Low-fiber diet do's and don'ts

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Definition

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.

Purpose

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.

Diet details

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 1-2 grams of fiber in one serving.

Avoid these foods and products made with them:

  • Nuts, seeds, dried fruit and coconut
  • Whole grains, popcorn, wheat germ and bran
  • Brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, granola, shredded wheat, quinoa, bulgur and barley
  • Dried beans, baked beans, lima beans, peas and lentils
  • Chunky peanut butter
  • Fruits and vegetables except those noted below

Choose these foods:

  • Tender meat, fish and poultry, ham, bacon, shellfish, and lunch meat
  • Eggs, tofu and creamy peanut butter
  • Dairy products if tolerated
  • White rice and pasta
  • Baked goods made with refined wheat or rye flour, such as bread, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, bagels, saltines and graham crackers
  • Hot and cold cereals that have less than 2 grams of dietary fiber in a single serving, such as those made from rice
  • Canned or well-cooked potatoes, carrots and green beans
  • Plain tomato sauce
  • Vegetable and fruit juices
  • Bananas, melons, applesauce and canned peaches (no skin)
  • Butter, margarine, oils and salad dressings without seeds

A typical menu might look like this:

Breakfast

  • Cornflakes with milk
  • White toast, creamy peanut butter, jelly
  • Fruit juice
  • Coffee

Mid-morning snack

  • Yogurt without seeds
  • Water or other beverage

Noon meal

  • Turkey sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise
  • Tomato soup
  • Canned peaches
  • Milk or other beverage

Afternoon snack

  • Cheese slices
  • Saltine crackers
  • Water or other beverage

Evening meal

  • Meat loaf
  • Mashed potatoes with butter
  • Cooked carrots
  • Applesauce
  • Milk or other beverage

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.

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.

Results

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.

Risks

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.

Get the latest health information from Mayo Clinic’s experts.

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Dec. 05, 2020 See more In-depth