(Edited by: Janet Klein MS, RDN, CDN, CDCES)

Pre-Surgery Diet Changes

Before surgery, begin to take a look at your dietary intake and think about where you can start to make healthier changes to prepare for surgery. There is no need to do anything extreme like cutting out all carbohydrates completely – going cold turkey is difficult and usually unpleasant for most people. Instead, begin by making gradual changes. For example, if you are eating 2 cups of rice at a meal, start to reduce it to 1 ½ cups, then 1 cup, then ¾ cup, and so on. This will give your body (and mind) time to get used to a lower carbohydrate intake, which will continue post-operatively. Patients that make the suggested changes to their lifestyle before surgery are the most successful after surgery, as the changes have had time to become a habit. 

Examples of Suggested Dietary Changes:

  • Do not skip meals
  • Eliminate sugary beverages and switch to sugar free/diet beverages
  • Avoid fried food and fast food
  • Choose leaner protein sources
  • Have protein at each meal
  • Decrease caffeine intake
  • Increase non-starchy vegetable consumption
  • Have 1 serving of fruit/day
  • Prepare more meals at home instead of take out
  • Begin to take a daily multivitamin


Protein is essential for many bodily functions including:

  • Tissue structure
  • Hormone regulation
  • Metabolism
  • Balancing the acid/base environment within our body

The amount of protein each person needs varies and depends on age, height, weight, gender, and level of physical activity. Most people need between 10-35% of their total daily calories to come from protein (ex. 30% of 2,000 calories = 150 grams of protein/day).

Our bodies do not store protein, so it must be consumed in adequate amounts on a regular basis, or our bodies will begin to break down muscle tissue to get what it needs to function properly. You will not be able to build new muscle tissue without eating enough protein. When it comes to protein, the food source matters. Processed meats like hot dogs and fast-food high-fat burgers do contain protein; but they are also high in unhealthy saturated fat, calories, and sodium.

Better Protein Choices:

  • Skinless chicken and turkey (choose light meat – breast, over dark meat – leg & thigh, which is higher in fat)
  • Lean cuts of beef and pork
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Low fat dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Tofu

Here is a sample menu for the first phase of the pre-surgery diet:

Breakfast Ideas

  • Protein shake
  • Low sugar, low fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
  • Eggs and/or egg whites with low fat cheese
  • Turkey/chicken breakfast sausage
  • Low sugar oatmeal with cinnamon and nuts
  • Thin sliced whole grain toast with avocado & sliced tomato

Lunch Ideas

  • 4oz. Tuna fish prepared with light mayonnaise over bed of lettuce with low fat dressing/lemon juice
  • 4oz. Chicken with asparagus & cauliflower rice
  • Chicken & vegetable soup
  • Low sodium deli meat and cheese with lettuce and tomato in a low carb wrap

Snack Ideas

  • 1 cup fruit
  • Raw vegetables with 2 Tbsp. hummus or low-fat ranch dip
  • Sugar free Jell-O or pudding
  • No sugar added popsicle
  • 100 calorie pack of nuts

Dinner Ideas

  • 4oz. Salmon with broccoli and ½ cup beans or rice
  • 4oz. Pork tenderloin with zucchini and ½ cup roasted potatoes 

Once your surgery date is 15 days out you will begin the second phase of the pre-op diet:

  • Breakfast
    • Protein shake
  • Snack
    • 1 cup fruit
  • *Lunch
    • Protein shake
  • Snack
    • 1 cup chicken broth
  • *Dinner
    • 4oz lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey, beef, pork, tofu)
    • 1 cup cooked non-starchy vegetables
    • 1 cup salad with low fat dressing or 2 tsps. olive oil & vinegar/lemon juice
  • Snack
    • Sugar free Jell-o

*Lunch and dinner are interchangeable.

Be sure to drink 64 oz. total of non-carbonated sugar-free beverages throughout the day.

It takes time and consistency for new changes to become a habit. Giving yourself as much variety with your food choices as you can will prevent boredom and flavor fatigue as time goes on. Change up the type of protein and vegetables you are eating instead of eating the same thing over and over! Don’t forget to use different types of seasoning, use healthy preparation methods, and/or low-calorie sauces or marinades to keep your taste buds satisfied.  The sooner you begin eating a healthier, balanced diet, the easier the transition will be post-operatively. 

Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Baulick, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-2830 or

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