery, you need to avoid any and all foods that have little or no nutritional value. This includes things like popcorn, rice cakes, pretzels, chips, candy, and pastries.

If you do eat these foods, that I call “sliders,” you may wind up undernourished, or even worse, you may regain your weight. We know that as many as 50.4% of patients regain some or all of their initial weight loss. If you don’t want to be one of them, it’s more important than you may have realized to choose the best foods available.  That means that foods loaded-up with sugar, heavily processed, or fried, may lead to that “dirty little secret” among post-surgical patients, called “dumping syndrome.”

If you experience dumping syndrome, chances are good that those heavily-processed foods you consumed are being dumped in your colon almost immediately after you eat them. And the results can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, cold sweats, and weakness.

For some patients, no matter what you do, you may experience some dumping, but I want to give you the best chance to avoid it. Skipping slider foods is the #1 way to do that. 

2. Tough Meats

One of the habits you have to learn after bariatric surgery is to chew your food really well. The more that you chew, the easier it will be to swallow and to digest your food. Chewing allows saliva to permeate your food, which starts the digestive process before the food even leaves your mouth, and making sure you digest fully helps your absorption rate, help with feelings of satiety (fullness), and may even help you with GERD symptoms. Plus, the more you chew, the longer it takes to eat, which helps you take the necessary time to consume your meals for the greatest benefit.

Chewing is especially important when you begin eating meat again post-surgery. It’s important to stick with leaner meats, as you need plenty of healthy protein. Plus, they’re just tasty, and I don’t know about you, but I know after I spent weeks on liquids and purees, I was excited to add more flavor and texture to my plate. 

While you are getting used to chewing more thoroughly, be sure to avoid meats full of gristle or fat. It’s a good idea to start with smaller bites and avoid heavily processed and salty meats like ham and hot dogs, and tougher meats like pork chops, and steak. Better and easier to digest options include fish, baked or roasted chicken, and turkey.

3. Highly Caffeinated And Sugary Drinks

Any drink that contains fructose, corn syrup, or sugar is something you should avoid after gastric-bypass surgery. If you consume sugary drinks like fruit juice and soda, they can lead to the aforementioned dumping syndrome, GERD, and other complications.

The best option, of course,  is to choose water. However, decaffeinated tea or coffee, and unsweetened packaged drinks can help you mix things up as you strive for that 64 ounces of liquid. If you consume too much (for some patients, any) caffeine, you may suffer dehydration. Since you’re getting used to a smaller stomach, it’s best to avoid caffeine altogether for a long while, possibly for good.

4. Fibrous Vegetables And Fruits

It’s important to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits after surgery. I personally try to make sure most of my plate for every meal is made up of healthy vegetables because we just get so much bang for our nutritional buck with them. However, as a post-op patient, you may want to avoid vegetables and fruits that are more fibrous, at least initially.

Some examples of more fibrous food items include asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, corn, and celery. These should definitely be avoided right after your surgery. However, once you’ve healed, quite a few of these vegetables will become dietary staples. They have tons of protein, and key nutrients your body needs to burn fat and keep hunger pangs at bay.

As time passes, you may be able to tolerate these foods again. However, in the short term, it’s a good idea to eat soft, cooked vegetables without skins. Peas and beans are a great option when you start eating solids again because they also offer additional protein that’s needed to maintain good nutrition after you have surgery.

5. Alcohol

Alcohol is extremely high in calories. As a result, it should not be a part of your diet after bariatric surgery.

Similar to any liquid, an alcoholic beverage is going to take up the limited space in your stomach. However, alcohol does not share the hydrating properties of other liquids and could speed dehydration. The smarter path post-op is to reserve your limited intake capacity for food and drinks that are full of minerals and vitamins.

Also, alcohol absorption is going to increase significantly after you have surgery. This is going to lead to intoxication at a much faster rate. For some people, this could be seen as a plus, but I find the risks of consuming alcohol outweigh the benefits post-surgery.

6. Dry Foods

Since you aren’t going to be drinking liquids while you are eating, it’s a good idea to avoid eating any particularly dry foods, at least as you begin the last phase of your diet.

Foods like granola and nuts are often more challenging to swallow. While you can eat regular cereal, be sure you soften it first using a little low-fat milk.

Try to eat smaller bites of these foods to see if you are able to tolerate them after your surgery. If not, don’t feel discouraged. As your body continues to heal, you may be able to integrate these foods back into your post-surgery diet.

7. Pasta, Rice, And Bread

Due to the starchy nature of pasta, rice, and bread, it’s best to avoid them after surgery. These carbohydrate-rich foods can form a paste in your throat that can be extremely challenging to swallow without any liquid.

In some situations, eating these simple carbs can actually block the stoma, which is the hole to the pouch that is your brand new, smaller stomach. While you don’t have to completely stop eating foods that are higher in starch, you should avoid them, to begin with. And it’s possible that once you break yourself from the cycle of simple carb consumption, you’ll realize that your body doesn’t need them to feel satisfied. 

That could be a huge added bonus, since limited carbs is a crucial part of phase-two post-surgical weight loss (the weight you lose after your initial “melting off” period) and maintenance. 

Conclusion: To Stay Healthy And Avoid Problems With Post-Bariatric Surgery, Diet Is Everything

When it comes to post-bariatric surgery eating, your doctor can provide you with some tips to ensure you eat the right foods and avoid the ones that may cause issues. However, if your doctor is focused on limiting calories without discussing hormonal triggers and insulin, you may need to do a little of your own research like I did. I hope the tips here will help you get started, and allow you to adhere to the necessary immediate post-op restrictions as much as you can.