What to eat after lap-band surgery

I know everybody is very excited about Gov. Chris Christie’s new effort to lose weight. Christie has reportedly lost 40 pounds so far, but it is important to remember that maintaining that weight loss will have a lot to do with adopting the proper diet and lifestyle. We talked to Rebecca Soloman, clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, for the best diet tips to follow after lap-band surgery.

Eat small portions
In the weeks and months after surgery, it is essential for patients to focus on limiting their portion sizes. Lap-band surgery decreases the size of the stomach, making it very difficult, and even painful, to ingest large quantities of food.

“Most patients are full after a quarter to a maximum of half a cup of food at one sitting,” Soloman said.

Consuming more than that will cause discomfort and could lead to vomiting, Soloman noted. She recommends that patients eat slowly and chew food thoroughly to avoid discomfort.

Focus on high protein foods
“We found, especially in bariatric weight-loss patients, that protein is the food group from which they derive their greatest sense of fullness or satiety,” Soloman said. In the first three to four weeks after surgery, Soloman recommends focusing on soft proteins like Greek yogurt, pureed chicken, soups or cottage cheese. This will also help patients avoid becoming protein deficient.

After the first month, patients can begin experimenting with non-pureed foods, focusing on softer flaky fishes, the dark meat of chicken or lean ground beef. “We increase the texture but not necessarily the quantity,” Soloman noted. “We like to focus on the term ‘gentle satiety,’ you want to be mindful of not overeating.”

Avoid drinking and eating at the same time
One of the most important rules to follow after lap-band surgery: Avoid eating and drinking simultaneously. While staying hydrated is important, Soloman advises patients to stop drinking 10 minutes prior to eating, and then avoid drinking until 45 minutes after they’ve finished their meal.

In the first few weeks after surgery, the stomach is so tiny that consuming a liquid and solid at the same time could cause vomiting. Furthermore,  “just a few swigs of water could push food out of the stomach, causing a premature sense of emptiness,”  Soloman said.

Limit pasta, rice, bread
While eating a little bit of fiber is fine, most patients do not tolerate rice, pasta or bread very well.

“They all expand when they absorb more fluids, like gastric juices,” Solman said. This can cause discomfort in patients, and they typically learn to avoid these types of foods, or eat them only in very limited qualities.

Consume soft fruits and vegetables
In the first weeks after surgery,  all fruits and vegetables need to be pureed.

“You could do a natural applesauce or make your own, pureed carrots, broccoli. You can use seasonings, herbs, spices to the extent that you tolerate them. Make it flavorable, so that it is enjoyable,” Soloman said.

Later, patients can introduce whole fruits and vegetables, avoiding fruit skins (like apple skins) or stringier vegetables.

Overall, it is important to remember that while lap-band surgery will help you lose weight, it will only work if you monitor your diet, too.

“It’s a tool, not a solution in and of itself,” Soloman said. “It’s effectiveness is related to what you put in your mouth.”