Post-Surgical Nutrition: Ideas for Easy Meals and Snacks

Post-Surgical Nutrition: Ideas for Easy Meals and Snacks

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Meals packed with important nutrients like protein and vitamin C can help support tissue growth and repair after surgery.

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Person adds chopped carrots to a pot of white bean and vegetable soup.

AUG. 24, 20232 MINUTE READ

Eating well is a fundamental aspect of maintaining good health, but when it comes to post-surgical nutrition, it takes on a whole new level of importance. After a surgical procedure, providing your body with adequate nutrients may help to support tissue repair, manage inflammation and support the immune system.

Nutrition After Surgery

According to guidelines that support nutrition as part of surgical recovery, consuming important nutrients before and after surgery may help lower rates of complications. Some of these nutrients include:

  • Protein: Your nutritional requirements after surgery may vary. For example, you may have reduced mobility following your procedure. Some muscle loss is normal post-surgery, so your body requires more dietary protein before and after surgery to preserve and rebuild muscle mass.

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays a critical role in the synthesis of collagen — the main component of your connective tissue. Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin C pre- and post-op may aid in wound healing and tissue repair.

  • Vitamin A: After surgery, your immune system is suppressed and can leave you vulnerable to infections. Vitamin A can support your immune system and aid in tissue repair.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Wound complications could happen post-surgery, potentially delaying your ability to fully recover. Omega-3s from fish oil may help recovery by mitigating inflammation.

Easy Post-Surgery Meal Ideas

The pathway to surgical recovery starts before you go in for your procedure. Since recommendations can vary based on the type of surgery, talk with your healthcare provider about your specific nutritional needs prior to and after surgery.

As for post-surgery, here are a few simple meal and snack ideas to incorporate important nutrients into your diet:

  • Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Burritos

    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Scramble 8 eggs and sauté your burrito fillings of choice (e.g., breakfast sausage, beans, onions, peppers, potatoes or cheese). Scoop the mixture into a tortilla and wrap it up in aluminum foil. Burritos can be stored in the freezer. To reheat, remove the burrito from the foil and place on a microwave-safe dish and cook until heated through.

    • Puréed Vegetable Soup

    Dice carrot, celery and onion. Combine the vegetables in a soup pot with vegetable broth and cannellini beans. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow time to cool. Place soup into blender and purée until consistency is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. This soup can be made prior to surgery and stored in the freezer.

    Quick Post-Surgery Snacks

    • Salmon or Tuna Salad Sandwich

    Mix canned salmon or tuna (drained) with mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt for extra protein and your favorite salad fixings. Serve on toasted whole-grain bread with a side of fruit.

    Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are a great way to get some omega-3 fatty acids, and this recipe requires minimal effort, making it easy to assemble post-surgery.

    • Greek Yogurt with Berries and Granola

    Top Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries and low-sugar granola. Add chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids.

    Greek yogurt with chia seeds makes for a great nutrient-dense breakfast or snack, since it includes protein, vitamin C and antioxidants.

    • Boiled Eggs

    Place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with an inch of cool water. Cover the pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium heat and let sit for 6 to 7 minutes for a perfect hard-boiled egg. Allow eggs to cool in a shallow ice bath for a few minutes to make them easier to peel.

    Eggs are a convenient source of high-quality protein for breakfast or a mid-day snack.

    Supplements to Support Healing

    Sometimes fatigue or a low appetite can make it challenging to stick to nutrition recommendations after surgery. Oral nutritional supplements such as Ensure® Surgery can help fill in any gaps and help you meet your nutritional needs for recovery from surgery.

    "Nutrition is important for surgical recovery, and adding an oral nutritional supplement to your post-surgery meal plan can help you get nutrients you need," said Bridget Cassady, Senior Research Scientist at Abbott Nutrition. "Ensure Surgery is specifically formulated with high-quality protein, arginine and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to help your body recover from surgery."

    Adequate nutrition after surgery is a critical component of recovery. Incorporating nutrients from food and oral nutritional supplements can fuel your body with what it needs to spring back.

    Keep in mind that your healthcare provider may give you specific post-operative instructions about what you can and cannot eat. Depending on the type of surgery you had, you may need to tailor recipes to suit your post-surgical nutrition needs. Make sure you understand your healthcare provider's post-care recommendations and reach out to them with any questions.

    Nutrition for Surgery Prep | Abbott Nutrition

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    In the U.S., the number of surgical procedures is increasing, with more than 30 million performed annually according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No matter what kind of surgery you may be having, preparing for one can raise a lot of questions and concerns.

    One of the most often asked questions is — to eat or not to eat? There was a long-held belief that patients should fast before surgery. Luckily, complete fasting before surgery may not always be a requirement. Today, scientific evidence and surgical guidelines recognize the benefits of perioperative nutrition. In fact, preparing for surgery is much like training for a marathon, taking a major physical and mental toll. That's why many believe that it's crucial to prepare by giving your body the strength and energy it needs to handle the stress of the operation and recovery. 

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    Eating Before and After Surgery | Abbott Nutrition

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    If you are about to undergo a surgery, such as a knee or hip replacement, running a marathon is likely the last thing on your mind. But having a major operation has a lot in common with running a marathon.

    During both, your body requires a lot of energy due to the significant amount of stress it is put under. The stress that happens during surgery can lead to weight and muscle loss, inflammation, poor wound healing and complications like infections. Yet, more and more research shows that having certain nutrition in the weeks and days before and after surgery can help reduce these risks for a swifter recovery.

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