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Information about your diet after surgery on your gut

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Eating and drinking after your gut surgery

Your surgical team will recommend a gradual return to drinking and then eating. For example, they will want to check that you can tolerate drinks before they suggest that you eat.

The rate at which you can return to your usual diet depends on the type of surgery you have had, and your gut’s response to your surgery. Everyone is different and gut function takes longer to return in some people than in others. Your team will let you know when you can progress to the next stage.

What can I eat and drink after surgery?

Stage 1. Clear fluids (CF)

Water, tea/coffee without milk, herbal tea, clear fruit juice e.g. apple juice, clear fruit squash e.g. elderflower, flavoured still water, jelly, Fortijuice, Bovril/Marmite drinks (made with hot water).

Stage 2. Free fluids (FF) includes any clear fluids plus: Tea/coffee with milk, milk, milky drinks e.g. milkshakes, fruit smoothies*, fruit juice*, yogurt*, ice cream, soup*, Meritene shake, Meritene soup, Forticreme/Fortisip/Fortisip Compact.

*no bits e.g. no fruit pips/seeds/pulp/pith, small pieces of vegetables in soup.

Stage 3. Light diet (LD)

Introduce small portions of soft and low fibre foods by selecting foods from the ‘Foods to choose’ column of the tables on pages 4-6. Fibrous foods are normally recommended as part of a healthy diet. The fibre helps to move food and fluids through the bowel and adds bulk to stools. However, for the first week or two after gut surgery, a diet lower in fibre is likely to be better tolerated.

The Light Diet: sample day meal plan.

For your first day of the Light Diet on the ward, you could choose:


  • Small bowl of low fibre cereal.
  • Slice of white bread toast.
  • Butter and yeast extract.
  • White roll, butter and seedless jam.
  •  A thick and creamy yogurt.


  • Banana snack.
  • Rice pudding pot.
  • A thick and creamy yogurt.
  • A plain biscuit.


  • Tomato or chicken soup and a white bread roll.
  • Ocean pie.
  • Plain ham/egg/cheese sandwich (white bread).
  • Chocolate sponge (or any plain sponge pudding).


  • Cheese and biscuits snack.
  • Milkshake Jelly and ice cream.


  • Plain or cheese omelette (no vegetables).
  • Mashed potato and gravy.
  • Small portion of shepherd’s pie or lasagne.
  • Ice cream and jelly.

From day 2 onwards choose similar foods but start to increase your portion sizes. Start to introduce small portions of well-cooked root vegetables such as carrots and swede, and tinned peeled fruit e.g. pear/peach slices.

See ‘Stage 4. Return to your usual diet’ for tips on how to build up your diet so you’re eating normally for you.

Types of food Foods to choose
Foods to avoid
and flour
White bread and rolls
English muffin
White crackers e.g. cream
crackers, water biscuits or
Wholemeal, wholegrain,
granary or seeded bread
and rolls
50:50 bread
Bread or bread products
with nuts, seeds, or dried
Wholemeal crackers
e.g. Ryvita

Corn flakes
Frosted flakes
Rice Krispies
Puffed wheat
Oat based cereals e.g.
rolled oat porridge, Ready

Bran based cereals
e.g. All Bran, Branflakes
Wholewheat cereals
e.g. Shreddies, Shredded
Wheat, Weetabix
Cereals containing dried
fruit or nuts e.g. granola,
muesli, crunchy nut flakes
Starchy foods White rice
White pasta or noodles
Potatoes without their skins
e.g. boiled, mashed or
Couscous or bulgur wheat
Brown rice
Wholemeal pasta
or noodles
Wholegrains e.g. quinoa,
pearl barley
The skins of potatoes
Hard, soft
or cream cheese
Crème fraiche
Fromage frais
Yoghurt with pips, nuts,
or seeds
Cheese with fruit or nuts
Aim for
2 portions
per day
Most well cooked, soft
or mashable vegetables
without the peel or seeds
Passata (sieved tomato)
Vegetable based soups
Raw or lightly cooked
Vegetables with seeds
e.g. cucumber or tomato
Vegetables with skins
or husks e.g. peas,
sweetcorn, celery
High fibre vegetables
e.g. mushrooms, spinach,
Beans, pulses
and legumes
Aim for
2 portions
per day
Soft, ripe, peeled fruit
without seeds, pips and
stalks e.g. banana, peach,
plum or apple
Most canned or cooked
fruits e.g. fruit cocktail
Citrus fruits
Berries e.g. blackberries
or strawberries
Dried fruit
Fruit juice with bits
Smoothies that contain
whole blended fruits
Nuts and
Smooth peanut butter All nuts and seeds
Crunchy peanut butter
Types of food Foods to choose
Foods to avoid
Meat, fish and
Lean meat
Eggs e.g. poached,
scrambled, omelette
Quorn and meat-free mince
or pieces
Tofu and tempeh
Meat based soups
Tough, gristly meat
Fatty or fried meats
High fat processed meats
e.g. sausages, burgers,
Fried eggs
Desserts Custard
Ice cream
Sponge pudding
Milk puddings e.g. mousse,
rice pudding, Crème
Stewed / tinned fruit (see
above for details)
Puddings with dried fruit,
nuts, seeds or coconut
Snacks Plain biscuits
Plain cake and scones
Confectionery e.g. fudge
Biscuit, cakes or scones
made with wholemeal flour
Oat biscuits/flapjacks
Cereal bars
Biscuits, cakes and
chocolate with nuts, seeds
or dried fruit
Drinks Smooth fruit juice
Fizzy drinks
Tea, coffee or fruit tea
Fried foods
Miscellaneous Jelly jam
Shredless marmalade
Lemon curd
Honey or syrup
Sauces e.g. Ketchup,
brown sauce, mustard,
Soy sauce
Salad dressings e.g.
mayonnaise or vinaigrette
Jam with bits
Marmalade with shred
Pickles and chutneys

If you need to follow this diet for a longer period of time (e.g. more than a month) your medical/surgical team or dietitian will advise.

Stage 4. Return to your usual diet.

When you no longer need a Light Diet, increase the size of your food portions and the amount of fibre in your diet.

If you have returned home while eating a Light Diet, you may wonder when you can start stage 4. The best guide is how you are tolerating your Light Diet.

If you feel you could eat larger portions, first eat larger portions of the Light Diet foods. If you tolerate these larger portions, then gradually include some of the higher fibre foods in the ‘Foods to avoid’ column of the tables on pages 4-6. The best way to start is to change from white to wholemeal bread for 1 week. Then try higher-fibre fruits and vegetables for a week, and finally introduce other foods such as nuts and seeds.

Following surgery you need more energy and protein to heal wounds and fight infection (up to 20% more). If you are struggling your dietitian may advise nutritional supplements

Do you have any other useful tips?

  • Eat little and often. Smaller meals with snacks may be easier to manage.
  • Chew food well.
  • Ensure you are drinking plenty. Aim for 8 -10 cups/glasses of fluid a day.
  • To ensure you get enough vitamin C consider including a glass of fruit juice or vitamin C enriched squash daily.
  • Some people find high fat foods are poorly tolerated and therefore may be best avoided e.g. fried or fatty foods.
  • Caffeine can increase the speed that foods and fluids move through the bowel. Consider choosing decaffeinated drinks.
  • If you are on the Light Diet for more than a month, and are unable to manage 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, you may need a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Speak with your doctor, GP or dietitian for further advice.

Contact details

The Royal Sussex County Hospital

Eastern Road
East Sussex

Telephone 01273 696955

Dietitians extension 64290

The Princess Royal Hospital

Lewes Road
Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH16 4EX

Telephone 01444  441881

Dietitians extension 68313

This leaflet is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.

The information in this leaflet is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

Publication Date: May 2021

Review Date: February 2024

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