Low Residue Diet
What Is a Low-Residue Diet?
A low-residue diet is a diet in which fiber and other foods that are harder for your body to digest are restricted. Fiber is made up of plant material that cannot be completely digested by the body. High-fiber foods include whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, and raw or dried fruits.
Residue refers to undigested foods, including fiber, that make up stool. If intestinal walls are inflamed or damaged, digestion and absorption of nutrients and water may be impaired, depending on the location of disease activity.
In some people with Crohn?s disease, the small intestine may also become very narrowed. The idea behind a low-residue diet is to reduce the number and size of bowel movements you have each day, thereby lessening painful IBD symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. However, it does not affect inflammation or the disease itself.
A low-residue/low-fiber diet may be recommended for short-term use during disease flare-ups or following surgery to help with recovery. However, it is not a general eating plan for all people with IBD. Your health care provider or nutritionist can help make sure your diet plan is appropriate. In addition to dietary changes, your health care provider or nutritionist may recommend vitamin supplements.
Low-Residue Diet: Foods to Enjoy
Eating a low-residue/low-fiber diet goes against what nutritionists tout as a healthy way to eat because it severely limits fiber intake and other important nutrients. A low-residue/low-fiber diet usually stays away from grainy, nutty foods that are loaded with fiber.
Foods you can eat if you are on a low-residue diet:
Refined or enriched white breads and plain crackers, such as saltines or Melba toast (no seeds).
Cooked cereals, such as farina, cream of wheat, and grits.
Cold cereals, such as puffed rice and corn flakes.
White rice, noodles, and refined pasta.
Fruits and Vegetables
The skin and seeds of many fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, so peeling skin and avoiding seeds is part of a low-residue diet.
- Well cooked fresh vegetables or canned vegetables without seeds, such as asparagus tips, beets, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, squash (no seeds), and pumpkin.
- Cooked potatoes without skin.
- Tomato sauce (no seeds).
- Ripe bananas
- Soft cantaloupe
- Canned or cooked fruits without seeds or skin, such as applesauce or canned pears
Milk and Dairy
Milk products are okay to eat, in moderation. Milk does not contain fiber but it may trigger symptoms such as diarrhea and cramping for some people with lactose intolerance. Alternatively, using lactase supplements or eating lactose-free products may be options.
Meats and Protein
You can enjoy most meats, including beef, lamb, chicken, fish (no bones), and pork as long as they are lean, tender, and soft. Eggs are also OK to eat.
Fats, Sauces, and Condiments
All of the following condiments are fine to eat on a low-residue diet:
- Margarine, butter, and oils
- Mayonnaise and ketchup
- Sour cream
- Smooth sauces and salad dressing
- Soy sauce
- Clear jelly, honey, and syrup
Sweets and Snacks
You can still satisfy your sweet tooth on a low-residue diet. The following desserts and snacks are OK to eat, in moderation:
- Plain cakes and cookies
- Gelatin, plain puddings, custard, and sherbet
- Ice cream and popsicles
- Hard candy
- Vanilla wafers
Safe drinks to enjoy on a low-residue diet include:
- Decaffeinated coffee, tea, and carbonated beverages (caffeine can irritate the stomach)
- Juices made without seeds or pulp, such as apple juice, no-pulp orange juice, and cranberry juice
- Strained vegetable juices
Low-Residue Diet: Foods to Avoid
On a low-residue diet, avoid the below foods or drinks:
- Seeds, nuts, or coconut, including those found in bread, cereal, desserts, and candy.
- Whole-grain products, including whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta, rice, and kasha.
- Raw or dried fruits, such as prunes, berries, raisins, figs, and pineapple.
- Most raw vegetables.
- Certain cooked vegetables, including peas, broccoli, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn (and corn bread), onions, cauliflower, potatoes with skin, and baked beans.
- Beans, lentils, or tofu. Tough meats with gristle and smoked or cured deli meats.
- Cheese with seeds, nuts, or fruit.
- Peanut butter, jam, marmalade, or preserves.
- Pickles, olives, relish, sauerkraut, and horseradish.
- Fruit juices with pulp or seeds, prune juice, or pear nectar.
Low-Residue Diet Example Menu
- Decaffeinated coffee with cream and sugar
- Cup of juice, such as no-pulp orange juice, apple juice, or cranberry juice
- Cream of wheat
- Scrambled eggs
- Waffles, French toast, or pancakes
- White bread toast with margarine and grape jelly (no seeds)
- Baked chicken, white rice, canned carrots or green beans
- Salad with baked chicken, American cheese, smooth salad dressing, white dinner roll
- Baked potato (no skin), with sour cream and butter or margarine
- Hamburger with white seedless bun, ketchup, and mayonnaise — lettuce if it doesn’t worsen your symptoms
- Tender roast beef, white rice, cooked carrots or spinach, white dinner roll with margarine or butter
- Pasta with butter or olive oil, French bread, fruit cocktail
- Baked chicken, white rice or baked potato without skin, and cooked green beans
- Broiled fish, white rice, and canned green beans
How to make a Low-Residue Diet Work
You may find that some of the foods listed under “foods to avoid” do not bother you, while others on the “foods to enjoy” list cause discomfort. Everyone tolerates food differently. To determine what’s right for you, keep a food diary for a few weeks. By tracking what you eat and how it makes you feel, you can get a better idea of what works for you.
If you are generally a healthy eater who enjoys whole grains, nuts, and raw fruits and vegetables, shifting to a low-residue diet may be hard. But if you enjoy your white bread and pasta, don’t mind canned fruits and vegetables, and are content to snack on saltines and vanilla wafers, a low-residue diet may come naturally. But remember, a low-residue diet is not a healthy way to eat for a long period of time because it omits many important nutrients. If your condition requires you to stay on a low-residue diet over a long period of time, talk to a registered dietitian or nutrition expert to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. You may need to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals.