Patients go through different stages of diet depending on the type of surgery they undergo. However, many patients may not realize that their diet should begin two weeks before surgery to prepare their body for the coming changes.
After surgery, the diet becomes even stricter. All of these changes can be extremely confusing to follow, which is why it’s important to consult with an RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist) about what exactly you’re allowed to eat to both preserve your nutritional needs while allowing you to fully heal - all while promoting weight loss.
This is why bariatric meal plans are not just about portion control, but also about optimizing your nutritional needs so that you can safely lose weight without any complications from depleted vitamins and minerals in your body.
Not all meal plans are created equal, so your RDN will customize the best diet for you.
Not everyone moves from one step to another at the same speed because everyone’s body adjusts differently as it heals. They do, however, all include similar stages for what you can eat before and after surgery to get you back to eating solid foods. There are also general recommendations on what you should do during every stage of the diet, which includes all of the following.
Sip your drinks. Eat slowly. This keeps your body from dumping syndrome, which is when your stomach moves food into the small intestine too quickly, which can make you feel sick and cause complications with your healing.
Eat small meals. The size of your stomach will be much smaller, so you can only eat tiny portions at a time. You’ll start with six small meals, then four, then three.
Drink a lot of liquids. Because you can only eat and drink a little at a time, you need to work to avoid dehydration to get enough liquid in your body by drinking small amounts between meals.
Completely chew food. While this seems like a no-brainer, your smaller stomach cannot process large chunks of food, so if you don’t chew and chew and chew before swallowing, you can get blockages in your stomach which can cause several complications.
High protein first. You need protein before you consume other types of food in your meal.
Avoid fatty and sugary foods. While small amounts of fat and sugar are not terrible for you, foods high in sugar and fat go quickly through your system, which can once again cause dumping syndrome. They can also increase your caloric intake, which can slow weight loss.
Take your vitamins and minerals. You will need to continue to take vitamins and minerals to supplement the nutritional needs you won’t be able to get directly from your food. You’ll need calcium, vitamin B12, Iron, and multivitamin.
Your bariatric diet will start before surgery.
The main goal is to shrink the size of your liver, which is likely excessively fatty and enlarged. Because the liver is next to your stomach, it’s more difficult to do bariatric surgery and complications can arise. In addition, starting your diet before your surgery will also get your body ready for the reduced calories after surgery. It will also mentally begin to prepare you to look at food quite differently because although you may not feel hungry, your mind will still think your body needs more food than it does.
You’ll begin your diet by reducing the number of calories you take in, completely eliminating carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, potatoes, and junk food. Instead, you’ll mostly eat lean protein, vegetables, and water or some liquid that is low or calorie-free.
After reducing your caloric intake, you’ll have one tough week before your surgery in which you’ll be on a clear liquid diet. You can drink water, broth, decaffeinated tea or coffee, sugar-free popsicles, sugar-free jello, and sugar-free protein shakes. You will also have to avoid any drinks with carbonations (such as sparkling water) and caffeine.
As with the one week before surgery, for at least one to two weeks after (and possibly longer, depending on your surgeon), you can only drink clear liquids in tiny amounts. These again include water, broth, sugar-free popsicles, sugar-free jello..
Once your stomach is ready - which can take up to two weeks after surgery - you can start to eat food that has been pureed and strained into a thick liquid or smooth paste without any solid pieces in them. This includes cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, cream soups, cooked vegetables, soft fruits, cooked cereals, and lean meat. You will be allowed to eat between three to six meals each day, but each meal can only have four to six tablespoons of food. In addition, you will need to eat as slowly as possible to give your body time to absorb the food, with each meal taking 30 minutes to complete.
You will eat pureed foods for a few weeks, depending on how you’re healing and adjusting to the change in diet. Once your doctor has permitted you, you can then add soft foods back into your diet in small bites that you can chew until they are mashed up before swallowing.
Types of soft food you can eat include but are not limited to cottage cheese, eggs, cooked vegetables, canned fruit without seeds, flaky fish, and high-protein poultry such as chicken. You will be allowed to eat three to five small meals a day, but each meal should be no bigger than three to four ounces of food.
After eight weeks or so, you can start to incorporate solid foods back into your diet. You will have three meals a day. Each should only have one to one and a half cups of food. You will also need to avoid certain foods, which can still cause complications at this point. These include bread, raw vegetables, tough meats, red meats, fried food, spicy food, nuts, seeds, popcorn, rice, carbonated drinks, and many more.
Your insurance should cover some or all the cost of bariatric meal planning. If your insurance provider does not or if you do not have insurance, you can ask about payment options when you meet with your nutritionist at RDN Nutrition Counseling in New Jersey.
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