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  • Writer's pictureAlison Rosenstock

8 IBD-Friendly Meals the Whole Family Will Enjoy

When you have IBD, eating can be a frustrating and scary experience. You may be wondering what foods are safe when you’re having IBD symptoms and if you need to stay away from what everyone else is eating.


However, having IBD doesn’t automatically mean boring food! This blog is all about the nutritious foods, beverages, and even herbs and spices that are IBD-friendly and, most importantly, super tasty!

 

As a GI-focused registered dietitian, I’m here to give you the tools to maintain good nutrition in IBD. I’m Alison and I provide #IBDWarriors with nutrition strategies that promote good gut health and reduce IBD symptoms. 

 

By reading this blog, you will learn: 

  • The nutrients people with IBD need for optimal health

  • A list of nutrient-dense foods that are gentle on the gut AND tips for how to prepare them

  • A whole selection of IBD-Friendly Meals: recipes that you can enjoy and share with your loved ones


You’ll also get access to the (free) IBD Nutrition Guide which will give you the confidence to take control of your food triggers. This guide has tools including a detailed list of IBD-friendly foods and beverages AND a food symptom journal. 


Let’s start things off with a few quick facts about IBD and how IBD can impact your unique nutrient needs.


IBD Quick Facts

IBD is the acronym for inflammatory bowel diseases. This term refers to two medical conditions, Crohn’s Disease (sometimes called CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (often referred to as UC). 


Crohn’s Disease refers to inflammation found in any part of the GI tract, while ulcerative colitis is defined by inflammation present in the large intestine, or colon. 


Both conditions can have similar symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Bloody stools


This may surprise you, but there is no standard diet recommendation for either Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. Why?  Because each person with CD or UC is unique in terms of the foods that trigger or worsen IBD symptoms. 


For example, one person with IBD might be completely lactose intolerant while another is able to eat dairy products with no issue. 


So, even though a “standard” recommendation might seem helpful, it doesn’t exist because everyone has unique needs and intolerances. 


As a dietitian, what I’d like for you to know is that even without a specific eating pattern to recommend, there are ways to take control of your nutrition with IBD. Let’s discuss what nutrients people with IBD need, and the ways to get enough of them.


What Nutrients are Important in IBD?

IBD can come with a few specific nutrient challenges. Danielle Gaffen, Registered Dietitian and founder of IBD Nutrition Practice Eat Well Crohn’s Colitis explains that, “considerations in nutrition for IBD include whether patients are losing blood in stools or experiencing diarrhea, their ability to eat enough, or absorption issues.” 


As an #IBDWarrior, you may experience nutrient deficiencies as a result of your condition. According to Gaffen, common deficiencies in IBD include:

  • Protein

  • Iron

  • Calcium

  • Vitamin D 

  • Vitamin B12

  • Folate

  • Potassium

  • Magnesium

  • Copper

  • Zinc 

However, the key nutrients for people with IBD often vary based on each person’s specific situation.


So what foods will help you meet your nutrient needs but also be better tolerated in IBD? Let’s take a look.


What are IBD-Friendly Foods?

Remember, each person with IBD is unique, so there is no universal list of foods that will be friendly for everyone. Each meal will need to be tailored to your individual tolerances and dietary needs.


Says Gaffen, “Generally, people with IBD benefit from a diet that includes a variety of anti-inflammatory foods, such as lean proteins, fruits and vegetables in forms their gut can tolerate, and healthy fats like nut butters, avocados, and olive oil.”


For example, some folks with IBD can’t tolerate raw veggies, but roasted, steamed, or blended into a soup is just fine. 


Tips and Tricks

Focusing on certain kinds of foods as well as preparation methods can be helpful for creating IBD-friendly meals.

  • Modify food textures: This can be a crucial practice, especially during disease flare-ups. Explains Gaffen, “Opt for soft-cooked or pureed foods to achieve a silken texture, and remove large seeds, thick stems, and hard peels or skins.”

  • Avoid food additives: Emulsifiers—including carrageenan, maltodextrin, polysorbate 80, and carboxymethylcellulose—can be triggering to the gut. Check the nutrition labels on packaged foods to see if any of these are present.

  • Prioritize anti-inflammatory foods: These include lean meats like salmon, tuna, and chicken, vegetables like asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms, and even herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, and turmeric.

Now that we’ve looked at the different kinds of IBD-friendly foods, let’s see how they can come together in a balanced recipe.


8 IBD-Friendly Meals the Whole Family Will Enjoy

When you have IBD, recipes with simple, anti-inflammatory ingredients are often the best choice for meals and snacks. The list below contains nutrient-dense meal options that are family-friendly AND delicious.


1) Homemade Chicken and Apple Sausage Patties

This straightforward recipe, combining extra lean ground chicken, a peeled, cored finely chopped or grated apple, avocado oil, ground sage, and cinnamon, is ready in just 30 minutes. 


Says Gaffen, “These patties are not only delicious and easy to make but also packed with protein and the natural sweetness of apples, which enhances taste and juiciness. They're perfect for managing IBD due to the ability to control salt and other additives.”


Get the recipe here.


2) Asparagus & Mushroom Frittata

This breakfast recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and full of anti-inflammatory vegetables. As Gaffen explains, “This nutrient-rich breakfast is both easy to prepare and gentle on the gut, making it an ideal choice for a family meal.”


Get the recipe here.


Kid-friendly tip: If your kiddos are not wild about mushrooms, you can pour the egg mixture into individual silicone baking cups and let each person add their favorite veggies to their frittata. 


3) Easy Banana Oat Egg Pancakes

This nutritious and delicious recipe comes from Registered Dietitian Alex Sanchez, whose practice Nutrition Harmony LLC provides nutrition counseling for people with digestive disorders and concerns in Massachusetts. These easy-to-prepare kid-friendly pancakes are prepared with bananas and oats, which are rich in soluble fiber and may help regulate bowel function and improve diarrhea or constipation. Adds Sanchez, “For IBD-friendly modifications during flare-ups, the oats may be ground into oat flour to reduce the fiber content and eggs can be replaced with ⅓ cup liquid egg whites for an anti-inflammatory alternative.”


Get the recipe here.

 

4) Tuna Cucumber Bites

Gaffen recommends this recipe which has just three ingredients, is super simple to make, and is appealing as a snack or appetizer.


Get the recipe here


5) No-Bake Cherry Chocolate Bars or Energy Balls

These high-protein and high-fiber bars (or energy balls) are packed with wholesome, anti-inflammatory, comforting ingredients the whole family can enjoy for gut health - oats, nuts, flaxseeds, and dried fruit - with the ability to switch up the ingredients for countless variations as per your dietary needs/preferences! 


Get the recipe here


Kid-friendly tip: If the textures of the oats and/or nuts aren’t appealing to your little ones (or they need a modification for a flare), you can pulse them in a food processor for a smoother, uniform texture.


6) Anti-Inflammatory Pineapple Ginger Smoothie

No need for baking with this delicious treat! This smoothie is rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger and flaxseed and is perfect for starting the day with a nutrient boost.

Get the recipe here

Kid-friendly tip: In hot weather, it can be fun to pour smoothie mixes into popsicle molds to make a cool treat everyone will love. 


7) 4-Ingredient Chia Seed Pudding

Sanchez’s delicious chia-seed pudding recipe is a quick and easy-to-prepare snack or breakfast option. It provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber, which is beneficial for gut health and bowel movement regulation.


Get the recipe here


Kid-friendly tip: You can add chocolate chips to this pudding to satisfy your kiddos’ (and even your own!) sweet tooth.


8) 10 Minute Stovetop Peach Crisp with Canned Peaches

A tasty delight that is ready super fast, Gaffen says, “This peach crisp is suitable for various dietary needs and free from common IBD triggers, making it an excellent dessert for any family.”

Get the recipe here.

Kid-friendly tip: Top the crisp with non-dairy ice cream to make this an extra fun summer treat.


The Takeaway- IBD-Friendly Meals

Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis have symptoms that make eating and digesting food difficult. They can also result in deficiencies of macronutrients (like protein and fat) as well as micronutrients (like vitamins and minerals).


While there isn’t a universal diet for people with IBD, many people benefit from choosing anti-inflammatory foods including lean proteins, healthy fats, herbs, and seasonings. There are also techniques you can follow to make foods more IBD-friendly, such as softening or pureeing the foods’ textures and avoiding food additives like emulsifiers.


Recipes like the ones in this blog can be a helpful starting place to find the IBD-friendly meals that are right for you. If they’re well tolerated with your IBD, feel free to enjoy them with your loved ones!


When you download the (free) IBD Nutrition Guide, you’ll learn all the different foods, beverages, and condiments that can lower inflammation in IBD AND get a Food Symptom Journal that will help you identify and manage your specific food triggers. You’ll feel empowered to take control of your IBD with a nutritious eating pattern that is as unique as you are!


Special thanks to Registered Dietitians Danielle Gaffen and Alex Sanchez for their contributions to this piece.

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