Thinking about Weight Loss Surgery? Adopting a Bariatric Diet is Step One


What you eat is understandably one of the most important parts of losing weight. Bariatric surgery is a tool to help with weight loss, and a proper diet and nutrition is one factor that makes the tool successful. As a patient at Saint Luke’s Center for Surgical Weight Loss, you will work with a registered dietitian before surgery in a series of classes to prepare and practice good nutrition. After surgery, you’ll see the dietician in follow-up appointments to touch on your progress.

Our program recommends three meals a day without snacking in between. We encourage you to take small peanut-sized bites and make each meal last 20-30 minutes. You want to have plenty of lean protein and non-starchy vegetables with minimal fats, starches, and sweets. For example, a chicken breast with steamed carrots, or turkey meatballs with marinara and green beans, are both great healthy options. Macaroni and cheese with ice cream for dessert, not so much. Having too much fat or sugary food after surgery could lead to dumping syndrome, which makes you feel nauseous, flushed, lightheaded, or sweaty.

Protein is good for you because it fills you up and keeps you full longer. We recommend you have a minimum of 60-80 grams of protein a day. It helps to heal your body and in losing weight.

“Protein plays several roles in the body. It helps your hair and fingernails grow, helps your skin to repair, your wounds to heal, and increases your metabolism,” said Saint Luke’s Registered Dietitian Casey Nelson. “So, it does several things not only with weight loss, but it’s also one of the big parts of the diet and everything that you eat on a daily basis that keeps you fuller and more satisfied until the next meal.”

After surgery, you will follow a liquid diet that includes protein shakes. You will use them less often the further you get out from surgery, but they can always be kept on hand for when you need it.

Amy Pyle, another Saint Luke’s Registered Dietitian, added, “If we don’t get enough protein each day, we don’t have special stores in our body and our muscles will break down. Whereas if we don’t get enough fats and carbohydrates each day, our body has stores. That’s what we’re trying to get rid of with the weight loss surgery, the extra fat stores. You can’t build muscle without protein.”

Drinking lots of fluids is the other half of your daily nutrition. A hydrated body loses weight, a dehydrated body will think its hungry when it’s not. We tell you to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Juices and sports drinks count towards your daily fluid intake as long as they are non-carbonated, sugar-free, and caffeine-free. Protein shakes don’t count as fluid. It’s important, however, that you don’t drink anything 15 minutes before, during, or 45 minutes after a meal because liquids will wash out food from the stomach faster and tempt you to eat more because you won’t feel full. You will need to avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol two weeks before surgery and six weeks after because they dehydrate you and can cause ulcers in your stomach. When you resume, your tolerance may have changed.

Casey and Amy both agree that keeping track of everything you’ve eaten in a food journal is a very effective dieting tool. Whether in a notebook or on your phone, it helps you self-monitor and keep an eye on your calorie intake.

“Research has shown that keeping a food journal tends to have better results for weight loss,” Casey said. “It helps hold people accountable for what they’re having and make sure they’re getting everything that they need for the proper nutrients. And in the early days after surgery, keeping a food journal can help with reintroducing something you eat by taking notes on how it made you feel.”

Lose weight for good with Saint Luke’s and gain back your health. Attend a free information seminar online today and then we can schedule you for a consultation with a bariatric surgeon.

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