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How will eating change after surgery?
Immediately following surgery you will be placed on a 4-phase diet. The goal of this stage after surgery is to let your pouch heal with smaller portions while still getting enough protein to lose weight and heal.
The 4 Phases of this diet are:
Phase 1 – Liquids Only
Phase 2 – Pureed Foods
Phase 3 – Soft Solids
Phase 4 – Stabilization – full bariatric diet
The finer details can differ slightly based on your practice and surgeon, but the overall format should be the same as above.
It’s pretty clear that salads do not fit in either the Liquid Phase or the Pureed Phase. Maybe not even the Soft Food Phase.
It’s commonplace for you to wait until the last phase in the 4 phase diet until you introduce salad into your diet…
Why it could be 3 months or longer before you can eat salad
Around 12 weeks after your Gastric Sleeve, you will be in the final phase of your 4-phase diet.
By this time you will have added back most foods and even started eating solid foods again.
However, salads can still be a little tricky here.
Up until now, if you have eaten any fruits or vegetables, they should have been cooked until soft and had any skin, seeds, or membranes removed to help avoid digestive issues.
Since salads are typically made of raw fruits and vegetables they can be more difficult to digest. And since you had bariatric surgery your ability to digest foods has changed and will take some time to adjust.
If you’re cleared by your surgeon or dietitian to eat salad here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Start Small – Start out with a smaller side salad. Don’t go for the full-sized salad for your full meal. If a small salad goes well and doesn’t cause any gastrointestinal (or other) issues, then try a slightly bigger salad next time. No need to rush, salad isn’t going anywhere.
- Chew each bite thoroughly – like with any food after surgery, make sure you are thoroughly chewing each bite before swallowing to help avoid GI and digestive issues.
- Portion size – don’t forget that your stomach is 80% smaller so you probably won’t be able to eat an entire salad at one sitting. Don’t overeat, even with a salad.
- Consider ordering a side or half salad instead of a whole salad
- Add lean protein – add grilled chicken or even hard-boiled eggs to your salad to increase your protein intake.
- Avoid high-fat dressings – there are plenty of low-calorie salad dressings to choose from, so don’t just automatically reach for the ranch.
- You can also ask for the dressing on the side so you know exactly how much you are using
- Toppings add up – a common misconception is that a salad is a healthy choice no matter what. What you add to your salad can quickly add unwanted calories and turn your once healthy choice into a high-calorie bad decision.
- Cheese, bacon, croutons, etc…
Salad options for post-gastric sleeve surgery
Salads are one of those deceiving foods. They have a positive stigma for being “Health Food” regardless of its contents. It’s fresh, raw food so it feels healthy. But salad-eater beware, there are salad landmines out there that can get you into trouble if you’re not careful…
To make it a little easier, we are going to take a look at two restaurants that have a wide variety of salad options and show you good choices vs. bad choices. This should help you get a feel and an idea of what to look for and what to avoid when eating out.
Panera: Bad salad choices
Whole Caesar Salad – as you can see from the nutritional information, this salad might only be 340 calories, but it offers very little protein compared to the high-fat content.
- Calories: 340
- Protein: 10g
- Fat: 26g
- Carbs: 18
Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad with Chicken – this salad definitely looks and sounds amazing! But, if you pay attention to nutrition, which we do, you can see that it is 680 calories, and is high in fat and carbs.
- Calories: 680
- Protein: 39g
- Fat: 36g
- Carbs: 54g
Panera: Good salad choices
Whole Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken – this salad has around the same calories as the caesar salad, but it has almost 3x the protein and half the fat. Great choice!
- Calories: 360
- Protein: 29g
- Fat: 14g
- Carbs: 34
Half Spicy Thai Salad with Chicken – by choosing the half portion, you cut the calories in half while also keeping high protein and lower fat. If you opt for the full version, just remember you might not be able to eat the whole thing.
- Calories: 240
- Protein: 19g
- Fat: 10g
- Carbs: 21g
Wendy’s: Bad salad choices
Full Taco Salad – as you can see from the nutritional information, this salad is high in calories, fat, and carbs. We suggest steering clear of this one!
- Calories: 690
- Protein: 30g
- Fat: 34g
- Carbs: 68g
Full Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad – although this salad is high in protein and low in carbs, the fat content is pretty high and it is over 500 calories.
- Calories: 530
- Protein: 43g
- Fat: 34g
- Carbs: 15g
Wendy’s: Good salad choices
Half Summer Strawberry Salad – this is a great choice, especially considering you can pick it up at a drive-thru. As you can see below, the dressing adds extra calories, fat, and carbs. If you don’t want to use the entire packet, try using half and saving half for another day or throw it out.
- Calories: 240 (salad), 60 (dressing) – 300 total
- Protein: 23g (salad), 0g (dressing) – 23g total
- Fat: 13g (salad), 3g (dressing) – 16g total
- Carbs: 12g (salad), 7g (dressing) – 19g total
Half Apple Pecan Chicken Salad – even though this salad has a little more fat then we would like to see, it does provide high protein and lower calories. If you wanted to lower the fat content, you could always remove some of the pecans and blue cheese crumbles.
- Calories: 340 (salad), 60 (dressing) – 400 total
- Protein: 24g (salad), 0g (dressing) – 24g total
- Fat: 20g (salad), 2g (dressing) – 22g total
- Carbs: 20g (salad), 10g (dressing) – 30g total
Of course, these are not the only salad options you have at your disposal. But this is a good starting point for you and you can see a trend here.
Lookout for fatty dressings and high carb additives to salads. Keep it light and simple and add protein.
If you want some healthy salad recipes you can make at home check these out:
Final thoughts: Can you eat salad after gastric sleeve?
Of course, you’ll be able to eat salad after your gastric sleeve surgery, it just has to be added into your diet at the right time, that’s all.
Follow your 4-Phase Diet diligently so when the time comes you’ll be able to start eating salads again (if you want).
Salads can be a part of your diet after bariatric surgery, just make sure you are introducing them back into your diet at the right time and in a health/diet-conscious way!