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Top Five Food Items to Eat and Avoid After Surgery

DayToDay Health
January 12, 2022

Dr. Mark Hyman said, “Food has the power to heal us. It is the most potent tool we have to help prevent and treat many of our chronic diseases.”

The time after any surgery is very critical and determines how smooth or difficult the recovery journey will be. A good post-operative diet can help make this decision by helping in transitioning from dis-ease to ease. Additionally, taking the correct diet can help avoid post-surgical complications. A dietician helps make a post-operative diet chart based on the type of surgery and underlying health conditions.

The following article gives a sneak-peak into the list of foods to eat after surgery to promote healing and food to avoid after surgery. Let’s have a look.

Five Food Items to Eat

Foods with antioxidants

Antioxidants are abundant in vegetables and plants. Antioxidants help protect against diseases by fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, Selenium are some well-known antioxidants. Things to eat that have high antioxidants include -

  • Berries like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and goji berries
  • Pomegranate
  • Sweet potato
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes

Lean protein and eggs

Eggs are rich in proteins, folic acid, B complex, calcium, zinc, vitamin E, A, K, and iron. Eggs and lean meat have proteins, which help boost the immune system and support recovery. Lean meat is usually low in fat and often quite filling. One can opt for chicken, seafood, turkey instead of red meat. For vegetarians, nuts, tofu, and legumes are good options for protein.

Healthy fats

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of plant-based proteins, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins. Healthy fats help fight infection and promote healing. One can incorporate walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, hemp, coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil, and avocado in their diet.

Whole grains

Whole grains are a great source of fiber, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals. They promote bowel movement and help improve digestion after surgery. Oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain cereals should be added to the after-surgery diet chart.

If one undergoes intestinal surgery, there may be some modifications related to whole grains. It is best to discuss the diet in detail with the concerned doctor and dietitian.

Green and other vegetables

Green vegetables are high in antioxidants and fibers. They help with optimizing digestion and promote immunity. It is better to avoid eating raw or frozen vegetables. Broccoli, kale, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes are some foods to eat after surgery to promote healing.

Five Food Items to Avoid

Constipation causing food items

Constipation is a common problem after surgery, especially gastro surgeries. Additionally, pain medicines can lead to a decrease in bowel movements. After some surgeries, doctors prefer putting patients on laxatives to reduce stress on the incisions. Food to avoid after surgery includes constipation inducing foods like -

  • Red meat including pork, lamb, beef, mutton, and veal
  • Cheese and dairy products
  • Processed grains
  • Food high in gluten

Fried or fatty foods

This one is a no-brainer. Fried and fatty foods are high in trans fat. These increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases. Having fried foods after surgery can increase blood pressure and cholesterol. Fried foods can also trigger nausea and vomiting, which can cause stress on the stitches. They are a NO after surgery.

Processed foods

Highly processed foods contain very few vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They may also have high levels of preservatives, sodium, fats, and sugars. One can avoid processed foods like frozen meat, frozen snack, cookies, sugary drinks, chips, and breakfast cereals.

Full-fat dairy products

Full-fat dairy products can cause constipation in patients who undergo gastrointestinal surgery, bowel, or general surgery. On top of that, dairy products like cheese can trigger nausea. One can opt for low-fat dairy food like skim milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt.


One should avoid alcohol after surgery, especially when taking pain medicines. The medicines and alcohol may interact with each other and decrease the potency of medicines. Alcohol also causes changes in blood’s ability to clot, making it problematic in case one starts bleeding.


Sticking to a diet ideal for the medical condition is an important aspect of recovering well. That doesn’t mean that one has to eliminate other food items. It means that one needs to choose foods hand-picked for their needs at that point.

After any surgery and before taking up any diet, one must discuss it with their dietician. The ultimate goal is to not eat less but to just eat right.

For information on DayToDay Health’s post-surgical care programs, connect with us at

Alexis den Boggende
Alexis den Boggende
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Olivia Casale
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Danny Biel
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