10 Tips on How to Eat After a Tonsillectomy

Jennifer Fink Healthgrades Contributor
Medically Reviewed By Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN
Written By Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN on March 9, 2021
  • Adult woman at home holding her hand to throat indicating sore throat and drinking tea
    A Tonsillectomy Diet for a Smoother Recovery
    More than half a million tonsillectomies (surgical removal of the tonsils) are performed each year in the United States, often to treat obstructive sleep apnea or recurring strep throat. And though the promise of “ice cream after you get your tonsils out” often sounds good pre-op, post-operatively, many people don’t feel like eating.

    Getting adequate nutrition and hydration after tonsillectomy is important, though, as calories, fluids, vitamins, and minerals aid healing. Learn more about what to eat after tonsillectomy, including foods to avoid on a tonsillectomy diet and other tips for tonsillectomy recovery.
  • Close-up of young Caucasian woman drinking glass of water
    1. Start slow.
    Many people feel nauseous after their tonsils are removed. An upset stomach is a common side effect of general anesthesia, and the small amount of blood that may be swallowed during the procedure can also trigger nausea and vomiting.

    Don’t force fluids or food. Begin with small sips of water. When you can tolerate water without vomiting or feeling queasy, try a bit more. You should be managing fluids well before you try food. It is OK if you don’t eat any solid food on the day of surgery.
  • Young Girl Chooses Sports Drink
    2. Focus on fluids.
    Liquids can soothe the throat, prevent dehydration, and provide calories and a bit of nourishment. Aim for at least 2 to 3 ounces every hour while awake. Start with clear liquids: water, apple or white grape juice, electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade or Pedialyte, gelatin, ice pops, flat soda, and broth.

    You are tolerating clear liquids well, you can try milk, smoothies, ice cream, malts, and shakes. Note: Dairy products can trigger nausea and increased oral mucus production in some people. If dairy causes irritation or distress, go back to clear liquids.
  • Bowl of oatmeal with ground cinnamon and cinnamon stick
    3. Go soft.
    The back of the throat will be irritated for at least a week after surgery. Stick to soft, easy-to-swallow foods, such as applesauce, custard, yogurt, creamy breakfast cereals (oatmeal, Malt-o-Meal), pudding, soup, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, refried beans, and pureed fruits.

    Most people stick to a soft diet for a day or two after surgery. After that, you can try introducing other foods. Remember: Soft is better, especially at first, so mac and cheese is a better choice than pizza.
  • close up of scrambled eggs with fork
    4. Keep it bland.
    Spicy foods can cause additional throat (and stomach) irritation. Even if you normally love spice, it’s best to stick to bland food for a few days. Good options include soft bread; waffles, pancakes, or French toast with syrup; scrambled eggs (no ketchup or hot sauce on top, please!); buttered noodles or pasta with a mild white sauce; tender, moist, very lightly seasoned chicken, fish, or meat; smooth nut butter sandwiches; bananas; canned fruits; and well-cooked veggies.
  • glasses of lime, lemon and orange jello with whipped cream on top
    5. Say no to red foods.
    It’s best to avoid red foods—including red Jell-O, red sports drinks, cherry ice pops, and any tomato-based products—for at least a week after tonsillectomy. The reason? One of the things you need to watch for after surgery is bleeding. Blood from the surgical site can drip down the throat into the stomach; often, the first sign of surgical site bleeding is blood-tinged vomit. If you’ve been eating cherry Jell-O and sipping red sports drinks all day, it’s difficult to tell if red streaks in vomit are related to food or blood.
  • hand-holding-aspirin-tablet
    6. Use pain medication as needed.
    No one wants to eat or drink when it hurts to swallow. Healthcare providers recommend taking pain medication around the clock, as directed by your physician, for two or three days after surgery—even if that means waking up in the middle of the night to take a dose.

    Most people find eating and drinking the easiest about a half-hour after taking pain medication. If your pain is uncontrolled despite medication, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Salty snacks
    7. Avoid crispy, crunchy foods.
    When you scrape your knee on the pavement, your body eventually develops a scab over the area. The scab will fall off in time, but scratching it can tear it off prematurely, causing bleeding and increased discomfort.

    The same thing can happen in your throat after tonsillectomy. The surgical site needs time to heal. If you try eating and swallowing crackers or chips, the jagged edges of the not-so-soft food can scratch and irritate your surgical site.
  • creamy macaroni and cheese in a bowl on a table
    8. Make it simple.
    Simple, soft, single-ingredient foods may be best after tonsillectomy. Don’t worry about presentation and don’t even try to make a complex or fancy meal. Use ready-made and prepackaged food if you’d like. Stick to two or three tolerated and tasty foods if that’s all you feel like eating. A few days of unbalanced eating won’t harm your overall health.

    Remember: Your body needs rest to heal, so opt for sleep over food preparation.
  • Popsicles
    9. Skip hot foods.
    Cool or cold foods are generally more soothing to an irritated throat anyway, so steer clear of hot meals, especially in the first few days after surgery. As your comfort increases, you can add in room temperature and warm foods.

    Need your morning coffee? Try iced coffee instead of a scalding hot cup of joe. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently burn your tongue or the back of your throat.
  • Young girl feeling sick to her stomach
    10. Listen to your body.
    It takes about two weeks to fully recover from a tonsillectomy. The first few days are usually the most uncomfortable; however, it’s not unusual to have a bad day after a string of good days. If your nausea or pain increases, dial back to liquids only and see if you feel better. If your throat feels more irritated after eating a particular food, cut that food out of your diet for a few days. Alternately, if you’re feeling great and tolerating food and drink well, enjoy!
10 Tips on How to Eat After a Tonsillectomy | Tonsillectomy Diet

About The Author

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse-turned-writer. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net and co-creator/co-host of the podcast On Boys: Real Talk about Parenting, Teaching & Reaching Tomorrow’s Men. Most recently, she is the author ofThe First-Time Mom's Guide to Raising Boys: Practical Advice for Your Son's Formative Years.
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  5. Tonsillectomy. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tonsillectomy/about/pac-20395141?p=1
  6. Tonsillectomy with or without Adenoidectomy. Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. https://www.childrensmn.org/references/pfs/surg/tonsillectomy-with-or-without-adenoidectomy.pdf
  7. Adult Tonsillectomy. UW Health. https://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/ear/4486.pdf
  8. How to Care for Your Child After Tonsillectomy Surgery. Children’s Mercy. https://www.childrensmercy.org/siteassets/media-documents-for-depts-section/departments/otolaryngology-ent/tonsillectomy-after-care---english.pdf

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Medical Reviewer: Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN
Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 23
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.