If you’ve undergone or planning to undergo weight loss surgery, you are aware of the food restrictions and guidelines following surgery. Gastric sleeve surgery and gastric bypass surgery greatly limit the quantity and consistency of foods you can eat, especially in the month following surgery. When you are limited to liquids, pureed foods, soft foods, and tiny portions, meals can quickly become monotonous and repetitive. But, bariatric surgery recipes don’t need to be boring! Here we provide you with tasty and nutritious ideas for bariatric recipes that support weight loss during every stage of your recovery and beyond, so you never need to get tired of what you’re eating.
Liquid Diet Recipe Ideas
If you’re looking for liquid diet recipe ideas, then you’re in the earlier stages of your weight loss surgery recovery. After a couple of days of clear liquids, bariatric surgery patients are able to consume a variety of thicker liquids. Once you’ve reached this stage, this means you can drink smoothies, shakes, and soups.
Try these recipes while you’re restricted to a liquid diet. Keep in mind that portion sizes are not taken into account in the recipes, so adjust according to your specific needs. These smoothies are packed with nutrients that promote healing after weight loss surgery. You may enjoy them so much that you keep making them after you’ve recovered.
1. Strawberry Shake
Protein shakes are a key strategy for getting optimal ratios of essential amino acids that your body requires for healing. Combine frozen strawberries, nonfat Greek yogurt, ice cubes, and unsweetened soymilk in a blender. For extra protein, add vanilla whey protein powder or essential amino acid powder. Make sure no sugar is added to the protein supplements. Blend until smooth and enjoy. Use more soymilk for a thinner consistency.
2. Cold Coffee Crush
This smoothie is soothing and provides a little boost of energy. Plus, coffee is healthy for liver inflammation. Combine cold brew coffee, ice cubes, half a frozen banana, and unsweetened soymilk and blend until smooth. A quick tip: freeze bananas when they are overripe. Really ripe bananas contain more sugar to naturally sweeten your shake.
3. Green Smoothie
While you’re restricted to liquids, it can be difficult to get sufficient antioxidants. A green smoothie might be exactly what you need to help heal and recover from weight loss surgery. Rinse and chop baby spinach and baby kale, removing any fibrous stems. Add a couple of handfuls of greens, skinned apples, pressed ginger juice, ice cubes, water, and a squeeze of orange for an antioxidant-packed drink. Add a high-quality essential amino acid supplement to your smoothie to provide optimal ratios of nutrients that you need for healing.
Want to add even more antioxidants to your green drink? Brew and cool a batch of green tea that you can use in your smoothies instead of water. Green tea provides an abundance of potent antioxidant compounds called epigallocatechin gallate, which reverses inflammatory processes in the liver, brain, and throughout the body. Plus, green tea provides a boost of energy from caffeine that can help fight against post-surgery fatigue.
4. Banana Chocolate Shake
Combine frozen banana, ice cubes, cocoa powder, a tablespoon of smooth peanut butter, unsweetened soymilk, and chocolate weight protein powder in a blender. Blend until smooth and enjoy.
5. Blueberry Mango Smoothie
Combine frozen blueberries, frozen mango, half a frozen banana, and soymilk in a blender with an essential amino acid supplement. Blueberries are potent antioxidants that help your body repair cellular damage.
6. Pineapple Turmeric Twist
This bright smoothie packs a punch of antioxidants with pineapple and turmeric. Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and will help your system reboot following a surgery. Combine frozen pineapple, a few sprinkles of turmeric, orange squeezes, unsweetened soymilk, and a drizzle of honey in a blender. Blend until smooth and enjoy.
7. Watermelon Beet Refresher
Watermelon is packed with lycopene and other antioxidants that boost the immune system and lower inflammation. Beets are filled with natural nitrates that increase blood flow and help deliver nutrients and oxygen to healing tissues. Combine ripe watermelon, ice cubes, and a splash of beet juice in a blender. Blend and consume immediately.
8. Black Bean Soup
Sometimes it’s nice to mix it up with a warmer, savory option. To prepare a simple black bean soup, combine sautéed onions, black beans, and canned tomatoes in a pot with chicken broth. Season with dried oregano. Heat through and transfer to a blender. For a thicker consistency and an extra punch of essential amino acids, add in plain nonfat Greek yogurt. Blend thoroughly and serve. Enjoy with avocado puree.
9. Lentil Vegetable Soup
This soup recipe is an easy way to get a variety of veggies in one meal. Thoroughly rinse lentils before using. In a large pot, combine chicken broth with lentils, squash, tomatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower, onions, garlic, sweet potato, and any other vegetables you like. Cook until lentils and vegetables reach a very soft consistency. Add to a blender and blend until the soup reaches a liquid consistency.
Soft and Pureed Recipe Ideas
Trying to figure out what you can eat during the soft and pureed portion of your recovery can be challenging. But with these recipes, you’ll have delicious and healthy meal ideas that you may even want to use after the soft food stage!
1. Slow-Cooker Pulled Chicken, Mashed Sweet Potato, and Creamed Spinach
Here we’ve put together healthy versions of Southern comfort foods!
When you’re restricted to soft foods and simultaneously want to save time, the slow-cooker is your best friend. Sometimes referred to as a crockpot, the slow-cooker is designed to stay on all day and cook your food while you go about your business. In a crockpot, add lean chicken breast, low-sugar BBQ sauce, and a little bone broth. Allow the chicken to cook on low all day until chicken is cooked through and very tender. When cooked, pull the chicken apart using two forks. Allow the chicken to cook a little longer before serving.
To prepare creamed spinach, first, sauté an entire bag of spinach in a little chicken broth on the stove. When spinach is sufficiently wilted and most of the broth has evaporated, pour into a blender, add plain nonfat Greek yogurt, and season with a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. When the spinach and yogurt are blended into a smooth consistency, add back into the pan to reheat right before serving.
To prepare mashed sweet potato, rinse off a sweet potato and poke several times with a fork before placing it in the microwave. Microwave for approximately 10 minutes or until the potato is soft. Carefully remove the skin with a knife and force and transfer the orange flesh to a bowl. Mash until the potato reaches your desired consistency. Season with a little salt and pepper.
To make a vegan version of the same dish, simply substitute pulled jackfruit for pulled chicken and non-dairy yogurt for the Greek yogurt.
2. Plant-Based Soft Tacos
Soft tacos make an easy and flavorful dinner. Use whole-grain soft taco shells. For a lower-carb version, use grain-less soft tortillas made with cassava flour. To make the filling, combine tofu, kidney beans, and corn in a pan. Break up the ingredients until the mixture resembles ground meat. Add a can of tomato paste and your favorite taco seasoning. In a separate pan, sauté a medley of vegetables including onions, garlic, red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, zucchini and season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Layer into soft taco shells and enjoy.
3. Burrito Casserole
This casserole recipe is a low-carb, delicious alternative to the traditional burrito. First, cook lean ground meat on the stovetop with your favorite taco seasoning. Ground chicken breast and ground turkey are very low-fat, high-protein options. Prepare a batch of brown rice and drain and mash a couple of cans of black beans. Next, sauté red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach, onions, and garlic to make sure your casserole is loaded with veggies. Depending on how you need your food prepared, you can finely chop your vegetables to make them easier to eat and digest.
Now it’s time to prepare your casserole. Layer your ingredients beginning with the ground meat, followed by brown rice, mashed beans, and vegetables. Repeat until your casserole dish is filled and top with low-fat cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend. Bake until cheese is melted, and the casserole is heated through.
4. Curried Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Rice
Add chickpeas, canned tomatoes, and a little chicken broth to a pot and bring to a low simmer. Add finely chopped onions and garlic, can of tomato paste, and low-fat coconut milk. Season with curry powder, turmeric, and cumin. Serve over brown rice for a meal packed with fiber and essential amino acids.
5. Avocado Toast
Avocado toast is a popular brunch item that is a perfect, nutritious option for a bariatric-friendly meal. First, lightly toast a slice of whole-grain bread. You can use crustless bread if the crust is too tough to eat. Slice half of a ripe avocado and mash with a fork. Spread onto your piece of toast and garnish with salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro. For an extra punch of protein, top with a soft scrambled egg.
6. Pasta Alfredo
Believe it or not, it is possible to make a healthy version of pasta alfredo. First, choose a pasta. Whole-grain pasta, lentil pasta, and chickpea pasta are healthier versions of traditional white pasta and afford more protein. For a low-carb, low-calorie version, opt for zucchini noodles over regular pasta. Cook your pasta until it’s at your desired texture. Instead of butter and cream, use a plant-based spread that contains phytosterols and a little bit of skim milk. Sauté chopped garlic and onions. Let cooked pasta, plant-based spread, skim milk, and onions and garlic cook on low. Stir in low-fat, low-sodium parmesan and nutritional yeast, which is a plant-based ingredient with a cheesy flavor. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and oregano. To increase up the nutritional value of your pasta alfredo dish, add in chopped spinach.
8. Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup
For this recipe, you can use the slow-cooker to create a hearty broth. Fill the slow-cooker with water. Toss in sections of celery, carrot, ginger, and fennel bulb. Add pieces of lemon rind, a few bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, a splash of white wine, and squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Season with salt and pepper. You can also add in onions and garlic if you like, though the ginger and lemon create a similar flavor profile. Allow to cook throughout the day until broth is flavorful. Remove and discard lemon rind, bay leaves, ginger, and rosemary sprigs. Remove celery, carrot, and fennel bulb and chop before adding it back into the soup. Add in chopped dinosaur kale, whole-grain pasta, and shredded chicken until cooked.
Healthy Meals for Life After Surgery
The meal ideas presented in this section are designed to be both tasty and nutrient-packed, to help your post-surgery and post-recovery weight loss journey as sustainable as possible.
1. Baked Salmon, Roasted Vegetables, and Cauliflower Rice
This low-carb meal is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. Bake salmon in the oven with your favorite low-fat marinade. Roast a medley of broccoli, squash, and carrots by chopping and tossing lightly in avocado oil. Prepare cauliflower rice by throwing raw cauliflower in a food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower resembles rice. Steam on the stovetop and season with salt and pepper. Alternatively, you can sauté cauliflower or other vegetables in a little water on the stovetop, to minimize the amount of oil you use.
2. Hearty Kale Salad
Salads provide an easy opportunity to throw together healthy ingredients into one dish. Mix kale, corn, purple cabbage, and fresh cilantro and chop. Serve with plant-based falafel for extra protein and avocado for healthy fats. Top with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with hemp seeds for extra protein and healthy fats.
You can transform nachos into a dinner packed with protein, veggies, and vitamins and minerals. Instead of processed corn chips, prepare your own “chips” using sweet potatoes. Thinly slice sweet potato into rounds. Space out the slices on a baking tray, coat very lightly in avocado oil, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned. Layer the sweet potato chips with lean ground turkey, kidney beans, and sautéed peppers, onions, and jalapeno peppers. Top with low-fat mozzarella cheese and enjoy with guacamole and salsa.
4. Curried Eggplant with Tofu, Quinoa, and Tzatziki
This plant-based dish provides tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as a balance of essential amino acids. First, sauté onions and garlic in a pan with a little oil or water. Add in chopped kale, eggplant, and cubed tofu. Cook until soft and season with curry powder, turmeric, cumin, salt, and pepper. Serve over quinoa for a balanced, nutritious meal. Prepare homemade tzatziki by blending plain nonfat Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, garlic powder, fresh dill, and cucumber in a blender.
9. White Bean Soup
This soup is very versatile and can take on whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. Using a food processor, chop celery, carrot, leeks, and garlic. Add to a large pot and cook in a splash of white wine and a drizzle of olive oil. Add dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and thyme to the pot and allow herbs to gently cook until fragrant. For extra protein, add in ground turkey and cook thoroughly. Add chicken broth or vegetable broth, cannellini beans, whole-grain pasta, and chopped spinach. Simmer with parmesan rind. When the pasta is cooked through, serve and enjoy.
Healthy Snacks for Life After Surgery
After you recover fully from your surgery, having healthy snacks on hand is vital for supporting your weight loss journey. Healthy, protein-packed snacks help quell hunger to help prevent over-eating
1. Cucumber Bites
These work great as an appetizer or healthy snack. Slice cucumber into thin rounds to resemble crackers. The crunch of cucumber makes an excellent substitute for chips and crackers. Top each round cucumber slice with a dollop of hummus and a little bit of chopped roasted red pepper or olive tapenade.
2. Apple and Peanut Butter
Apple and peanut butter pair beautifully to provide a sweet and savory snack that is packed with nutrients. Whole apples are packed with antioxidants and complex carbohydrates, while peanut butter is filled with protein and healthy fats.
3. Greek Yogurt and Fruit
Having high-protein snacks on hand is crucial for supporting muscle maintenance and weight loss as you continue on your health journey. Nonfat Greek yogurt is rich in essential amino acids and provides calcium and vitamin D. Add your favorite fruit as a sweet, micronutrient-packed topping. Blueberries, strawberries, and mango pair well with Greek yogurt.
4. Fruit Salad
Fruit salad makes a vitamin and antioxidant-packed side dish, appetizer, or snack. Slice up a medley of fruit such as strawberries, bananas, oranges, pineapple, papaya, cantaloupe, persimmon, and kiwi. Whip up a quick dressing using fresh squeezed lemon juice, a drizzle of honey, and a little fresh chopped basil. Pour over the fruit salad and toss together until the fruit is evenly coated. Lemon juice provides a refreshing complement to the sweetness of the fruits, and also protects chopped fruits from oxidizing, or turning brown. This also makes fruit salad easier to store in the fridge.
Adding more pineapple, papaya, and kiwi to your fruit salad will make it a perfect appetizer or refreshing post-meal palate-cleanser. Pineapple, papaya, and kiwi contain digestive enzymes that help the body break down proteins into individual amino acids, helping promote more complete protein absorption.
If you’re enjoying fruit salad as a snack, pair with a little nonfat cottage cheese for a protein-packed snack.
When you’re creating bariatric-friendly meals and healthy meals, it’s helpful to keep in mind these ideas and tips.
1. Store Leftovers
If you made too much stew or casserole, store in the fridge to eat for lunch or dinner throughout the week. Or, pre-portion leftover and keep in the freezer for when you’re in a time crunch and need a healthy meal on the fly.
2. Choose Low-Fat Foods
Always choose foods low in saturated fat and trans fats. Eating saturated fat found in fatty meats and dairy products worsens metabolic conditions and contributes to weight gain. Consuming fatty foods like steak, ice cream, cheese, whole milk, French fries, and potato chips also significantly raises your risk of developing complications after your surgery, such as dumping syndrome.
3. Stay Away from Refined Carbs and Added Sugar
Refined carbohydrates and added sugar are rapidly broken down in the digestive system and enter the bloodstream, spiking blood sugar and contributing to insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain. Like saturated and trans fats, eating lots of sugar increases the risk of developing dumping syndrome. Staying away from all refined carbs and added sugars are the best strategy for preventing weight re-gain and dumping syndrome. This means steering clear of all processed foods, sugary drinks, and prepared desserts like soda, sports drinks, cheesecake, cupcakes, muffins, brownies, cookies, and ice cream.
4. Keep Protein Intake High
After bariatric surgery, your stomach size is much smaller than before and is unable to accommodate large quantities of food. Some forms of weight loss surgery also remove parts of the intestine that help you absorb macronutrients like protein, carbs, and fat. As a result, you are at a greater risk of developing a protein deficiency. You must plan your meals to make sure your protein intake is adequate. In the stages following weight loss surgery, it is especially important to make sure that you get optimal ratios of essential amino acids from the foods that you eat. Essential amino acids support nearly all biological processes, including proper healing and muscle synthesis.
Whey protein powder and essential amino acid supplements can help make up for smaller portions and the low volume of food and beverages that you consume.
5. Use This Time to Experiment and Get Creative
Undergoing weight loss surgery and changing your diet and lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to eat a boring diet! Instead, you can experiment with healthy versions of your favorite comfort foods and desserts. Go through cookbooks, check out recipes online, or just make what you imagine…and have fun with it!
Things to Keep in Mind
A weight loss surgery like a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass can have huge benefits for weight loss and metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. Make sure that during your recovery from weight loss surgery, you follow all guidelines presented by your bariatric surgery health care team. This includes your physicians, surgeons, dietitians, and mental health care providers. Your team has tailored a plan to your specific recovery and can advise when is best to transition from clear liquids to thick liquids and then from soft foods to foods of all textures. It’s also crucial to attend all post-op follow-ups and adhere to guidelines regarding portion size and eating frequency.
Going through weight loss surgery is challenging! Bariatric patients can find it challenging to figure out what to eat without sacrificing taste or essential nutrients. Often, bariatric meals must be liquid or soft until you reach a full recovery. Having meal plan ideas and a collection of recipes for each stage of recovery is crucial and helps ease the stress of figuring out what to eat. After weight loss surgery, having delicious, nutritious smoothie and food ideas on hand will make sure you have the complex carbs, healthy fats, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need to recover and lead a healthy life.