What Can I Eat After a Thyroidectomy?

After Thyroid Surgery, What Foods to Choose

Woman drinking glass of green juice in kitchen
Woman drinking glass of green juice in kitchen. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

If you're having a thyroidectomy to treat thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, goiter, or thyroid nodules, you might be wondering how to prepare for the recovery period. Specifically, you may wonder what you can and can't eat.  

In most cases, no special diet is required after having a total thyroidectomy. Many people are able to resume their normal diet after surgery. For most people who have their thyroid gland removed, there is no damage to the trachea. If that's the case, your doctor may recommend that you eat regular food as tolerated.

Eating Directly After Surgery

Directly after surgery, it's very common to be prescribed a clear liquid diet at the hospital. This means that you will drink or sip only liquids that you can see through (ones without pulp). For instance, chicken broth, apple juice, and flavored gelatin are all acceptable on a clear liquid diet. Once it has been determined that you can keep down fluids, you may be offered a light snack, such as crackers, before you are given a full meal.

Foods to Soothe a Sore Throat

It is common to have a sore throat following the procedure, but this is most likely due to the endotracheal tube that is used during surgery to keep your airway open and help you breathe. You may experience mild soreness in the throat that may cause discomfort, especially while swallowing.

If you have a sore throat, you may want to choose to eat soft foods, such as:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pudding
  • Applesauce
  • Soups
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt

Cold foods like ice cream can also be soothing. The soreness from the tube should subside in a few days.

Recommended Diet After Cancer

For optimal recovery, choose a healthy, well-balanced diet. This means eating fewer processed and prepared foods and eating more plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as well as lean proteins. Plant foods, especially vegetables, are rich in cancer-fighting phytochemicals. If you feel like your "normal diet" could use a facelift, read up on simple tips for healthy eating.

A Note on Calcium and Vitamin D

During thyroid surgery, the parathyroid may be injured or removed. The parathyroid is essential for regulating calcium levels in the body. It is possible for the parathyroid gland to under-function for several weeks following surgery. For this reason, your calcium levels may be monitored. You may also be told to take calcium and vitamin D supplements. This is not required for everybody, so make sure that you talk to your doctor if you are wondering whether you need to take these supplements.

How Soon After Surgery Will I Be Able to Eat Normally?

Everyone recovers from surgery differently. Some people are able to eat a cheeseburger and fries after a thyroidectomy with no problem, while others may struggle with pasta. It really does vary from person to person, but barring any complications, you should be back to a normal diet within 72 hours of surgery. It will also help for you to chew food completely and to drink fluids often during meals.