Light Foods To Eat After Surgery


It’s best to eat light foods after surgery, especially during the first few days. You’ll feel better, heal faster and have less bloating. Here are some suggestions for relieving you of that sore throat, nausea, pain and cramping after surgery.Many people have a fear of being given a set of instructions on what to eat after surgery. The thought of having to maintain that discipline after surgery can be awful to imagine. Thankfully it’s not as hard as it seems and once you get used to eating lighter, healthier food you might even find there are more benefits than you first expected.

Simple and Delicious Foods that Help You Recover Faster

Surgery can be hard on the body. After surgery, you or a loved one may experience a higher risk of infection, falls, pneumonia, or decreased mobility.

But surgery is meant to improve your quality of life.

There are a few key things you can do to have a smooth transition from the hospital to your home — and one of the most important things to focus on while healing from surgery is nutrition.

The 10 Best Foods to Eat After Surgery to Promote Healing

These foods will provide your body with the energy and nutrition it needs to fight off infections, accelerate healing, increase your strength and energy and maintain your nutrient stores. And they’re delicious.

1. Berries

Antioxidants are a powerhouse of nutrition that help the body repair damage.

Fruits with antioxidants include:

  • Grapes
  • Pomegranates
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Goji berries
  • Blackberries

Berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C is helpful in rebuilding collagen and soft tissue, meaning your incision site will heal quicker.

2. Vegetables

The vitamins and minerals you will find in vegetables are some of the most important nutrients in your healing diet.

Eat these vegetables as a snack or part of a meal:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes

Including these veggies in your daily diet adds a healthy source of carbohydrates, which will help you battle post-surgery fatigue. Carbohydrates provide your brain with energy and stop muscle from breaking down. Your body will also get a boost of vitamin A and C. Another great benefit is that the fiber in a diet high in vegetables reduces constipation, which is a common side effect of pain medication and decreased mobility.

3. Fats (nuts, oils, fish)

Remember, healthy fat is your friend. Especially following surgery, healthy fat helps your body absorb all those yummy vitamins you are getting from your fruits and veggies. Fat is essential for strengthening your immune system and decreasing your chance of infection.

Healthy fats to include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Fats provide you with a long-lasting source of energy. Many types of fats and nuts are high in vitamin E, particularly almonds. Vitamin E also helps wounds heal faster and reduce the appearance of scars.

4. Dark Leafy Greens

Leafy greens may not be as popular as colorful berries and yummy fats, but they are vitally important! A hearty serving of green on your plate (or in your smoothie) gives you a dose of vitamin A, C, and E, as well as vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.

Incorporate these vitamin-rich, dark leafy greens:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Bok choy
  • Mustard greens
  • Romaine lettuce

You will also be absorbing the B-complex vitamins, which help with energy levels. Don’t forget fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Greens are like a multivitamin!

5. Meat or Other Alternatives

As we age, it is important to eat adequate amounts of protein. Following surgery, our bodies need a lot of protein and iron to help repair muscles that might have been injured during surgery. Amino acids in the protein help repair muscle damage by regenerating tissue and speeding up wound healing. Iron will help you regain your energy levels more quickly as iron creates new blood cells.

Stock up on iron and protein through foods like:

  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Tofu

After surgery, you may find that you have difficulty digesting or even chewing tougher meats. Try meats that have been slow-cooked in sauces or ground meats. Another excellent source of protein is our next powerhouse food.

6. Eggs

Nature has provided us with an ideal healing food neatly packed in a shell. Eggs are a traditional first meal to serve to invalids and recovering individuals and with good reason.

One egg provides you with:

  • 6 Grams of protein
  • Vitamins A, E and K
  • B complex vitamins (including B12)
  • Riboflavin
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Iron

All those nutrients we have already discussed as being vital for a quick recovery. The best part is that eggs are easy to serve and prepare.

7. Probiotics

Probiotics are the happy, healthy bacteria that your body needs to digest food, provide mental balance and fight off all the germs and infections you are prone to after a hospital stay or procedure. Some of the most common forms of probiotic-rich foods are:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi

Surgery can be rough on your system. Anesthetics, antibiotics and painkillers upset the delicate balance in your gut leaving you with digestive upsets, constipation and nausea. A healthy dose of probiotics can help to regulate your system.

8. Brightly colored fruits

Who says that healing foods are boring? After surgery, it is even more important to eat all the colors of the rainbow. Pile a bowl full of the brightest colored fruits and veggies and get a good dose of vitamin A, C, carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and the nutritious calories your body needs to bounce back.

Fiber is essential following surgery to avoid the discomfort of constipation. Fruits provide that fiber with a dose of color, vitamins, and energy-boosting carbs.

Ask your friends to bring by:

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Melon
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Grapefruit
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Tomatoes

Not only are fruits a powerhouse of healing nutrition but they are also light on the stomach and ideal for small, regular portions.

9. Whole grains

Eating plenty of whole grains after surgery will provide your body with the carbohydrates your brain needs for energy and stops your muscles from breaking down. Whole grains also give you another dose of fiber. You are going to feel tired and worn out following your surgery and the right kind of carbs will bring your energy levels up.

Round your plate out with:

  • Whole wheat or rye sourdough bread
  • Steel-cut oats
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice

The bulk of your vitamins and minerals will be coming from your healthy fats, veggies, fruit, and proteins. But carbohydrates are an important part of the healing puzzle.

10. Water

The easiest and most overlooked thing we need after surgery is water. Don’t forget your body is made up of 55-65 percent water. Dehydration is common and maintaining adequate levels of hydration will help you recover quicker. Depending on the type of surgery you have and the medications you are on, your requirements for fluid may be higher than usual.

If drinking plain water is unappealing you can try:

  • Flavoring your water with lime or lemon
  • Drinking coconut water
  • Eating high water content foods like soup
  • Preparing a smoothie with extra fluid
  • Drinking herbal teas (either hot or cold)

13 Remarkable Nutrients for Recovery After Surgery

Each of these nutrients plays an important role in helping you heal. Eating a well-balanced diet can help you get all these nutrients. The foods listed are suggestions that are high in each nutrient but there are many other sources.

1. Antioxidants

Antioxidants help the body to protect and repair itself.

Top 3 foods: berries, grapes and spinach.

2. Calcium

Calcium helps to build strong bones, as well as regulate nerve impulses, blood clotting, and muscle strength.

Top 3 foods: kale, yogurt and almonds.

3. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles, brain and nerves. You’ll need this energy for healing.

Top 3 foods: whole grains, carrots and sweet potatoes.

4. Fiber

Constipation is a common risk after surgery. This can be caused by a lack of activity and pain medication. Fiber is a necessary bulking agent that keeps your system moving.

Top 3 foods: raspberries, nuts, and beans.

5. Iron

Most surgeries will involve an expected loss of blood. Iron is vital for the creation of new red blood cells.

Top 3 foods: garbanzo beans, spinach and cashews.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium provides a soothing, relaxing effect. Adequate amounts of magnesium can relieve sore muscles and promote better sleep quality.

Top 3 foods: nuts, seeds, and avocado.

7. Potassium

Potassium keeps your heart healthy, grows new cells, and helps your muscles with their work.

Top 3 foods: squash, sweet potato and white beans.

8. Protein (Amino Acids)

The amino acids in protein help to rebuild the damaged tissue. Protein also speeds up how fast your incision will heal.

Top 3 foods: eggs, poultry and beans.

9. Vitamin A

Vitamin A will help your body to build up new bone, tissue, mucus membrane, or skin. This is especially important if you have had surgery on your bones.

Top 3 foods: carrots, sweet potatoes and apricots.

10. Vitamin B

Vitamin B is needed to create red blood cells and keep your brain functioning.

Top 3 foods: meat, seafood and eggs.

11. Vitamin C

Vitamin C provides the collagen protein that is responsible for repairing tendons, ligaments and healing both your incision and the repairs inside your body.

Top 3 foods: oranges, strawberries and bell peppers.

12. Vitamin E

Vitamin E belongs to the antioxidant group. These help your body to make healthy red blood cells and use vitamin K.

Top 3 foods: sunflower seeds, swiss chard and asparagus.

13. Vitamin K

Without vitamin K, your blood is not able to clot. Clotting is vital for wound healing after surgery.

Top 3 foods: brussels sprouts, broccoli and romaine lettuce.

Foods to Avoid After Surgery

It is just as important to look at which foods are slowing your body’s healing. Food can either be medicine or poison for your body. Although you might be desperately craving a sweet treat, remember that these foods can rob you of a quick healing time and increase your risk of infection.

  1. Added sugars. Food and drink with added sugar offer your taste buds a quick reward, but the added sugar is high in calories and gives your body no nutritional value. You may feel a short burst of energy and alertness but will quickly feel more drained and tired. Bacteria and viruses thrive on sugar, which is one more reason to avoid sugary foods after surgery.
  2. Highly processed foods. After surgery, you may have a small appetite and be tempted to indulge in whatever sounds good. Highly processed foods are usually white, sweet and come in a package. Or they are artificially colored. These foods primarily provide your body with carbohydrates. This causes blood sugar spikes and high insulin levels. Both drain your body of energy and the ability to heal. Processed foods are also often stripped of fiber, which helps to keep your bowels moving. After surgery constipation can be a serious and uncomfortable condition. Counter this problem by adding extra vegetables and limiting processed foods in your diet.
  3. Alcohol. You might look forward to having a drink to unwind or relax post-surgery. But alcohol slows down the rate of blood clotting and makes your blood thinner. This can cause your incision to take longer to heal and you will also have an increased risk of bleeding. Alcohol also impairs your immune system, putting you at a higher risk for infection. Following surgery, you will heal faster when there is less swelling. Alcohol causes blood vessels to swell. One of the biggest reasons to avoid alcohol is how it affects your pain levels. You may think that a drink will help you feel better, but alcohol does not mix well with pain medication prescribed by your doctor. It can even be deadly to mix alcohol and pain pills.

Soft Food List

Patients who are well prepared for their surgery usually have a smoother recovery. We advise the patient to plan ahead and purchase soft food items prior to surgery.

The following are examples of soft food items:

  • Hearty Soups (cream of asparagus, lentil, minestrone, split pea, chili)
  • Juice (cranberry, apple, grape) avoid citrus juice for a few days
  • Herbal Tea
  • Jell-O
  • Yogurt (soft or frozen)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Pudding/Custard
  • Soft Fruit (banana, papaya, berries, canned peaches, or pears)
  • Applesauce
  • Popsicles
  • Ice Cream, Milkshakes
  • Fresh Cooked Vegetables
  • Fruit Smoothies/Protein Shakes
  • Oatmeal/Cream of Wheat
  • Eggs (scrambled, soft boiled, omelets, egg salad)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Rice, Risotto
  • Tofu
  • Pasta (plain or with sauce)
  • Fish (soft white fish, sole, trout, snapper)

Please avoid the following foods the first 7 days after surgery:

  • Spicy Foods
  • Foods that are difficult to chew
  • Popcorn & Chips (avoid for a month)
  • French bread loaves and Baguettes
  • Alcoholic Beverages

On the day of surgery, begin with clear fluids (juice, broth, tea, Jell-O) and progress slowly to more substantial foods. Remember, it is important to maintain nutrition for optimal healing to occur.

Please keep in mind that your doctor will give you specific instructions concerning your diet. They will give you a list of what to eat, foods to avoid, and when it’s acceptable to return to a normal diet. You need to follow the doctor’s recommendations because they didn’t just consider the type of surgery you went through – they also considered your existing health conditions and current health status. 

To give you an idea on the common post-surgery diet, we prepared a list of the foods to eat and foods to avoid after an operation. 

4 foods to avoid after surgery

1. Foods that might cause constipation

The prescription medicines you take to relieve pain together with your general immobility can increase the likelihood of constipation, which can then lead to significant discomfort (and sometimes even pain). Furthermore, constipation can result in straining – an act that might stress or reopen your incision wounds. 

Generally, avoid high-fat meats, eggs, dairy products, and sugary sweets. According to the National Institute of Aging (NIA), these foods are low in fiber and may lead to constipation. 

2. Spicy foods

Spicy foods are also included in the list of foods to avoid after surgery. Surgeons often don’t recommend eating spicy foods immediately after surgery because they may upset the stomach. 

A 2010 study also suggested that spices, such as turmeric and ginger (which contain curcumin), can reduce the risk of fatal blood clots. However, too much curcumin might interfere with blood clotting, an important aspect of wound healing. 

3. Alcoholic beverages

As much as a surgery will make you want to drink liquor, alcoholic beverages are one of the foods you shouldn’t eat after an operation. This is because alcohol cannot be combined with your pain medicines. 

Additionally, alcohol can trigger dehydration, and after your surgery you need all the hydration you can get to heal quickly. 

4. Highly processed foods

Some of the foods you need to avoid after surgery are those that are highly processed. Not only are they usually low in fiber (which can cause constipation), but in most cases, they also lack the nutrients your body needs to heal. Additionally, many highly-processed foods promote unnecessary inflammation. 

Highly processed foods include those sugary drinks, store-bought pastries, candies, chocolates, frozen desserts, fast foods, like fries and hamburgers, and processed meats, such as sausages and deli meats (cold cuts). 

Foods to avoid after surgery, according to TCM

If you’ve been doing some research about the post-surgery diet, you must have come across readings about Traditional Chinese Medicines suggestions. 

For instance, according to TCM, the foods to avoid after surgery include seafood and chicken. However, there is little evidence to prove this claim, and experts still believe that seafood and poultry are great sources of lean protein. 

Finally, you must have heard about avoiding soy sauce since they make the wound darker. But this is a myth, since scarring of wounds is a part of the normal healing process and how obvious a scar is often depends on other factors, like how you take care of the wound until it completely heals. 

Homage offers a wide range of home-based care services that can help alleviate loneliness among older adults.

Our Care Professionals are equipped with the right skills to handle complex medical conditions, and are trained to manage and regulate different emotions faced by your loved one. On top of providing meaningful companionship, our Care Professionals are able to help you with the following:

  • Activities of daily living (Feeding, transferring, toileting, etc)
  • Companionship and personalised care
  • Nursing care including wound care, catheter or feeding tube care
  • Medical house-call doctors
  • Private ambulance or medical escort services for routine check-ups
  • Therapy (Physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy)

For more information, schedule a free consult with the Homage Care Advisory Team and they will reach out to you within 48-hours.

11 foods to eat after surgery

dash diet for hypertension

Besides the foods you need to avoid after surgery, a post-surgery diet also requires that we talk about foods that’ll help you heal quickly. So, what should you eat after surgery? 

1. Clear and full fluids

Before we talk about good solid food items after surgery, let’s first cover clear and full fluids. Clear and full fluids may be the diet of choice if you underwent a major operation, particularly one that involves the gastrointestinal tract. 

A clear liquid diet provides you the best possible nutrition without compromising your gut. Clear fluid doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll only have “transparent” liquids; it essentially means the fluid has no (or very little) solid food in it, making digestion easier for your GI tract. 

Below are some of the examples of clear fluids:

  • Water
  • Coffee and tea, but without milk or cream
  • Clear soup 
  • Clear, fresh juice, such as apple, cranberry, and grape. 
  • Honey and plain sugar
  • Jell-O
  • Popsicles 

Now, a post-surgery diet may also involve a full liquid diet which includes a “fuller” or thicker liquid. Examples of full-liquid you can have are:

  • Creamy cereals and soups 
  • Gelatin 
  • Yogurt
  • Plain ice cream
  • Fruit and vegetable juices 
  • Coffee and tea with milk or cream

All items in the clear liquid list can also be consumed under a full fluid diet. 

2. Whole grains

Whole grains are on top of the best foods in a post-surgery diet. Not only are they rich in fiber and energy-giving carbohydrates, but they are also filled with vitamins and nutrients that keep your body healthy and ready for recovery. 

There are many ways to add whole grains to your diet. Eating rice is one of them, as well choosing cereals for breakfast. However, please remember to choose whole grains and not the refined variety (white rice, white flour, etc.)

Below are the best examples of whole grain products to include in your post-surgery diet:

  • Oatmeal
  • Cereals
  • Whole-wheat bread, pasta, and crackers
  • Brown rice 
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat 

While choosing whole grain products for your post-surgery diet, experts advise you to check your folic acid intake. According to them, many whole grain food items are not fortified with folic acid, a kind of B vitamin that helps cells work and tissues grow. 

3. Fresh produce

Next on our list of the best foods for post-surgery diet is fresh produce. Fresh fruits and veggies, like whole grains, also have high fiber and nutrients. They are also rich in antioxidants which help fight off free radicals that cause inflammation. 

If fresh fruits are not available, canned and frozen fruits are also good. However, please be mindful of added contents, particularly sugar.

Still, refrain from consuming too much fruits and vegetables because they might cause gas, which can be quite painful and uncomfortable. And while being gassy typically only lasts a day or two, it may cause abdominal cramping that might require medications.   

The best fresh produce to eat after your operation include:

  • Berries, because you have so many options – from raspberries and strawberries, to blueberries and blackberries. A notable antioxidant content of berries is vitamin C, a micronutrient that helps build collagen for skin repair or wound healing.
  • Citrus Fruits which includes oranges, grapefruit, and pomelo are excellent sources of vitamin C, too. 
  • Other Bright-Colored Fruits such as apples, peaches, mangoes, papaya, peaches, and melon, are also great foods after surgery.
  • Leafy greens like spinach, bok choy, romaine lettuce, and kale are great sources of vitamins A, C, and E. They are also high in vitamin K, which is helpful in blood clotting. 
  • Vegetables you can snack on such as carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.

But of course, getting a variety of fruits and vegetables is the best, as it ensures that you are also getting a wide range of micronutrients your body needs to heal. 

4. Lean protein sources

Lean protein sources are those that have few fat content. Protein foods are basically foods for wound healing after surgery because they help with tissue repair and infection prevention. 

Below are some of the best sources of lean protein:

  • Legumes, which include chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils. 
  • Tofu 
  • Poultry, but only choose the white meat parts. 
  • Seafood 
  • Beans
  • Soy
  • Lean beef

5. Healthy fats

It may be a little hard to believe, but a post-surgery diet will not be complete without healthy fats. Fats help in boosting the immune system and preventing infections. Moreover, healthy fats allow you to better absorb the nutrients you get from all the other food groups, particularly from fruits and vegetables. 

Some of the best sources of healthy fats include:

  • Olive oil, which you can use in cooking or in salad preparation. 
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and seeds

6. Anti inflammatory foods

If you’re looking for food for wound healing after surgery, it’s a good idea to consider anti-inflammatory foods. These foods basically lower inflammation and might help with swelling and even disease prevention. 

Don’t worry, you won’t have a difficult time finding anti-inflammatory foods to eat after surgery to reduce swelling, because they are easily available. Examples of anti-inflammatory foods are:

  • Fruits
  • Leafy greens 
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil

Fatty fish is also a great anti-inflammatory food, but please confirm with your doctor first before you decide to include them in your diet. 

7. Foods rich in calcium

Calcium is not just for growing kids; adults need it, too, to ensure bone and muscle strength, proper blood clotting, and better nerve impulse regulation. These functions make calcium-rich items great foods after surgery. 

Since dairy, a common calcium source, increases the risk of constipation, you may want to rely on other options, such as:

  • Sardines
  • Dar, leafy greens
  • Soybeans 
  • Calcium-fortified products, such as cereals and orange juice

If you are able to tolerate dairy without getting constipated, consider choosing the low-fat alternatives. 

8. Foods rich in iron

Liver can also be a good food after surgery because it’s rich in iron, a micronutrient you need to replenish red blood cells, especially if your operation involved some blood loss. The other healthy sources of iron include: 

  • Soybean flour
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts 
  • Beans 

9. Chinese soups

A serving of Chinese soup post-surgery may be a great thing to look forward to.  Because Chinese soups often include multiple vegetables and herbs, a bowl will give you your fill of micronutrients and antioxidants. Furthermore, many Chinese soups are chicken-based, which means you’ll also have your fill of protein. 

To give you a glimpse of how healthy a Chinese herbal soup is after surgery, let’s consider the findings of a 2019 study which aimed to analyze the medicinal plants used for soup making. In the report, researchers stated that a particular soup uses about 42 medicinal species, and that the most prevalent uses of these plants are to:

  • Clear inner heat
  • Treat inflammation
  • Counteract cold in the body

Having a snakehead soup after surgery may also prove beneficial as it might help in wound healing. One research even concluded that using a spray made from Snakehead resulted in better pain score and cosmetic outcome post operatively. 

Finally, let’s not forget the black Chinese soup after surgery. Made from black chicken,  this Chinese soup is not only a great source of protein, it’s also filled with antioxidants, vitamins, iron, calcium, and protein. 

Here are a couple of reminders when cooking a Chinese soup for post-surgery diet:

  • Take extra care about excess oil since Chinese soups can become notably oily because of the fats coming from the ingredients, particularly the meat. For this reason be sure to use lean meat and avoid the fatty part of chicken, beef, or fish. Additionally, you can remove excess oil manually with the use of oil-separator spoons. 
  • Remove the skin of meat since this can also prevent excess oil in the soup. 
  • Add more vegetables and herbs because the more there are in the soup, the better for your recovery. 

10. Fish essence 

You might have also heard about fish essence after surgery. A post-surgery diet may include fish essence because it has ingredients that boost recovery. 

For instance, the main ingredient called “essence of fish” is said to be a good food for wound healing after surgery. Also, many fish essence supplements include other beneficial ingredients, such as ginseng, that boost the immune system and energy levels. 

11. Chicken essence

Besides fish essence, you might also want to consider chicken essence, which is made from the extract of high-quality chickens. It’s a good food after surgery because it keeps both the mind and body sharp. 

Case in point, one study concluded that chicken essence could be an anti-fatigue food because it’s effective for mental fatigue recovery. Another paper also mentioned that chicken essence can boost the immune system and that it has antioxidant and anti-stress effects. 

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