Tips for Eating after Stomach Surgery

stomach surgery

Treatment of stomach cancer can involve the removal of part or all of the stomach, which can impact the foods you eat. While in the hospital, the medical team will give you guidance on progressing your intake post surgery. Generally, you are advised to start on fluids, gradually moving onto small portions of soft meals.

Going home can be scary for patients, as you go from being served only safe foods to having to make them yourself. Good nutrition plays a huge role in recovery. Try some of these tips to help and remember, if you are struggling, always contact your medical team and dietitian to let them know.

  • Eat little and often. Your smaller stomach capacity means you won’t be able to eat large amounts, so it’s important that you become a ‘grazer’. Eat something small every two to three hours, aiming for 4 to 6 small meals per day.
  • Chew food well and take your time. Your body will be better equipped to digest and absorb your food if it is well chewed.
  • Don’t drink with your meals. Liquid will reduce the amount of room you have for food, so leave 30 minutes between food and drinks.
  • Make sure to add a protein source to each meal or snack you eat. Choosing fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, yogurt is a smart choice as they will be better tolerated after surgery. Another option for an added protein boost is a protein powder.
  • Make it count! Since you are only eating small amounts, make sure they are nutritious and calorie-packed. A nutritious soup can be a good option, but make sure it contains adequate amounts of protein and calories. Smoothies are a great way to add in extra calories in small amounts.
  • Fortify your foods. Adding butter, cream, cheese, or skimmed milk powder to foods can really help pump up the calories and protein of foods without increasing the volume. For example, just one tablespoon of heavy cream contains 50 calories! Add this into some scrambled eggs for a little boost of nutrition.
  • Fruits and vegetables are important for micronutrients; however, they are low in calories and are high in fiber which may fill you up too much, preventing you from eating higher calorie foods. For this reason, they are not as important in the immediate stages after the surgery. As you start to broaden out your diet, include small portions of vegetables, mashed well with butter and oils to increase the calorie content. For example, a small serving of vegetables may have around 15 calories but adding a knob of butter bumps it up to 90 calories.
  • Avoid eating large amounts of sugary foods, which can cause your body to empty its contents too quickly resulting in diarrhea.

As your diet expands out, you may want to try new foods. This menu contains small meals that may tempt your taste buds. These do not replace advice given by your dietitian but may act as a base to modify to your specific needs as directed by your medical team. Add high-calorie additions to make them more nutritious and cook all foods well to make them soft and easy to manage.

Registered Dietitian Approved

There are many misconceptions about nutrition and cancer in widespread media. By using current scientific literature, plus recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, our Registered Dietitian, Kate Ueland, MS, RD, and our team of editors work to help our readers discern truth from myth.

The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always consult your physician or registered dietitian for specific medical advice.


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