This guide explores the best foods to eat after surgery to promote healing, and the foods you should stay away from.
When you think of ways to heal post-surgery, you probably think of things like medicines, therapies, dressings and treatments, and doctor’s visits – not your diet. And it’s true that what you eat isn’t going to magically heal a wound. But the fact is, the healthier your body is, and the healthier the way you treat your body is, the faster and more effectively it will heal. And the food that you give your body has a lot to do with how healthy it is. Believe it or not, there are some foods to eat after surgery that will promote faster healing, but there are also foods that you should avoid post-operation as well.
Eating the right foods after surgery – the kinds of foods that promote your own good health – will help speed recovery by giving your body the nutrients and energy that it needs to heal properly. Take a look at the best foods to eat after surgery, as well as some ideas on what to avoid.
1. Lean Proteins
Lean proteins are some of the best foods to eat after surgery. When it comes to wound healing, proteins contain amino acids that can help to regenerate tissue. Amino acids also promote the production of collagen, which helps to protect your skin, making it an important choice for patients who need their surgical wounds to stay infection-free as they heal.
There are a number of different sources of lean protein. Many people get this nutrient from meats like pork, chicken, turkey, and seafood.
But meat is not the only option for getting lean protein into your body. If you can’t eat a lot of it, don’t like it, or follow a plant-based diet, there are still many very accessible lean protein options. Consider nuts, soy, quinoa, hummus, beans, buckwheat, tofu, and vegetable protein if you want a meat-free protein alternative. Even a peanut butter sandwich can be a filling and easy form of protein for a person recovering from a surgery.
What Not to Eat:
Red meat contains protein as well, but it contains high levels of saturated fats, so it’s not typically recommended for post-surgical patients.
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains are also important foods to eat after surgery. What are whole grains? Often, thinking about whole grains means thinking about breakfast. Whole-grain cereals like oatmeal are easy to come by, simple to make, and full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to heal and thrive.
However, whole grains definitely don’t need to be restricted to breakfast. Whole-grain breads can be used to make a tasty sandwich for lunch, and various forms of rice – like wild rice, brown rice, pilaf, or risotto, are delicious with dinner, or any other time of the day. Barley is a good whole grain that can be combined with vegetables, protein, or both to make a healthy casserole, so if you’re looking to make something big that you can eat leftovers from for awhile while you rest, this is a good choice.
What Not to Eat:
Refined versions of grains carry minimal nutritional value and sometimes contain a lot of sugar as well. Avoid sugary cereals, white bread, and white rice. These are too processed to contain many of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to heal.
3. Low Fat Dairy
Low-fat dairy products also fall under protein, but they have an additional advantage for post-surgical patients – many of them are very easy to eat or add to your food to round it out and make sure you get your calorie counts.
Often, people lose their appetites after surgery, or just feel too tired to bother eating certain types of food. A carton of yogurt is easy to grab and eat when you need food but don’t feel up to cooking it – or just don’t feel up to a lot of chewing. The addition of some cottage cheese can turn some sliced peaches from a snack into a light lunch. Still having trouble getting your calories up? A skim-milk smoothie with fruit or some protein powder might be just the thing.
What Not to Eat:
Constipation is a major problem for some patients post-surgery. The surgery itself may be a shock to the digestive system, and the addition of pain medications, which tend to cause constipation as a side effect, can make it more difficult.
Dairy products, cheese in particular, can contribute to constipation, so avoid cheese – even low-fat cheese – in large amounts and high-fat dairy products until you’re sure that your digestive system is working normally. Also, be careful of any dairy if you have a cough or lung condition, as dairy products may cause lung secretions.
4. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of any diet, post-surgical or not. You should try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to get the full benefit of all the different nutrients they provide. But there are some specific fruits and vegetables that are included in our list of best foods to eat after surgery.
Berries contain antioxidants, which are useful for repairing damage to the body. So blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, as well as goji berries, pomegranates, and grapes, are all healthful and healing foods, as well as good sources of Vitamin C.
If you’re struggling with constipation post-surgery, try fiber-filled fruits like melons, apples, apricots, peaches, grapefruit, and papaya.
Leafy green lettuce like kale, romaine, spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, and Swiss chard are chock full of Vitamin C as well as A, E, and K. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting, so it’s especially important after surgery.
Sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bell peppers, and Brussel sprouts give you healthy carbohydrates, which can give you the energy that your body needs to recover.
What Not to Eat:
Fruits and vegetables are always good for you, but the closer they are to being whole foods, the more nutrients they retain. It’s OK to choose frozen or canned carrots if fresh ones aren’t available or won’t last long enough, but if you’re choosing canned carrot soup, you might be venturing into territory where the vegetable is too processed to get much out of it, and if you’re buying pre-made carrot cake, you’ve definitely gone too far away from the healthy choices in the grocery store.
A Post-Surgery Recovery Center Can Help
The right recovery care after a surgery can make all the difference. The Pearl Recovery Retreat is in the business of ensuring that patients get the diet, medical care, and rest they need to recover healthfully. During your stay at Pearl Recovery Retreat & Wellness, we provide you with all the best foods to eat after surgery, ensuring that your diet helps to increase recovery time.