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What is a Low-Fiber/Low-Residue Diet?

A low-fiber/low-residue diet limits the amount of dietary fiber and residue-providing food in your diet. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plants that cannot be digested. Residue is the undigested part of food that makes up stool. Limiting dietary fiber and residue reduces the amount of food that passes through the large intestine.

Why Should I Follow a Low-Fiber/Low-Residue Diet?

This diet may be recommended if you have gastrointestinal distress or discomfort, or if your gastrointestinal system needs to rest. Conditions that may require a low-fiber/low-residue diet include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease . It may also be prescribed as a transitional diet following certain types of surgery and if you are undergoing radiation therapy to the abdomen.

Low-Fiber/Low-Residue Diet Basics

Fiber is found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. While you can still eat some foods with fiber on this diet, high-fiber foods need to be limited. Ask your doctor or registered dietitian about how many grams of fiber you can have per day.
To decrease residue, you will need to limit your intake of fiber-containing foods, milk and milk products, and caffeine. The standard low-residue diet allows 2 cups of milk or milk products per day. Though, you may need to avoid milk if you are lactose intolerant .
Because this diet restricts many nutrient-rich foods, it may not meet all of your vitamin and mineral requirements. Talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about whether you would benefit from a vitamin supplement.

Eating Guide for a Low-Fiber/Low-Residue Diet

Food Group Foods Recommended Foods to Avoid
Grains
  • Refined breads, crackers, cereals, pancakes, and waffles (with less than 0.5 grams fiber per serving)
  • Pasta (eg, macaroni, noodles, spaghetti)
  • White rice
  • Whole grain breads and crackers (eg, whole-wheat, pumpernickel, rye, cornbread)
  • Whole grain pancakes and waffles
  • Whole grain cereals (eg, bran, oatmeal, granola)
  • Breads and cereals with seeds, nuts, or dried fruits
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown or rice
Vegetables
  • Well-cooked and canned vegetables without skin or seeds
  • Lettuce
  • Vegetable juice without pulp or seeds
  • Raw vegetables
  • Cooked peas, winter squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, cauliflower, baked beans, and corn
  • Vegetable sauces (eg, tomato sauce)
  • Vegetable skins (eg, potato skin
Fruits
  • Canned or cooked fruit with skin (except canned pineapple)
  • Applesauce
  • Ripe bananas
  • Ripe cantaloupe and honeydew melon
  • Fruit juices without pulp
  • Raw fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Prune juice
  • Canned pineapple
Milk
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese, cottage cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Soy, almond, and rice milk
  • Lactose-free milk
  • Note: Limit milk and milk products to no more than 2 cups per day.
  • Milk products with fruit, seeds, or nuts
  • More than 2 cups of milk or milk products per day
  • Milk and milk products if you are lactose intolerant
  • Milk products with dried fruit, seeds, or nuts
Meats and Beans
  • Well-cooked or tender beef, lamb, ham, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, and organ meats
  • Eggs
  • Smooth nut butters
  • Tough meats
  • Meat with seeds (eg, salami)
  • Dried beans or peas
  • Seeds and nuts
Oils
  • Oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressings without seeds
  • Salad dressings with seeds
Fats and Sweets
  • Butter, margarine
  • Plain cakes, cookies, and pies made with allowed fruits and no nuts
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt (within 2 cup allowance)
  • Plain sherbet and fruit ice
  • Plain hard candy
  • Candy, cakes, cookies, etc, made with whole grains, seeds, nuts, coconut, or dried fruit
Other
  • Strained soups
  • Plain gravy
  • Jelly, honey, syrup
  • Plain candy
  • Salt, pepper, and herbs
  • Ketchup
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Marmalade, jam, or preserves
  • Popcorn
  • Pickles
  • Coconut
  • Coffee
  • Tea

Suggestions

  • When shopping for food, read food labels.
    • Look for products made with “refined” flour.
    • Avoid products that say “whole grain” on the packaging.
    • Avoid foods with the word “whole” at the beginning of the ingredient list (eg, whole wheat flour).
  • Remove skins of fruits and vegetables before cooking.
  • Limit intake of fatty foods as these can increase residue.
  • Work with a dietitian to create a meal plan for you.

RESOURCES

American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/

Nutrition.gov http://www.nutrition.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada http://www.ccfc.ca/English/index.html/

References

Low fiber diet. University of Virginia Health System website. Available at: http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/digestive-health/nutrition/low%5Ffiber%5Fdiet.pdf . Accessed May 6, 2007.

Low residue/low fiber diet. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center website. Available at: http://patienteducation.upmc.com/Pdf/LowResLowFiber.pdf . Accessed May 6, 2007.

Nutrition care manual. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: http://www.nutritioncaremanual.org . Accessed January 3, 2010.

What is a low fiber, low residue diet? Greenwich Hospital website. Available at: http://www.greenhosp.org/pe%5Fpdf/diet%5Flowfiber.pdf . Accessed May 6, 2007.

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