Diet and Surgery for pancreatic cancer

You will be assessed prior to surgery by your medical team.  If you have been losing weight you may be advised to try to build up your weight and strength before the operation. If you notice your stools become pale, floaty and smell offensive, notify your doctor/dietitian as you may not be absorbing the nutrients from your food and you could need digestive enzyme supplements.

Suggestions to help you gain or maintain weight are:

These changes to your diet will help you to maintain your weight and strength in preparation for surgery and for recovery from surgery. This may feel strange to you at first, especially if you are used to eating foods low in fat and sugar.

Eating after surgery

After some operations you will be advised not to eat for a few days to let your system heal. When your doctors are happy for you to take things by mouth, you will be given water to sip followed by the gradual introduction of a light diet then, after a few days, a normal diet.

When you are able to eat enough, your doctors may prescribe pancreatic enzymes to help you digest your food. Your medical team and dietitian will tell you how to take these.

Eating a light diet

During the first week after surgery, your medical team and dietitian will help you to start eating a light diet. Nurses will be able to provide useful information about what foods to try. Generally this is soft, moist and easily digested food.  Suggestions include:


  • Porridge, cornflakes or rice crispies
  • White bread and butter or spread
  • Smooth apple or orange juice
 Main meals:

  • Soup, white bread and butter or spread
  • White fish, mince, mash, soft pasta
  • Mousse, custard or milky puddings (e.g. creamed rice)
  • Bananas or fruit compotes
 Snack Meals:

  • Jelly, mousse or yoghurts
  • Chocolate (no nuts or dried fruit)
  • Crème caramel,
  • Soft crisps (Skips, Quavers, etc),
  • Bagel with soft cheese

Foods to avoid on a light diet:

Fizzy drinks

Avoid fizzy drinks until you are on a normal diet.

This is because fizzy drinks can make you bloated (which can be sore after an operation) and which can reduce your appetite. Fizzy drinks can cause pain if drunk in the weeks immediately following surgery.

Nutritional supplements

nutritional supplementsSome people need additional high protein or high energy supplements to help them recover from the operation. If you cannot manage to take in enough nourishment from your diet alone you should be referred to a dietitian for individual advice.

Your dietitian may recommend that you try a high calorie protein supplement or drink and ask your doctor to give you a prescription for these. These boost your day-to-day calories and protein and help to give you the strength you need for your recovery.

Click here for more information about nutritional supplements.

Further advice for eating after surgery

It can take time to return to normal after some surgical procedures. It is advisable to try to eat little and often, with lots of small snacks and high energy drinks between meals.

You will need to ensure you are getting enough energy and protein from your food so try to avoid watery soups, too much fruit and vegetables and large drinks at mealtimes.

Suggested foods following surgery:


  • Small bowl of porridge (add cream/jam/honey)
  • Small glass of fruit juice
  • Creamy yoghurt
  • Scrambled egg
  • Small bowl of cereal with full-fat milk
 Main Meals

  • Small portion of meat with potatoes, rice or pasta
  • Small portion of vegetables
  • Fish in sauce
  • Mince with mashed potato
  • Corned beef hash
  • Soft pasta with creamy sauce
  • Jacket potato with cheese/tuna and mayo
  • Ice cream with sauce
  • Sponge and custard
  • Mousse
  • Crème caramel
 Snack Meals

  • Scrambled eggs made with full-fat milk and butter
  • Creamy soup with croutons and toast and butter
  • Thick and creamy yoghurt or mousse dessert

  • Hot chocolate (milk based)
  • Fruit juice
  • Milky coffee

  • Small piece of cake
  • Milky coffee
  • Biscuits
  • Glass of milk
  • Crumpet with butter
  • Scone with jam
  • Mousse
  • Yoghurt
  • Packet of crisps
  • Chocolate bar
  • Cheese and biscuits
  • Dried fruit and nuts

Always check with your dietitian or medical team if you are unsure of what type of diet you should be on.

The information provided in this site, or through links to other websites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care and should not be relied upon as such. Read our disclaimer.

Sources and references for this information product will be supplied on request. Please contact us quoting the Information Product number below:

Information Product No. PCA0015v1 | Published: 01/06/2015 | Last Updated: 01/10/2015 | Next Review Due: 01/06/2018