Eating After Your Gastric Bypass Surgery or Whipple Procedure

This information describes the dietary guidelines you will need to follow after your gastric bypass (gastrojejunostomy) or Whipple procedure (pancreaticoduodenectomy).

After your surgery, you may need to change your eating patterns. This is due to changes in how much food you can eat at one time and the time it takes for food to leave your stomach. Your dietitian will review this information with you before you leave the hospital. If you have any questions or concerns, or are losing weight after you leave the hospital, call 212-639-7071 to set up an appointment with your dietitian.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

After surgery, some people feel full more quickly during meals. If this happens to you, or if you have nausea or indigestion, try eating smaller, more frequent meals. Try eating 6 half-size meals instead of 3 main meals a day. This will allow you to eat the same amount of food overall, but in smaller portions that will be easier to digest. You may be able to tolerate larger portions as time passes.

You will find sample menus at the end of this resource.

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Drink Enough Liquids

Most people need to drink 8 (8-ounce) glasses of liquids each day. In order to leave more space for food, drink only 4 ounces (½ cup) per meal. You should drink the majority of your liquids between meals, at least 1 hour before or after meals. This will help prevent you from getting dehydrated.

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Chew Your Food Well to Help With Digestion

If you chew your food well, your body will digest the meals you eat more quickly and easily. If you are experiencing bloating or fullness, you may also wish to temporarily avoid vegetables that can cause gas, such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

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Eat Slowly

Eat slowly to avoid feeling uncomfortable due to overeating. You will know when you are full.

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Include Protein in Your Diet

After surgery, your body needs more protein to help you heal. Good protein sources include lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs.

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Start With Low-fat Foods

Eat low-fat foods right after your surgery. You can cut down on the fat in your diet by:

  • Trimming any visible fat from meats.
  • Baking or broiling foods instead of frying them.
  • Using only a pat of butter or margarine and small amounts of oil.
  • Avoiding heavy gravies and cream sauces.
  • Limiting snack chips, croissants, doughnuts, and rich desserts.

You can gradually increase the amount of fat in your diet to an amount that you can tolerate. See the section below called “Monitor Your Bowel Movements” for more information.

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Monitor Your Bowel Movements for Changes

Problems with fat absorption

You may not be absorbing all the fats you are eating if you are having any of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Stools that float
  • Stools that are very light in color, frothy, greasy, or foul smelling

These symptoms may cause weight loss or decrease the absorption of certain vitamins in your body. If you have any of these symptoms, ask your doctor if you need to take pancreatic enzyme pills. An example is pancrelipase (Zenpep®). You can take these pills with your meals to help with digestion.

Lactose intolerance

Gas, bloating, and diarrhea can be symptoms of lactose intolerance, or not being able to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. Milk, ice cream, and soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, have a lot of lactose. Hard cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan contain lower amounts of lactose.  Some people with mild lactose intolerance can tolerate these lower lactose foods.  Lactaid® tablets or drops can also help you digest dairy.

Sometimes, people temporarily have lactose intolerance after surgery. You can retry dairy in a few months to see if it has improved.

Diarrhea from sweet foods and beverages

Some people may have loose bowel movements after having large portions of sweets such as:

  • Sugar, honey, and syrup
  • Regular (not diet) soda and fruit juices
  • Cakes, cookies, and candies

This is called dumping syndrome. If you think you have dumping syndrome, limit or avoid sugary foods or drinks and try diluting juices with water. It may also help to limit your intake of liquids to only 4 ounces during meals. Drink more liquids between meals, at least 1 hour before or after a meal. This will help prevent you from getting dehydrated.

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Sample Menus

The sample menus below show 6 small meals with 4 ounces of liquid given at each meal and 8 ounces of liquid given between meals. Keep in mind that soup also counts as a liquid.

The menus also include solid foods. If you are on a mechanical soft (diced food) diet when you go home, ask your doctor when you can start eating solid foods again. Ask your nurse for the resource Eating Guide for Puréed and Mechanical Soft Diets.

The menu items are not all sugar-free. Use sugar-free or “light” yogurt in place of regular yogurt, limit fruit juices, and dilute fruit juices with water if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood sugar
  • Are experiencing dumping syndrome

Foods below with an asterisk (*) have lactose. If you are lactose-intolerant, try Lactaid® milk in place of regular milk. Take Lactaid® tablets or drops to help you digest dairy products.

Meal Time

Sample Menu 1

Sample Menu 2

Breakfast
7:30 am
  • ¾ cup of corn flakes
  • ½ cup of milk*
  • ½ of a banana
  • 1 scrambled egg
  • 1 slice of toast
  • 1 teaspoon of margarine
  • ½ cup of orange juice

9:00 am

  • ½ cup of juice mixed with ½ cup of water
  • 1 cup of tomato juice
Snack
10:00 am
  • ½ cup of cottage cheese*
  • ½ cup of canned fruit
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 3 graham crackers
  • ½ cup of milk*

11:30 am

  • 1 cup of whole milk*
  • ½ cup of juice mixed with ½ cup of water
Lunch
12:30 pm
  • ½ cup of chicken soup
  • ½ of a turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato
  • 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
  • ½ of a roast beef sandwich with lettuce and tomato
  • 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
  • ½ cup of milk*

2:00 pm

  • 1 cup of tomato juice
  • 1 cup of broth
Snack
3:00 pm
  • Fruit yogurt*
  • ½ cup of cranberry juice
  • ½ cup of tuna salad
  • 6 saltine crackers
  • ½ cup of pineapple juice

4:30 pm

  • ½ cup of juice mixed with ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of juice mixed with ½ cup of water
Dinner
5:30 pm
  • 2 ounces of baked chicken
  • 1 small baked potato with sour cream*
  • ½ cup of cooked carrots
  • ½ cup of lemonade
  • 2 ounces of baked fish
  • ½ cup of rice
  • ½ cup of green beans
  • 2 teaspoons of margarine
  • ½ cup of apple juice

7:00 pm

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of water
Snack
8:00 pm
  • 1 ounce of cheddar cheese*
  • 6 saltine crackers
  • ½ cup of apple juice
  • ¼ cup of cottage cheese
  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ cup of cranberry juice

9:30 pm

  • ½ cup of juice mixed with ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of juice mixed with ½ cup of water
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If you have any questions or concerns, talk with a member of your healthcare team. You can reach them Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at ____________________. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call____________________. If there’s no number listed, or you’re not sure, call 212-639-2000.
Eating After Your Gastric Bypass Surgery or Whipple Procedure
©2015 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Generated on August 1, 2015