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Life in Motion

After Surgery: Nutrition Tips

Health & Prevention

Although a well-balanced diet is always important, after surgery, it is especially crucial you are mindful of what you eat as certain nutrients are known to be essential for healing. Additionally, patients who are well-nourished and healthy have a much lower risk of infection. To aid in the healing process, you will want to make sure your body gets increased amounts of calories, protein, and vitamins A and C. Your doctor may prescribe a special diet for you based on your medical problems, like heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes and it is important that you follow these diet instructions. NEBH surgeon Lisa Ferzoco, MD, offers some general but vital nutrition tips below.

  • Get your nutrients on! Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Zinc are all nutrients that are known to be needed in the healing of wounds. Vitamin A can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, orange or yellow vegetables, orange fruits, fortified dairy products and liver. Vitamin C can be found in Peppers, Kale, Kiwi, Broccoli, Berries and citrus fruit. Zinc can be found in pumpkin seeds, garlic, dark chocolate, sesame seeds and chickpeas, as well as seafood and red meat.
  • Up your protein intake! Try to eat at least 40 grams of protein daily. Foods that are rich in protein are meat, fish or poultry, beans, Greek yogurt, eggs, nuts or nut butter and tofu.
  • As a general tip, if you are not eating well, try taking 5-6 small meals per day instead of larger ones. This also increases your metabolism and is healthier!
  • Typically, some antibiotics and new medicines may result in changes in taste. In order to deal with this, you will need to experiment with a variety of foods – Cold, bland foods with little odor tend to work best.
  • A multivitamin in always a good idea to make up for any vitamins or minerals that you might be missing in your regular diet. The addition of iron will also help your red blood cell recover more quickly after surgery.
  • If you are having trouble meeting your nutrition needs with regular foods, nutritional supplements such as Boost, Ensure and Glucerna can be good options.
  • If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely. The best way to heal a wound is controlling your blood sugar.
  • If you find that you a losing weight or your appetite remains poor, consult with a Registered Dietician.

In addition to eating a healthy diet after surgery, if you smoke, think about quitting. Smokers require a longer recovery period and are at a higher risk of infection. For more information on healthy choices, visit choosemyplate.gov.

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