A gastric sleeve procedure is a surgical weight-loss treatment in which the stomach size is reduced. This results in feeling fuller faster, which helps people control their appetites and lose weight. After surgery, a person’s stomach shrinks to about one-quarter of its original size. To avoid complications and maintain health after this procedure, patients must follow an exact diet that their bodies can tolerate while they recover from the operation.
But what should you eat after this surgery? What foods should you avoid? And how can you make sure that your new diet is healthy and balanced? The general rules of thumb are to eat small meals several times a day, avoid sugary and fatty foods, and drink lots of water. It’s best also to consult a doctor or dietitian for individually tailored gastric sleeve recipes.
We’ve created this guide to eating after gastric sleeve surgery to help you feel less confused and more confident about food choices. Everything that you need to know about what to eat after this procedure, how it can help you reach your goals, and how to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body requires are covered here.
Foods You Should Avoid After Gastric Sleeve
During the first few months after surgery, you will progress from drinking liquids to eating solid foods—similar to how a baby eats. Some bariatric surgery patients believe that once they can eat solid food again, they should be able to eat whatever they want. Others believe that certain foods will always be off-limits and spend their days perusing the baby food aisle as a reminder of what life was like before gastric bypass surgery—when eating even soft vegetables could cause discomfort or pain. Both beliefs are incorrect because most patients can tolerate most foods but are not always encouraged to do so. After bariatric surgery, the following foods should be avoided:
You may want to avoid dry foods, at least at the beginning of the final phase of your bariatric surgery diet, because you are not drinking liquids while you eat. Nuts and granola may be difficult to swallow. You can eat regular cereal as long as it is softened with low-fat milk. Try very small pieces to see if you can tolerate these foods as part of your bariatric surgery diet. If not, don’t be disheartened. You can resume eating these foods once you’ve recovered from surgery.
Because your stomach will be about the size of an egg after bariatric surgery, it will require adequate nutrition from you daily. A bariatric surgery diet avoids foods with little or no nutritional value. Examples include pastries, sweets, chips, pretzels, rice cakes, and popcorn. If you eat these foods, you may become malnourished or gain weight. Sugary or fried foods can cause “dumping syndrome,” a condition in which these foods are quickly dumped in the colon after consumption. Dumping syndrome is distinguished by fatigue, cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Fatty foods can make you feel sick after surgery and don’t help you lose weight in the long run. Choose lower-fat alternatives to bacon, sausage, butter, whole milk, and hard cheeses. Low-fat sandwich meats, lean beef, chicken, turkey, and low-fat cheeses should be used. Eating too much fat can also lead to “dumping syndrome.”
Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, and pasta, can form a paste in the throat after surgery, making it difficult to swallow without a beverage. In some cases, they can obstruct the stoma, the hole in the pouch that serves as your new stomach. You don’t have to completely avoid these high-starch foods, but you should try to avoid them first. When you eat them, try to eat them in small portions and only take small bites of each.
Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables
You should consume plenty of nutritious fruits and vegetables as part of your diet but avoid fibrous, difficult-to-digest vegetables. Celery, corn, broccoli, cabbage, and asparagus are all foods to avoid initially. You may tolerate these foods over time, but in the meantime, eat cooked, soft vegetables with no skin. Beans and peas are a good choice because they provide the extra protein you’ll need to stay nourished on your post-surgery diet.
Alcohol is high in calories and should not be included in your post-bariatric surgery diet. Alcoholic beverages, like any liquid, take up valuable stomach space that should be used for foods high in vitamins and minerals during a post-surgery diet. Furthermore, alcohol absorption increases dramatically following surgery, which can result in intoxication.
Sugary and Caffeinated Beverages
Any drink containing sugar, corn syrup, or fructose should be avoided after a gastric bypass. While on a diet, drinking sugary drinks such as soda and some fruit juices can cause dumping syndrome. Choose water, unsweetened packaged drinks, decaffeinated coffee, and tea instead. Caffeine causes dehydration, so avoid it while you adjust to your smaller stomach.
Recommended Eating Practices
Following gastric sleeve surgery, it is critical that a person changes not only what they eat but also how they eat it.
People’s eating habits will need to change to reduce the risk of post-surgical complications. The following modifications are suggested:
- Consuming four to six smaller meals per day rather than three large ones.
- Chewing slowly and thoroughly.
- Finishing a meal when you’re full.
- Choosing protein-rich, well-balanced meals.
- Avoid eating due to stress or boredom, as doing so may lessen the long-term beneficial effect of the procedure.
- Every day, consume at least 1.5 liters of fluid.
- Avoid consuming liquids 15–30 minutes after a meal, as doing so may induce vomiting.
- Because of a diet low in certain nutrients—including protein—you may need to take dietary supplements for the rest of your life.
While eating anything and everything after a gastric sleeve operation may be tempting, doing so will not help you lose weight and feel better about yourself. However, if you follow these simple rules and listen to your body, you will see faster results! Have a conversation with your healthcare providers about the dietary supplements and healthy gastric sleeve recipes that will help you keep a healthy diet after metabolic or bariatric surgery.