Fiber is the part of fruits, vegetables and grains not digested by your body. A low-fiber diet restricts these foods. As a result, the amount of undigested material passing through your large intestine is limited and stool bulk is lessened.
A low-fiber diet may be recommended for a number of conditions or situations. It is sometimes called a restricted-fiber diet.
Your doctor may prescribe a low-fiber diet if:
- You have narrowing of the bowel due to a tumor or an inflammatory disease
- You have had bowel surgery
- You are having treatment, such as radiation, that damages or irritates your digestive tract
As your digestive system returns to normal, you usually can slowly add more fiber back into your diet.
A low-fiber diet limits the types of vegetables, fruits and grains that you can eat. Occasionally, your doctor also may want you to limit the amount of milk and milk products in your diet. Milk doesn't contain fiber, but it may contribute to discomfort or diarrhea, especially if you're lactose intolerant.
The ability to digest food varies from person to person. Depending on your condition and tolerance, your doctor may recommend a diet that is more or less restricted.
If you're eating a low-fiber diet, be sure to read food labels. Foods you might not expect — such as yogurt, ice cream, cereal and even beverages — can have added fiber. Look for foods that have no more than 1 gram of fiber in a serving.
Foods that are generally allowed on a low-fiber diet include:
- White bread without nuts and seeds
- White rice, plain white pasta, and crackers
- Refined hot cereals, such as Cream of Wheat, or cold cereals with less than 1 gram of fiber per serving
- Pancakes or waffles made from white refined flour
- Most canned or well-cooked vegetables and fruits without skins or seeds
- Fruit and vegetable juice with little or no pulp, fruit-flavored drinks, and flavored waters
- Tender meat, poultry, fish, eggs and tofu
- Milk and foods made from milk — such as yogurt, pudding, ice cream, cheeses and sour cream — if tolerated
- Butter, margarine, oils and salad dressings without seeds
You should avoid:
- Whole-wheat or whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta
- Brown or wild rice and other whole grains, such as oats, kasha, barley and quinoa
- Dried fruits and prune juice
- Raw fruit, including those with seeds, skin or membranes, such as berries
- Raw or undercooked vegetables, including corn
- Dried beans, peas and lentils
- Seeds and nuts and foods containing them, including peanut butter and other nut butters
If you're eating a low-fiber diet, a typical menu might look like this.
1 glass of milk, if tolerated
1 slice of white toast with smooth jelly
1/2 cup canned peaches
1 cup of yogurt if tolerated, without seeds or nuts
1 to 2 cups of chicken noodle soup
Sandwich of drained tuna with mayonnaise on white bread
Flavored water or iced tea
White toast, bread or crackers
2 slices of cheese or 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, if tolerated
3 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish
1/2 cup of white rice
1/2 cup of cooked vegetables, such as carrots or green beans
White dinner roll with butter
Prepare all foods so that they're tender. Good cooking methods include simmering, poaching, stewing, steaming and braising. Baking or microwaving in a covered dish is another option.
Try to avoid roasting, broiling and grilling — methods that tend to make foods dry and tough. You may also want to avoid fried foods and spices.
Keep in mind that you may have fewer bowel movements and smaller stools while you're following a low-fiber diet. To avoid constipation, you may need to drink extra fluids. Drink plenty of water unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Eating a low-fiber diet will limit your bowel movements and help ease diarrhea or other symptoms of abdominal conditions, such as abdominal pain. Once your digestive system has returned to normal, you can slowly reintroduce fiber into your diet.
Because a low-fiber diet restricts what you can eat, it can be difficult to meet your nutritional needs. You should use a low-fiber diet only as long as directed by your doctor. If you must continue eating this diet for a longer time, consult a registered dietitian to make sure your nutritional needs are being met.
July 25, 2017
- Vanhauwaert E, et al. Low-residue and low-fiber diets in gastrointestinal disease management. Advanced Nutrition. 2015;6:820.
- Low-fiber foods. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/low-fiber-foods.html. Accessed May 31, 2017.
- Low-fiber nutrition therapy. Nutrition Care Manual. American Dietetic Association. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/. Accessed May 31, 2017.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Eating a low-fiber diet. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.