VLED very low energy diets explained


Why do I need to follow a VLED prior to bariatric surgery?

Now that you have made the decision to have bariatric surgery, it is essential that you follow a Very Low Energy Diet (VLED) to adequately prepare your body for surgery.  In a nutshell, a VLED reduces the complexity of the surgery for the surgeon, and makes the surgery safer for you.

The liver is a large and heavy organ that sits over the stomach.  Fat is stored all over the body, including inside the liver and around the stomach.  If your body mass index (BMI) exceeds 35-40kg/m², it is likely that your liver is storing large amounts of glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate), water and fatty deposits.  A liver that is storing too much fat becomes large and is difficult for your surgeon to move during surgery.  In addition to this, excessive fat around the stomach makes it difficult for your surgeon to see and access the stomach.  The VLED is therefore useful and important for reducing the amount of fat in the liver and around the stomach, resulting in improved visibility and access to the stomach during surgery, and ensuring safety for the patient.

Other benefits of a VLED

Weight loss prior to bariatric surgery comes with additional benefits such as reduced operating time, improved recovery, improved mobility after surgery and potentially improved management of other medical conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.

What is a VLED?

A VLED is very low in energy.  When a person’s diet does not provide sufficient energy for the body to carry out its primary functions, the body must obtain the energy from somewhere else.  This energy is found in the form of stored fat, including in and around organs such as the liver and stomach.  Hence, the VLED helps to reduce the volume size of organs such as the liver, and promotes weight loss.

VLED Meal Replacement products

The VLED usually comes in the form of meal replacement products, which promote an overall energy deficit, whilst providing the body with the essential vitamins, minerals and protein it requires.  Patients generally opt for shakes, but there are also soups, bars and desserts available.  The Formulite® meal plan is a great example of a VLED meal plan.  The Formulite® meal plan is a VLED designed to produce fast weight loss of around 1.5-2.5kg per week.  As the VLED is a meal replacement program, you should replace all 3 meals per day with a VLED product.  In addition to the VLED products you can also eat low energy foods.  These are foods which provide fibre, vitamins and minerals, but little energy.  You can find a list of these foods below:

Low Energy Foods

Low Energy Vegetables

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Celery

  • Cabbage
  • Capsicum
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant

  • Green beans
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Radishes

  • Shallots
  • Silver beet
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Herbs and Spices

  • Allspice
  • Basil
  • Cardamom
  • Celery flakes
  • Chilli
  • Chives

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Dill

  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Mustard seed
  • Nutmet
  • Oregano

  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Tarrago


  • Reduced salt stock cubes or powder
  • Miso soup
  • Vegetable soups (made with stock powder, low energy vegetables from above and herbs and spices only)

Sauces and Condiments

  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Reduced salt soy sauce
  • Mustard
  • Tomato paste
  • Diet, oil free or fat free salad dressing


  • Oil – 1tsp per day
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Unsweetened lollies or gum
  • Diet jelly
  • Essence: almond, aniseed, brandy, coconut, lemon, orange, peppermint, rum

Sauces and Condiments

  • Water
  • Diet cordial
  • Soda water
  • Plain mineral water
  • Tea and coffee
  • Herbal teas
  • Diet soft drink

VLED Sample Menu


1 VLED shake


1 VLED shake

PLUS low energy vegetables or salad


1 VLED shake

PLUS low energy vegetables or salad


If you are feeling hungry between meals, try some of the following options:

  • Raw vegetable sticks with fat free dip
  • Diet jelly
  • Vegetable soup
  • Cauliflower popcorn
  • Kale chips

More information and purchasing VLED products

For more information on the VLED, please consult with your dietitian.

To purchase Formulite® VLED go to:   www.formulite.com.au



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