The Bariatric Diet

Bariatric surgery will completely change the eating ways, from the types of food the body will tolerate to how much the person can eat at any one time. It helps with hunger control and will make it easier to limit eating. The “Bariatric Diet” is a dietary plan typically recommended to patients who have undergone weight loss surgery. After weight loss surgery, the stomach changes in capacity and function, so the patient’s diet needs to be adjusted. The bariatric diet plan will focus on minimizing calories and maximizing nutrition that will in turn help in losing weight while staying healthy at the same time.

The bariatric diet begins with the pre-surgery diet and continues after surgery with the recovery diet. The pre-surgery diet includes the restriction of eating six to eight hours prior to the procedure. The physician may also recommend taking a diet high in protein and low in calories, fats and carbohydrates.

Surgery for weight reduction is not a miracle procedure. It doesn’t guarantee that the individual will lose all of their excess weight or keep it off long term. Weight loss success after the surgery depends on the individual’s commitment in making lifelong changes in their eating and exercise habits. Therefore, much attention should be given by health care professionals in teaching and making sure that patients understand and follow the diet guidelines post-op. First and foremost, remember that the overall goal is to optimize the nutritional value of small portions of foods being eaten and to obtain the nutrients needed by the body to be healthy. Portion sizes for meals should be no more than six to eight ounces and this should be enough to make the patient feel full. It is important that the patient be aware of body signals of satisfaction.

The diet progression through recovery can take up to three months, but it can also occur sooner. It all depends on the extent of surgery and how well the patient’s body adjusts to the changes. Immediately after the surgery there will be a restriction for eating and drinking for at least 24 hours. For the first week following the surgery the patient can only tolerate nutritious fluids which include water, tea, broth, protein fruit drinks, and artificially sweetened non-carbonated beverages. Second week diet includes having pureed and blended foods. Pureed foods are soft foods that have been blended into the smooth consistency of baby food and do not contain any chunks because the chunks can cause pain and vomiting. After a month, the diet will now include trying out of soft solid foods which can still be in pureed form. The aim is to make the patient chew soft pieces of food. Food items like meat paste, fish, cottage cheese, pasta, and rice are some examples. Once you are able to eat soft foods without any significant difficulties the surgeon will now begin introducing solid foods, the last stage of the diet progression. Foods will be added on a gradual basis to make sure it is tolerated by the digestive system.

Since the diet will be small portions, measuring tools can be used to check on the portion sizes. Serving meals on smaller plates, such as salad or luncheon plates will help make these smaller portions look more appealing. It is also important that the patient chew foods slowly possibly taking 15-20 chews per bite in order to ensure that nothing gets stuck passing through the narrowed outlet from the pouch. Perhaps taking 20-30 minutes to complete a meal is ideal for post gastric bypass patients. Since most bariatric patients are fast eaters before the procedure, this is a difficult behavior to change. Protein is an important nutrient for fast recovery and proper functioning of the body post surgery. Since our body does not store protein, it is a must that patients meet the daily minimum protein requirement which is approximately 50-60 grams for women and 60-70 grams for men. The patient should drink about 64 ounces of water or other fluids each day. With the reduced intake of food the body will gain less fluid, making it a must to drink fluids in order to be well hydrated. All fluids should be taken in between meals not with the meal. Carbonated and alcoholic beverages should be restricted. Additionally, patients will have a lifelong regimen of vitamins and mineral supplements post surgery. Patients should avoid high carbonated foods such as chips and pretzels. Snacks and grazing between meals and foods high in fats and sugars should also be avoided.

Having good understanding of proper nutrition for post bariatric surgery patients is essential for the success of the procedure. Failure to follow the guidelines may lead to potentially serious complication such as dumping syndrome. It is important to see the physician and dietician for consultation as well. The surgery will help in trying to control the weight, but the ultimate change of a person’s life into a better one will be on the hands of the person themselves.