Good nutrition is the foundation of a healthy life and can help ensure the best outcome from surgery. We frequently give good advice on what foods you need to eat to heal, but the weeks before surgery are equally important.
The building blocks you need to have on hand before surgery are:
- Protein: Protein provides building blocks for muscle, bone and our immune system. You need to have at least 2-3 servings of protein each day. Good quality protein is easiest to obtain from animal products like meat, fish, poultry and dairy. It is more difficult to get adequate protein from vegan sources and the amino acids may not be in the optimal ratio. A serving is one cup of milk, or 3-4 ounces of protein.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Include 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables to provide the vitamins and minerals needed to repair collagen, muscle, bones and cartilage. A serving is ½ cup of fruits or vegetables or one cup of leafy greens.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains provide B vitamins to enhance your immune system and combat physical stress. Include 4-6 servings of whole grains each day. A serving is approximately ½ cup or a slice of bread.
Consider reducing or eliminating foods that do not provide additional nutrition and may add stress to the body. This includes regular sodas and desserts, caffeine and alcohol. These foods create more stress on the body and may actually deplete nutrients from the body.
After surgery, the same principles hold true to help with the healing process. You will also have higher calorie needs for healing after surgery. This is not the time to diet! Other specialized needs after surgery include:
- If your appetite is affected, try eating smaller, more frequent meals. Limit fat as it slows the digestive system and may make you feel less hungry or bloated.
- Eat more fiber. Less activity and pain medications can cause constipation.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid each day to help avoid constipation.