Bariatric Surgery Diet Stages

Thin woman who recently lost weight

After weight loss surgery, your doctor will likely prescribe a bariatric surgery diet. Following a bariatric surgery diet is essential to successful weight loss in the weeks and months following your surgery. Here's everything you need to know about the diet you will need to follow after undergoing weight loss surgery.

The Purpose of the Diet

There are a number of reasons why a bariatric surgery diet is key to your success following weight loss surgery. Because caloric intake is severely restricted following bariatric surgery, it is important foods you take in provide proper nutrition. The diet will assure your body maximizes its ability to heal, maintains your skin's elasticity and preserves lean body mass as weight is lost. Other goals of the post-surgical diet include:

  • Establishing healthy eating habits
  • Assuring adequate protein intake
  • Assuring fluid intake necessary for proper hydration
  • Balancing nutrient profiles

The Bariatric Surgery Diet

Following your surgery, you will be reintroduced to foods in stages. Advancement through the stages is gradual and helps accomplish the goals outlined above, as well as promoting post surgical healing.

Stage One - Clear Liquid Diet

While in the hospital recovering from surgery, it is likely your physician will place you on a clear liquid diet. This stage only lasts a day or two as your body recovers from the rigors of surgery. Clear liquids include apple juice, tea, broth, Jell-o and other clear fluids.

Stage Two - Modified Full Liquids

Patients generally begin stage two as soon as they get home from the hospital. The modified full liquid diet will most likely last for two to three weeks post-surgery. Modified full liquids include protein shakes like Boost or Ensure, broth, whey or soy protein shakes, diluted juices, sugar-free or low calorie drinks like Crystal Light and sugar-free meal replacement shakes. Because your stomach is much smaller than previously, it is important to take in no more than about two ounces of these liquids every 15 to 30 minutes. Small sips of room temperature liquids are well tolerated after bariatric surgery. Your doctor will provide the specifics of how much you should have and how often.

Stage Three - Soft Foods

In stage three, which generally lasts for about three to six weeks, you will begin to gradually reintroduce small amounts of soft foods into your diet. Foods should be high protein in order to maintain lean body mass as you lose weight. You will likely have about six of these small meals per day. During this time, you will learn to recognize your body's signals when it is telling you it is full. Soft foods include foods like scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, oatmeal, soft fish or meats that have been cooked until very soft, beans or lentils, soup, soft cheeses and soft cooked vegetables. Just because a food is soft, however, doesn't mean it is appropriate for this stage of your diet. Avoid soft foods that are sticky like bread and peanut butter. Also avoid pasta, sticky rice and melted cheeses during this phase. Foods should be chosen for nutritional content, and you should avoid foods with empty calories, high amounts of fat and sugar or white flour. Your doctor will help you to choose appropriate foods for this stage.

Stage Four - Solid Foods

At about ten weeks after surgery, your doctor will probably give you the go ahead to progress to "normal" foods. While you will be able to eat many of the foods you could eat prior to surgery, the amounts you eat will be much smaller.It is important from this point forward that you choose highly nutritional foods devoid of empty calories, because your body will need every calorie it takes in. Your doctor will help you to gradually reintroduce healthy solid foods into your diet.


Many doctors recommend supplementation following weight loss surgery. Commonly recommended supplements include vitamin B12, iron, and vitamins A, D, E and K. Check with your doctor to determine which supplements are right for you.

Keys to Success

There are ways you can help maximize the benefits of your weight loss surgery. Here are some keys to success.

  • Follow the diet exactly as prescribed by your surgeon.
  • Eat slowly and listen to your body's signals telling you that it is satiated.
  • Chew all of your food extremely well prior to swallowing it.
  • Don't drink fluids with your meals - or within 30 minutes prior to your meals.
  • Limit foods that are high in fat, sugars and empty calories.

Bariatric surgery can help you to finally lose weight you've never been able to lose before. In order to be successful, however, it is essential you follow the food plan prescribed by your surgeon. If you do that, you will be well on your way to success.

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Bariatric Surgery Diet Stages