The Gastric Sleeve Diet: What to Eat Pre & Post-Surgery

The Gastric Sleeve Diet: What to Eat Pre- and Post-Surgery

Gastric sleeve surgery is a popular and effective weight loss surgery. It’s quick, it produces excellent results, and it has been proven safe. In fact, gastric sleeve surgery is associated with a less than 1% complication rate in the first 30 days after surgery. That’s pretty impressive! All in all, this surgery is extremely effective. But, results don’t come without effort on your part. Diet plays a crucial role in facilitating weight loss. Moreover, a healthy gastric sleeve diet reduces the risk of complications and negative side effects.

This article will delve into the gastric sleeve diet to help you understand how to eat pre & post-surgery, as well as how to eat to maintain long-term weight loss. Your surgeon will likely refer you to see a dietitian to follow their advice, but here are some of the general guidelines.

Gastric Sleeve Diet: Pre-Op

Your gastric sleeve diet starts well before your surgery begins, and it’s crucial that you follow through. Therefore, eating well before the big day will increase your chances of a successful operation and great results.

Benefits of a Pre-Op Diet

Some of the benefits of beginning your diet early on include:

  • Lowers your risk for complications – Eating healthier food will result in weight loss and a reduced body mass index. Obesity increases the risk for complications during and after surgery, so the lower your weight, the less likely you are to experience adverse side effects.
  • Makes it easier for the surgeon to perform the surgery – Because you are overweight, so is your liver. A large liver makes it harder for your surgeon to perform the operation. Moreover, it can become unsafe. A strict diet can significantly shrink your liver, allowing the surgeon to work more easily.
  • Ease into life after surgery – Adjusting to life after surgery will be challenging. It’s not only the recovery that you’ll need to worry about, but you’ll be living a whole new lifestyle. As a result, starting early on and getting your body used to a healthier regimen will make the transition much more manageable.

Pre-Op Eating Guidelines

You should begin your gastric sleeve diet about 3 weeks before surgery. Common guidelines your surgeon may administer include the following.

3 Weeks Before Surgery

Three or more weeks before surgery you should be practicing a long-term diet. A long-term diet should consist of mostly whole, fresh foods, and limited processed foods. You may also be asked to replace a meal with a complete meal replacement drink.

Here are some general nutrition guidelines:

  • Eat plenty of protein: eggs, lean meats, tofu, tempeh
  • Reduce carbohydrates: choose moderate amounts of whole grains and avoid processed carbs like bread, pasta, cereals and rice
  • Eliminate sugary foods:  sweetened beverages, desserts, candy
  • Lots of fluids: water or low-calorie drinks
  • Limit caffeine

In short, here is a typical diet 2-3 weeks prior to surgery:

  • Breakfast:
    • Protein Shake: low carb, low sugar
  • Lunch:
    • Vegetables and Protein
  • Dinner:
    • Vegetables and Protein
  • Snacks:
    • Limit snacking to 1-2 small snacks per day
    • Nuts, berries, vegetables, salad with oil and vinegar

2 Days Prior to Surgery

Most surgeons will recommend you stick to a clear liquid diet two days before your surgery. Also, they will likely urge you stop caffeine and carbonated beverages. Follow what your surgeon or dietitian recommends.

Gastric Sleeve Diet: Post-Op

Congratulations! You’ve made it through your surgery and your on your way to a new, healthy lifestyle.

How you feel after weight loss

In any event, you still have a long road ahead. The post-op gastric sleeve diet is certainly no walk in the park. However, it’s imperative you follow the surgeon’s instructions during this phase.

Cheating on your post-op gastric sleeve diet can cause a number of adverse effects including diarrhea, constipation, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, or even gastric leak.

Below is what your post-op eating regimen will typically look like.

Week 1: Clear Liquids Only

The first part of your post-op gastric sleeve diet will include clear liquids only. The clear liquids diet generally lasts a full week. However, it may be shorter depending on your surgeon.

Drinks can include:

  • Water
  • Clear broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
  • Sugar-free Jell-O
  • Decaf tea/coffee (no sugar)
  • Sugar-free drink mixes (Crystal Light or Kool-Aid)
  • Sugar-free popsicles
  • Sugar-free drinks without carbonation  
  • Unsweetened thin juices without pulp (apple juice, powerade)

Avoid these drinks:

  • Carbonated beverages
  • Sweetened beverages
  • Caffeine

Week 2: Thicker Liquids and Protein

If all goes well, your surgeon may have you include thicker drinks and protein into your diet during the second week.

You will continue to follow the clear liquids diet. Additionally, some of these items may be added in:

  • Protein shakes
  • Cream soups
  • Cream of wheat
  • Greek yogurt
  • Applesauce
  • Sugar-free, nonfat ice cream
  • Sugar-free pudding
  • Thicker juices such as V-8 or pulp-free orange juice (still sugar-free)

Week 3: Soft & Pureed Food

By the time week three hits, pureed foods will have never been so enticing.

When your gastric sleeve diet switches from liquids to puree

However, you’ll need to take it slow and allow your body to get used to the new foods.

It’s important to continue to avoid fats and added sugars. You can make your own pureed foods. To do so, blend water, broth, skim milk, or sugar-free juice with any of the following items:

  • Ground meats
  • Fish
  • Soft fruit
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Cooked vegetables

Additionally, you can include these foods in your diet:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Hummus
  • Soft vegetables
  • Scrambled eggs

Week 4: Solid Foods (Woo Hoo)!

You’ve made it through the toughest parts. Now it’s time to start introducing solids foods! Be sure to eat very slowly and chew your food thoroughly, as your stomach and sleeve are still sensitive at this point. Always focus on trying to eat protein foods first for better recovery post-op.

Some foods to start adding into your gastric sleeve diet during week 4 include:

  • Lean meats (start with ground meats and slowly work up to regular meat)
  • Fish
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Potatoes
  • Caffeine can be reintroduced but should be limited

Moreover, you should avoid these foods in week 4:

  • Soda and sweetened beverages
  • Fried foods
  • Candy and dessert
  • Fibrous foods (broccoli, asparagus, celery)
  • High carbohydrate foods (breads, pastas, cereals)
  • Whole dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds

Eating for the Long-Term

It’s going to take some time to fully transition into your gastric sleeve diet, so be patient and trust the process. Once your diet is stable, it’s important to continue on with your healthy eating habits to experience long-term weight loss and health improvements.

Here are some tips to healthy eating after gastric sleeve surgery:

  1. Eat meals consisting of lean protein, lots of vegetables, and moderate amounts of whole grains
  2. Eat whole foods
  3. Limit processed foods
  4. Continue to avoid sugary foods and drinks
  5. Eat slowly and learn to stop eating the moment you are satisfied
  6. Plan your meals ahead of time
  7. Keep your kitchen stocked with lots of healthy options
  8. Schedule in your treats so you don’t go overboard
  9. Drink lots of water throughout the day (avoid drinking water directly with your meals as it may stretch your pouch)
  10. Incorporate regular exercise into your routine

Gastric Sleeve Diet: In Conclusion

As shown above, gastric sleeve surgery is one of the safest and most effective weight loss surgeries out there. That said, it’s important to note that it is not a “quick fix” nor is it a solution. The gastric sleeve diet is more of a starting point. It’s up to you to strictly follow the gastric sleeve diet, along with building other healthy lifestyle habits, to enjoy long-term weight loss and health benefits.