Your Guide to the Soft Food Diet After Bariatric Surgery
The soft food diet after bariatric surgery is an exciting milestone for many post-ops: You get to eat solid food.
But despite reaching this step there are still a lot of questions.
What foods can I eat?
What are some soft food ideas?
How much should I be eating?
Let me answer these questions today.
Disclaimer: This is intended to be for educational purposes only and not medical advice. Please consult your bariatric surgeon or dietitian to address your specific needs.
Why do I need to be on the soft food diet?
The soft diet is the next phase after the pureed diet. The purpose of the soft food diet is to ease your stomach into digesting real, whole foods. Soft food is more solid than pureed food but still easy to digest. Look at it as another stepping stone towards eating a normal diet after bariatric surgery.
What foods can I eat during the soft food diet?
While each bariatric surgery center may slightly differ on which foods are allowed at this stage, there are similar themes. They want you to eat foods that are easy to digest. This tends to translate into a low fiber diet with easy to digest proteins.
Generally, most raw vegetables and fruits with skin are eliminated, while cooked vegetables and easy to digest proteins are promoted. Occasionally bariatric surgery centers want you to eliminate red meat as well because it can be tough on your stomach. Most grains such as pasta, rice and breads are also removed from your diet because they may cause discomfort and high in carbs.
Here are typical foods allowed on the soft diet:
- Moist, cooked meat like poultry and fish (may need to be ground or finely chopped according to your surgery center)
- Cooked beans
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Cooked fresh non-starchy vegetables (green beans, carrots, broccoli, spinach)
- Frozen and canned vegetables
Fruits (Usually no more than 2 tablespoons)
- Soft fruits, without the skin like apples or pears
- Canned fruits in own juice (in moderation)
- Unsweetened cereals
- Hot cereal
- Sweet potatoes
My suggestion is to continue to focus on consuming mostly protein foods and cooked vegetables during this stage. While soft starchy foods like hot cereals may be technically allowed they are not as nutrient dense as your proteins and vegetables.
Here is what NOT is allowed:
- Tough or grisly meats
- Raw vegetables
- Fruits with skin
How much can I eat during the soft diet stage?
Everyone progresses differently. Typically most bariatric post ops start this stage being able to eat close to ¼ cup at a time. By the end of this stage most patients can tolerate anywhere between ⅓ cup to ½ cup of food. Ideally you can eat at least 1 oz of protein at each meal.
With that being said it also depends on the type of food you are choosing to eat. You’ll likely be able to eat more yogurt than a denser protein like chicken. This is totally normal. That’s why it’s also important to listen to your hunger and fullness feelings to help guide your intake.
Usually it’s suggested to eat three “mini” meals a day and continue to drink your protein drinks to meet your daily protein goals. Some surgery centers may suggest to taper off the protein drinks as you are able to meet your protein goals with real food.
What are easy and quick soft food ideas?
Easy quick ideas include:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Deli meat + cheese
- Cheese + tablespoon fruit
- Canned refried beans and yogurt
- Scrambled eggs + 2 teaspoon of avocado
- Cottage cheese + tablespoon soft fruit
- String cheese + slice of peeled apple
- Rotisserie chicken (you can buy in most grocery stores), cut up small + steamed frozen veggies
- Canned tuna mixed with Greek yogurt or mayo
- Canned chicken mixed with Greek yogurt or mayo
- Canned salmon
- High protein egg salad
What are soft food diet recipe ideas?
To make things easy, I suggest eating high protein soups. Ideally homemade is the best because it’s higher in protein than store bought (plus it tastes better!)
Other ideas include stews and crockpot meals. The meats are tender and easier for your body to digest.
Suggestions for slow cooker or pressure cooker meals include:
Sheet pan recipes and ricotta bake recipes are also a satisfying option at this stage. Here are some recipe ideas:
Sample Soft Diet Bariatric Meal Plan
Here is a sample menu of what to eat during the soft diet phase. Notice you will still be relying mostly on your protein drinks to reach your protein goals. Ideally you want to be eating three small “mini” meals at this stage to develop a healthy pattern of eating.
Tips for Success
Have a plan
Knowing what you will be eating everyday will help relieve a lot of stress. I suggest knowing what meals you are going to have at least 1 day before. It may also be useful to learn how to meal prep for the week ahead during the weekend.
You may still be experiencing nausea and vomiting at this stage. Continue to eat slowly to prevent this from occurring. Some people choose to use a baby spoon to help regulate the speed of the meal
Eat Pea Size Bites
In addition to eating slowly, it’s also important to take small bites and chew thoroughly. Your stomach cannot handle a lot of food and if you take a large bite it may overwhelm your stomach. This could cause pain and discomfort. Eating small bites gives you the opportunity to listen to your body and recognize when you are getting full.
If you’re having a challenging time swallowing your food, it may be helpful to add broth based sauces to your meals to help it go down more easy.
Reach Your Water Goals
As you add real food back into your diet it can be easy to forget to drink enough fluids. This can become even more difficult since you are separating your fluids from your meals. Carry a water bottle with you at all times and set a timer to remember to drink water if you find it helpful.
Move Your Body
If cleared by your doctor begin including exercise into your routine. This will help improve your metabolism and help you preserve your muscle mass as you lose weight.
Eat Protein First
Meeting your protein goals is crucial during this stage. Improve your chances of meeting your protein goals by eating your protein first. This way if you become full you already ate protein.
Take Your Vitamins
Continue your multivitamin regimen and any other supplements recommended by your surgery team. Your portion sizes are very small and your body does not absorb nutrients the way it used to. It’s impossible for you to get all your nutrients from real food. Taking your vitamins daily is crucial to your long term health.