Liver Shrinking Pre-Op Diet

Weighing In With Whit

I have heard it referred to as the hardest part about having bariatric surgery {including post-op}. I also have seen hundreds of variations of what is allowed during these two weeks leading up your surgery date. I am going to share what my experience was like, but please keep in mind that what your surgeon requires during the pre-op diet may be very different than what mine required.

Before I dive into the specifics, the pre-op {commonly called the liver shrinking diet} prepares your body for surgery and improves surgical outcomes. Prior to preparing for this surgery I did not realize exactly where some of my internal organs sat. I knew they were there and they were functioning and I could only hope that my surgery didn’t turn into one of those bad outcomes from Grey’s Anatomy because Meredith Grey and Miranda Bailey are not employed by the hospital I would be having my surgery at and they wouldn’t be there to save the day {In case you couldn’t tell…I love Grey’s Anatomy}.

Anyways…the purpose of the diet is to deplete the glycogen in your liver, making the size of your liver smaller. Because the liver actually sits on top of your stomach and must be moved out of the way for this procedure, the smaller size makes laparoscopic surgery safer. The entire surgery is done through 5 incisions on your belly. There are factors that could lead to an open procedure, but I was lucky enough to not experience any of those.

I did fine with this diet. You may be surprised how full you actually are! I did experience “keto flu” about 8 days in and that made me sluggish for a couple days, but overall it was not a bad experience. I was able to lose 10 lbs. prior to my surgery on this diet. The key to succeeding on this diet for me was preparation, keeping myself busy, and ALWAYS having something to drink in my hand.

Liver Shrinking/Pre-Op Diet Requirements

Protein – 60 g daily minimum

  • 2 egg whites (cooked without oil or butter) or eggbeaters
  • 3 oz chicken (cooked without fat or breading) or water packed chicken breast
  • 3 oz fish (cooked without fat or breading) or water packed plain tuna
  • 1 cup yogurt (0% fat, no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 2 whey protein isolate shakes (20 g protein & less than 10 g carbs per shake
  • 16 oz skim milk or lactose free milk

Fruit – 3 servings a day allowed(approx. 15 g of carbs and 60 calories per serving) If using canned fruit there must be no added sugar, or unsweetened. Avoid fruit canned in heavy syrup and do not add sugar or honey to your fruit.

Vegetables – 3 servings a day allowed (approx. 5 g of carbs and 25 calories per serving). Serving size: 1/2 cup cooked or 1-cup raw. Do not add butter, bacon grease, oil or any type of fat. No breading. Avoid starchy vegetables.

Liquids in any amount – Water or sugar free flavored water; coffee and tea (with sugar substitute); fat free broth (beef, chicken or vegetable), sugar free popsicles, sugar free jello

Liquids in moderation – 1 cup low calorie or no calorie sports drink (ie. Powerade Zero or G2); 1 cup tomato juice/day

Sample menu that I used:


  • Eggbeaters (single-serve cups sold in packs of 4 at Wal-Mart)
  • 1 cup cubed cantaloupe
  • Coffee, black

Mid-Morning Snack:

  • 20 g whey protein isolate mixed in 1-cup skim milk {check back to see the variety of protein powders I chose}


  • 3 oz chicken (baked, boiled or grilled)
  • 1/2 cup cooked brussel sprouts {I bought a variety of steamer bags from the frozen section. It is also garden season so lots of fresh veggies this time of year for free!}
  • 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 3/4 blueberries

Afternoon Snack:

  • 20 g whey protein isolate mixed in 1-cup skim milk


  • 3 oz fish (baked, grilled or poached – NO breading) {I used canned tuna in water}
  • 1/2 cup cooked zucchini
  • 1 cup 0% plain greek yogurt {you don’t have to use greek, but I like it better}
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries

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