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Nutrition and Surgery

The outcomes of surgery are strongly related to your nutrition status before and after surgery. It is very important to eat a well-balanced diet prior to surgery including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and an adequate amount of protein. Vitamins, minerals and protein are vital to the healing process.

An optimal diet can also help reduce the risk of infection, reduce your length of stay in hospital and reduce complications such as chest infection and urinary tract infections.

If you are able to, it is recommended that you follow these guidelines at least 3 weeks prior to surgery or as long as possible before surgery to optimize your nutrition for a faster recovery (in consultation with your specialist).

Eat 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day

One serving of fruit is one piece of fruit (such as a medium apple or orange) or ½ cup of canned or frozen fruit. One serving of vegetables is ½ cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins and antioxidants. This supports the body’s immune system before, during and after surgery. Frozen vegetables and fruit are good to have available when shopping frequently is not possible, for example for the first couple of weeks after surgery.

Eat 6-11 servings of whole grain foods every day

One serving is considered one slice of whole wheat bread, ½ cup of brown rice, ½ cup of wheat pasta or ½ cup of whole grain cereal.

Whole grains also contain B vitamins essential to building the immune system and aids the healing process.

Eat a variety of protein containing foods at meal and snacks

Protein contains essential amino acids that are vital to the healing process. The body’s protein status prior to surgery also influences the recovery time.

Good sources of protein include, meats, fish, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, tofu and dairy products.

Use fats, oils and sweets sparingly

Choose healthier fats if you can such as, canola and olive oil.

Avoid fried foods where possible. Excess fat and sugar contain empty calories that do not provide the body with any nutrients.

Drink plenty of water in the 3 weeks before surgery

Staying well hydrated will help the recovery process. It will also help during the period of time right before surgery when water is not allowed.

A general goal for daily water consumption is about 8 glasses per day (unless you are on a fluid restriction schedule as directed by your medical practitioner).

Go grocery shopping the week before surgery

You may want to to consider shopping for groceries online if you are not able to go shopping yourself. Having plenty of meals prepared will help maintain a healthy eating plan when you go home after your surgery during the recovery period.

Focus on shelf stable items with fewer perishable items for a couple of weeks until you feel more able to shop for and /or prepare meals yourself.

Ensure you tell your specialist if you are taking any vitamins, minerals, herbs or other over the counter products and medications you may be taking. Some of these may be harmful during surgery and it is best to stop taking them prior to surgery.

The pre- surgery instructions given by your doctor are meant to minimise complications before and after surgery. You must follow these instructions carefully and ask if you are not sure about anything.

There will be some restrictions on food and beverage intake as the surgery date / time approaches. Generally speaking, you will stop eating solid foods six hours prior to your anaesthetic and stop drinking clear fluids two hours prior to anaesthetic. Your specialist will advise you of specific requirements.

If you are to have any bowel preparation prior to your surgery, you will be given clear instructions at your specialist appointment.

Further reading


DISCLAIMER This fact sheet provides general information only. For specific advice about your baby or your healthcare needs, you should seek advice from your health professional. Burnside Hospital does not accept any responsibility for loss or damage arising from your reliance on this fact sheet instead of seeing a health professional. If you or your baby require urgent medical attention, please contact your nearest emergency department.

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Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Seek advice from an appropriately qualified health practitioner before proceeding with any procedure.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Seek advice from an appropriately qualified health practitioner before proceeding with any procedure.