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The Importance of Pre and Post-Operative Bariatric Diets


By Dr. Dieter Pohl

Bariatric surgery can be a life changing procedure for weight loss, but surgery alone isn’t enough to ensure long-term success. The process includes adhering to a proper bariatric diet before and after surgery to promote optimal results. Bariatric Surgeons and Registered Dietitians will provide patients with customized diets depending on the type of surgery being performed and an individual’s health and lifestyle factors, but most diets share a general guideline. In this article, we’re going to go over that guideline to give you a foundation of what pre and post-operative bariatric diets will look like.

Pre-Op Bariatric Diet

The purpose of a diet before weight loss surgery is important for many reasons. The pre-op diet typically includes a high-protein, low-fat and carbohydrate intake as this type of diet can reduce the amount of fat in and around the liver and abdomen so the surgeon can better visualize your stomach and intestines during the operation. This is important for overall patient safety, as an enlarged liver can make surgery more difficult by obstructing the surgeon’s view. Following this diet will not only ensure the procedure is done safely, but will also prepare you for the change in eating habits for life-long success.

It’s important to note that as your surgery date approaches, it’s often recommended to follow a mostly-liquid diet or liquid-only diet. This usually consists of protein shakes and a small meal that is high in protein, and your doctor may have you take certain vitamins to ensure you’re receiving proper nutrients.

**Your surgeon will let you know if you will be required to follow a pre-op diet**

Post-Op Bariatric Diet

Just like after any surgical procedure, your body needs time to heal properly. Following a proper post-op diet will be a determining factor in how well and quickly you recover. Post-op diets are done in stages to maintain initial weight loss, prevent your stomach from stretching, and avoid any side effects or complications from surgery. It will also help with portion control, which is an essential habit that will help you continue to lose weight and prepare you for healthier eating for the rest of your life.

These stages will unfold in the first weeks following your surgery:

Stage One: Liquid Diet

For the first few days after surgery, you will be on a liquid diet to help your stomach heal and prevent it from being stretched out by solid foods. The types of liquids you’ll likely be recommended to consume include:

  • Protein shakes
  • Water
  • Decaffeinated coffee or tea
  • Fat-free broth
  • Sugar-free sports drinks
  • Sugar-free, non-carbonated flavored waters

Stage Two: Pureed Diet

Your doctor will decide when you’re ready to move onto stage two which includes more pudding-like consistency or thick liquids. It’s recommended to puree things like fruits and vegetables, while still consuming high amounts of protein.

Stage Three: Soft Diet

Most patients will be moved into the soft diet at about four to six weeks after surgery. This stage includes slowly incorporating soft, easy to chew foods that contain high protein into your diet such as:

  • Soft-boiled eggs
  • Ground lean meats, like chicken and turkey
  • Fish
  • Canned or well cooked fruits and vegetables

Stage Four: Solid Food

Solid foods will need to be reintroduced slowly in order to determine what your stomach can handle. It’s recommended introducing only one new food per day to your diet in order to properly assess your body’s reaction. Foods that are harder to digest should still be avoided at this stage, which includes fibrous or stringy vegetables, popcorn, bread products and fried food.

Following your pre and post-op diets are important for the overall success of your weight loss journey. Maintaining portion control, focusing on high-protein, low-fat and healthy carbohydrates before and after your surgery will help prepare you for a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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