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Low-fiber diet

Fiber is a substance found in plants. Dietary fiber, the kind you eat, is found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. When you are on a low-fiber diet, you will eat foods that do not have much fiber and are easy to digest.

Why You Need This Diet

High-fiber foods add bulk to your bowel movements. Eating low-fiber foods may decrease the size of your bowel movements and make them less formed. Your health care provider may recommend that you temporarily follow a low-fiber diet when you have a flare-up of::

Sometimes people are put on this diet temporarily after certain kinds of gut surgery, such as an ileostomy or colostomy.

If you have an intestinal stricture or obstruction, you may need to reduce your fiber intake long-term. You do not need to follow a low-fiber diet for inflammatory bowel disease unless you have a flare or history of stricture. Your provider may refer you to a dietitian for help with meal planning.

What You Can Eat and Drink

A low-fiber diet can include foods you are used to eating, like cooked vegetables, fruits, white breads, and meats. It does not include foods that are higher in fiber or are otherwise to digest, such as:

  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Many raw vegetables and fruits or their juices
  • Fruit and vegetable skins
  • Nuts and seeds
  • The connective tissues of meats

Your doctor or dietitian will likely tell you not to eat more than a certain number of grams of fiber a day, such as 10 to 15 grams (g).

Below are some of the foods recommended for a low-fiber diet. It is still possible for some of these foods to upset your system. Talk to your doctor or dietitian if a food is making your problem worse.

Milk products:

  • You may have yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, milk, pudding, creamy soup, or 1.5 ounces (43 g) of hard cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, use lactose-free products.
  • Avoid milk products with nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, or granola added to them.

Breads and grains:

  • You may have refined white breads, dry cereals (such as puffed rice, corn flakes), farina, white pasta, and crackers. Make sure these foods have less than 2 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Do not eat whole-grain breads, crackers, cereals, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, oats, or popcorn.

Vegetables: You may eat these vegetables raw:

  • Lettuce (shredded, in small quantities at first)
  • Cucumbers (without seeds or skin)
  • Zucchini

You can eat these vegetables if they are well-cooked or canned (without seeds). You can also drink juices made from them if they do not contain seeds or pulp:

  • Yellow squash (without seeds)
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes, without skin
  • Green beans
  • Wax beans
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Carrots

Do not eat any vegetable that is not on the list above. Do not eat vegetables raw. Do not eat fried vegetables. Avoid vegetables and sauces with seeds.

Fruits:

  • You may have fruit juices without pulp and many canned fruits or fruit sauces, such as applesauce. Avoid fruits canned in heavy syrup.
  • Raw fruits you can have are very ripe apricots, bananas and cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, nectarines, papayas, peaches, and plums. Avoid all other raw fruit.
  • Avoid canned and raw pineapple, fresh figs, berries, all dried fruits, fruit seeds, and prunes and prune juice.

Protein:

  • You may eat cooked meat, fish, poultry, eggs, smooth peanut butter, and tofu. Make sure your meats are tender and soft, not chewy with gristle.
  • Avoid deli meats, hot dogs, sausage, crunchy peanut butter, nuts, beans, tempeh, and peas.

Fats, oils, and sauces:

  • You may eat butter, margarine, oils, mayonnaise, whipped cream, and smooth sauces and dressings.
  • Smooth condiments are OK.
  • Don't eat very spicy or acidic foods and dressings.
  • Avoid chunky relishes and pickles.
  • Don't eat deep-fried foods.

Other foods and drinks:

  • Don't eat desserts that have nuts, coconut, or fruits that are not OK to eat.
  • Make sure you are drinking enough fluids, particularly if you are having diarrhea.
  • Your doctor or dietitian will likely recommend that you also avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Keep in Mind

Choose foods that are lower in fat and added sugar when following a low-fiber diet.

It is possible to meet your body's needs in terms of total calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and fluid. However, because this diet does not have the variety of foods that your body normally needs to stay healthy, you may have to take supplements, such as a multivitamin. Check with your doctor or dietitian.

Alternative Names

Fiber restricted diet; Crohn disease - low fiber diet; Ulcerative colitis - low fiber diet; Surgery - low fiber diet

References

Mayer EA. Functional gastrointestinal disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, esophageal chest pain, and heartburn. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 128.

Pham AK, McClave SA. Nutritional management. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 6.

Review Date 8/20/2020

Updated by: Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.