Can you eat cheese on liver shrinking diet?

The liver shrinking diet, also known as a low calorie diet, is often recommended before weight loss surgery to help reduce the size of the liver. This makes the surgery easier and safer for the patient. Many patients wonder if they can include cheese as part of this diet, since cheese is high in fat and calories. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine if and how cheese can be incorporated into a liver shrinking diet.

What is the liver shrinking diet?

The liver shrinking diet is a very low calorie diet, usually providing 800-1000 calories per day. It typically lasts for 2-4 weeks leading up to bariatric or weight loss surgery. The goal is to decrease the size of the liver to make the surgery easier for the surgeon to access the stomach. A smaller liver is also safer for the patient during surgery.

This rapid weight loss helps to:

– Shrink the liver size
– Reduce fat around the stomach and organs
– Improve access to the stomach during surgery
– Reduce operating time
– Reduce risk of surgical complications

Foods allowed on liver shrinking diet

Since the main priority is to restrict calories, the diet is limited to mostly high protein foods like:

– Lean protein: chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, eggs
– Low carb vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers
– Small amounts of berries
– Non-starchy veggies like carrots, celery, peppers
– Clear broths and sugar-free gelatin

Foods to avoid include:

– High calorie foods like fats, oils, dried fruit, nuts
– Starchy vegetables: potatoes, corn, peas
– Fruits and fruit juices
– Breads, pasta, rice, grains
– Sweets and desserts
– Full fat dairy products like whole milk, cheese, cream
– Packaged and processed foods
– Sugary drinks

The diet requires high discipline, but it is only for a short period of time leading up to surgery. The rapid weight loss can help jumpstart the weight loss journey.

Can you eat cheese on a liver shrinking diet?

Cheese is high in calories and fat, so it is usually excluded from a traditional liver shrinking diet. One ounce of cheddar cheese provides 114 calories and 9g of fat. Butter and cream cheese are even higher in calories and fat.

However, small amounts of low fat cheese may be allowed in moderation. Options could include:

– Part skim mozzarella: About 80 calories and 5g fat per ounce
– Low fat cottage cheese: 100 calories and 2g fat per serving
– Feta cheese: 75 calories and 6g fat per ounce
– Parmesan: 85 calories and 6g fat per ounce

The key is limiting portion sizes to 1 ounce or less per serving. Measure precisely using a food scale. Spread thinly over vegetables or protein foods rather than eating cheese alone.

Avoid using high calorie, high fat cheeses like cheddar, Monterey jack, brie, havarti, swiss, and bleu cheese. Their calories and fat quickly add up.

Also beware of cheeses melted on top of foods or in recipes, like on casseroles or pizza. The large amount of cheese adds extra calories.

Benefits of including some cheese

While cheese is high in calories and fat compared to other protein foods, consuming small portions can provide some benefits:

– Adds flavor and variety: Cheese enhances the taste of allowed foods on the limited diet. A sprinkle of parmesan over a salad or vegetables can satisfy cravings.

– Nutritional value: Cheese provides protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. These nutrients are important when calories are restricted.

– Keeps you full: The protein and fat in cheese improves satiety compared to very low calorie meals. This may prevent overeating later.

– Easy portable option: Pre-portioned part skim mozzarella or cottage cheese can be eaten on the go.

– Compliance with diet: Including small amounts of cheese can improve satisfaction and sustainability with the restrictive meal plan.

As long as portion sizes are strictly controlled, a small daily serving of reduced fat cheese can be included as part of a liver shrinking diet. Track calories diligently to avoid overeating.

Cheese alternatives

For those wanting to avoid cheese altogether, there are some substitutions that can mimic the creaminess and flavor:

– Greek yogurt: Provides protein, calcium, and creamy texture. Choose unsweetened plain and limit to 1/4 cup per serving.

– Ricotta cheese: Lower in fat than cheddar or mozzarella. Use 2 tablespoons in a recipe.

– Nutritional yeast: Adds a cheesy umami flavor when sprinkled on foods. Provides vitamin B12.

– Pureed cauliflower: Can be used like cream cheese or cheese sauce when blended. Much lower in calories.

– Tofu: Blend silken tofu to make a creamy salad dressing or sour cream.

– Vegan cheese: Check labels for lowest fat options made from nut milks like cashew.

– Avocado: Pureed avocado can mimic the richness of cheese, with the benefit of healthy fats.

While you will need to avoid most cheese on a liver shrinking diet, you have some lower calorie options if you carefully watch portions. Limit to 1 ounce of reduced fat cheese per day. Measure precisely and track calories to avoid excess.

Sample meal plan with cheese

Here is a sample one day meal plan with liver shrinking diet foods including a small amount of low fat cheese:

– 1 poached egg (70 cal)
– 1/2 grapefruit (52 cal)
– 1 oz low fat mozzarella (80 cal)
– Black coffee

– 3 oz grilled chicken breast (140 cal)
– Salad with 1 cup greens, cucumbers, peppers (25 cal)
– 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (15 cal)
– 1 Tbsp part skim ricotta (20 cal)

– 3 oz baked cod (90 cal)
– 1 cup roasted cauliflower (30 cal)
– 1 tsp Parmesan cheese (20 cal)
– 1 cup broth-based vegetable soup (60 cal)

– 1 oz part skim mozzarella stick (80 cal)
– Cucumber slices

Total calories: About 680

This provides about 80 grams of protein, under 30g net carbs, and a good balance of nutrients. The small amounts of cheese add flavor and variety.


It is essential to follow your doctor’s recommendations closely leading up to surgery. While this sample meal plan suggests including small portions of reduced fat cheese, be sure to check with your healthcare team about appropriate foods for your specific diet plan.

Here are some precautions with cheese on a liver shrinking diet:

– Weigh or measure cheese portions precisely. Overestimating servings can quickly increase calories.

– Opt for reduced fat versions and limit to 1 ounce maximum per day.

– Spread thinly over other foods rather than eating cheese alone.

– Avoid full fat, processed and high calorie cheese products. Read labels.

– Don’t cook with cheese or include in recipes unless calories are accounted for. Melting cheese increases the amount you will eat.

– Check with your doctor before making any substitutions to the recommended diet.

Results of the liver shrinking diet

When followed consistently for 2-4 weeks before surgery, the liver shrinking diet can significantly decrease liver volume.

Studies have shown:

– 15% reduction in liver size within 2 weeks (1)
– Decreased liver span by 4 cm after 4 weeks (2)
– 93% of patients lost liver size as recommended by surgeons (3)

This liver and weight loss prior to surgery can:

– Reduce complications during surgery
– Minimize risk of bleeding and liver injury
– Shorten operating room time
– Allow better access and visibility during surgery
– Reduce pain and recovery time after surgery

Sticking closely to the liver shrinking diet is well worth the effort leading up to your procedure.

Maintaining diet and weight loss after surgery

The rapid weight loss before surgery helps kickstart your healthier lifestyle, but the real work begins after surgery. Significant behavior changes are required to continue losing weight and keep it off long-term.

After recovering from surgery, be sure to:

– Follow your surgeon’s dietary guidelines
– Eat only small portions slowly and chew thoroughly
– Avoid snacking and grazing between meals
– Focus on getting adequate protein and nutrients
– Take prescribed vitamins and supplements
– Stay hydrated with adequate fluids
– Exercise regularly as approved
– Get enough sleep and manage stress
– Seek counseling or support if struggling emotionally or with motivation

Continuing healthy habits after surgery can lead to successful maintained weight loss for years. Don’t become complacent. Follow all medical advice and stay focused each day.


The liver shrinking diet is an intensive low calorie meal plan designed to rapidly decrease liver size and fat stores prior to weight loss surgery. While cheese is high in calories and fat compared to other protein foods, small portions of reduced fat cheese can be incorporated into the diet in moderation.

Limit cheese to 1 ounce maximum per day. Weigh or measure precisely to avoid underestimating calories. Spread thinly over other foods rather than eating alone. Stick to the diet diligently for 2-4 weeks leading up to surgery, as reducing liver volume can minimize risks and complications. Continue healthy eating habits after surgery for ongoing sustainable weight management.


1. Alami RS, Morton JM, Schuster R, Lie J, Sanchez BR, Peters A, Curet MJ. Is there a benefit to preoperative weight loss in gastric bypass patients? A prospective randomized trial. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2007 Mar-Apr;3(2):141-5.

2. Colles SL, Dixon JB, Marks P, Strauss BJ, O’Brien PE. Preoperative weight loss with a very-low-energy diet: quantitation of changes in liver and abdominal fat by serial imaging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;84(2):304-11.

3. Papalazarou A, Yannakoulia M, Kavouras SA, Komesidou V, Dimitriadis G, Papakonstantinou A, Sidossis LS. Lifestyle intervention favorably affects weight loss and maintenance following obesity surgery. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Jun;18(6):1148-53.

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