Life after a gastric sleeve procedure is a whole new world. Pretty much everything changes—mostly for the better. But because your new stomach only holds three to four ounces, you also have to relearn what you can and can’t do when it comes to food.
The first month or so post-surgery is the most restrictive (though there are some no-no’s that continue for as long as you want to maintain a healthy weight loss). The number one thing that’s off limits immediately afterward? Solid food, which won’t be part of your diet for at least three weeks. I instruct patients to consume clear liquids only for the first week. Things you can easily sip through a straw—think flavored water, juices, and thin broths—will make up the majority of your intake, though popsicles and gelatins are also on the green-light list. The key here is letting your stomach heal while still getting the hydration you need.
Weeks two and three move from clear liquids to full liquids. You’ll be prepping your stomach for the next step (soft food) with milk, soups, drinkable yogurts, and other liquids with a similar texture.
During phase three, you get to dip your toe into soft foods. Woo-hoo! So what do we consider soft foods? A good rule of thumb are foods you would eat if you had a toothache: scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, and mashed fruits and veggies.
One note here on seasonings. “Soft foods” and “bland foods” are often linked in our minds, but we’re not necessarily saying your food should be bland. Do be careful about introducing spices after the procedure, as your taste buds may have changed along with your stomach size. There’s no physical need for your soft food to be bland, however.
We give patients very detailed guides about what to eat, drink, and do after having gastric sleeve. And while we can’t stress enough that you need to thoroughly read and digest those things—no pun intended!—we also understand that you want simple, straightforward guidelines. Here are some foods and behaviors that are truly off limits, especially right after the procedure:
- As previously mentioned, don’t eat any solid food for the first month after surgery. And if your body rebels when you introduce a new stage, go back to the previous stage.
- No grazing. Eat three meals a day—or five very small meals, if that feels better—even when those meals are popsicles and gelatin.
- Never eat more than four ounces (a half cup) at one time. That’s the maximum your new stomach can hold, so any extra will cause significant discomfort.
- No eating and drinking at the same time. Not only does it feel uncomfortable for some patients, but it “washes” protein out of the stomach too quickly.
- Don’t go over 30 grams of carbs a day. Eating too many carbs simply doesn’t help your weight loss efforts.
- Don’t eat within three hours of going to bed. Give your body time to digest before lying down, or reflux may become your new bedtime buddy.
While some things are off limits for gastric patients, most of my patients say any trade-offs are well worth their happier, healthier life.