Bariatric Diet

Bariatric surgery, or gastric bypass surgery, is the number one weight loss surgery in the United States. Diet is extremely important after this surgery to support recovery. Nutritious eating is also an important step toward living a healthy lifestyle that supports a normal weight and overall health. Bariatric patients who are vigilant about their diet after surgery can achieve long-term, consistent weight loss.


Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery decreases the size and volume of the stomach in order to lose weight and lower the risk of obesity-related conditions, according to the Emory Healthcare website Successful weight loss after surgery requires permanent lifestyle changes. Nutritional risks of bariatric surgery include malnutrition, dehydration, stomach ulcers, food intolerances, kidney stones and gallstones and low blood sugar.

Nutrition Goals

According to Duke Medicine, one of the goals after bariatric surgery is to learn eating habits that will promote weight loss while maintaining overall health. Patients need to consume enough protein after surgery to support healing and minimize loss of lean body mass. They should also drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration. Vitamin and mineral supplements are important after surgery to prevent nutrient deficiencies and support normal body processes.

Post-Surgical Diet

There are four diet stages following bariatric surgery. According to the Ohio State University Medical Center, OSUMC, the first stage of a post-surgical diet is a clear liquid diet. This phase only allows translucent liquids such as water, apple juice, clear broth and decaffeinated tea or coffee. It restricts juice with pulp, milk, carbonated beverages and caffeine.

The second stage of a post-surgical diet is a liquid and pureed diet. The OSUMC says the second phase restricts all raw foods and lasts for two to four weeks following surgery. Foods should be pureed to the consistency of baby food and require minimal chewing.

Stage three of a post-surgical diet lasts for up to two months after surgery. It includes soft and moist foods such as casseroles, ground meats, soups and mashed potatoes and restricts raw fruits and vegetables.

According to the OSUMC, the final stage of a post-surgical diet is a regular diet that is rich in nutrient-dense foods. Foods should be cut into pea-sized pieces due to the small size of the stomach after surgery. Small, frequent meals are very important at this time to support weight loss and meet nutritional needs.


Protein is essential for healing and recovery after surgery. The Cleveland Clinic encourages bariatric patients to eat protein foods first at every meal and says patients need about 60 grams of protein a day. High-protein foods that can benefit bariatric patients include liquid nutrition supplements such as Ensure or Boost, milk or dry milk powder, soy or whey protein supplements, meat, cheese, poultry and peanut butter. According to Duke Medicine, a long-term bariatric diet should include at least 3 oz. of protein at every meal.

Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome is a common complication of bariatric surgery. The Mayo Clinic says dumping syndrome occurs when stomach contents move too quickly through the intestines and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and sweating. The OSUMC says patients can minimize dumping syndrome by avoiding sugary foods, eating small, frequent meals and smaller portions and cutting foods into small pieces. Refraining from drinking fluids with meals can also minimize dumping syndrome.


A bariatric patient who fails to make permanent dietary changes after surgery may not achieve or maintain long-term weight loss. According to the Cleveland Clinic, small, frequent meals are essential after surgery to keep metabolism up and prevent premature fullness. Overeating and subsequent weight gain are preventable by eating more slowly, sitting at a table to eat instead of standing up and using smaller plates and utensils.


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