How to Eat a Bariatric-Friendly Diet

stuffed peppers meal

If you’ve recently had bariatric surgery, such as gastric sleeve and gastric bypass, what you eat is important to the success of your weight loss journey. Bariatric surgery is designed to help people eat less, but by eating less, you have less opportunities to get the right nutrition in, making what you eat more important.

It is also important to follow the diet progression provided by your surgeon’s office to ensure your stomach heals appropriately.

What makes a recipe bariatric-friendly?

Michelle Bauche, a registered dietitian at MU Health Care, tells people who are recovering from bariatric surgery to plan out the protein in their meal first.

Because the stomach pouch is smaller, the food you eat should be nutrient-dense, too. Follow protein with fruits and vegetables for fiber and consider taste and texture when cooking.


Protein is a nutrient-dense food made of essential building blocks for your body: amino acids. It’s important for people who have undergone bariatric surgery because some of the weight you lose may be muscle.

“We know that with any type of long-term low-calorie diet, the body tends to waste some muscle in the process,” Bauche said. “Our goal is to make sure you’re getting enough protein so you don’t lose too much muscle mass, because we want to help you maintain your functional ability as you lose weight.”

The source of protein, Bauche said, is left up to individual preference after you complete the diet progression. If you don’t eat meat or eggs, look for foods that will give you the nine essential amino acids — also called “complete” proteins — or talk to your dietitian about supplements.

Fruits and Vegetables

Once you have your protein accounted for, dietitians recommend filling up your plate with vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods.

Eating more fruits and vegetables will help make sure you’re getting enough fiber, vitamins and minerals in your diet, and help you feel full for longer.

“Our focus is on high-fiber foods, which will come from vegetables and fruits, other starches, and some plant-based proteins like beans and nuts,” Bauche said.

Taste, Texture and Tolerance

Taste is a key factor when you’re cooking. And for people who have had bariatric surgery, the moisture level of a meal is also important: drier is usually worse, because it’s harder for your body to digest.

“For that reason, a lot of our patients gravitate toward recipes that use protein foods such as eggs or ground meat,” Bauche said. “Compared to a thick steak, it’s usually easier to tolerate.”

Your body’s tolerance, both in food volume and moisture level, will increase with the amount of time that has passed since surgery. There are some dietary restrictions, but after about a year post-operation, most people have more variety in their diet.

Foods to avoid

If it tastes good, and isn’t carbonated or high in added sugars, what you eat can have a lot of variety. But carbonation bubbles in a smaller stomach can make you feel uncomfortable and cause more gas and bloating. Sugary drinks are another problem: They don’t make you feel full and are often high in calories.

“I tell our patients that the type of food they eat makes a big difference in terms of when they feel full,” Bauche said. “Soda and sugar are the big no-no's. High protein and fiber foods promote much more satiety than sugar and snack-type foods.”

Need some recipe ideas to get you started? Download the packet below for five different bariatric-friendly recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Bariatric Friendly Recipes

Egg Roll in a Bowl    Stuffed Peppers

Fiesta Shrimp Salad   Italian Meatballs

Breakfast Muffins   Low-Carb Teriyaki Salmon

Read more stories like this