Ask the Nutritionist
Q: I am recovering from a small bowel resection. What do you recommend for general nutrition or specific food selections and for how long should I follow those recommendations? I was advised to try a low-fiber, soft, bland diet with foods which are easy to digest.
NH, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
You were correctly advised to follow a low-fiber, soft diet of foods that are easy to digest.
It is best to eat small, frequent meals and to avoid foods that result in gas and bulk in the intestines. This means that avoiding fiber-rich foods such as whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables.
Here are some suggestions for meals/snacks:
- Yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt
- Cheese with white bread or crackers
- Smooth, natural nut butter with white bread or crackers
- Smoothies made with pulp-free fruit juice, yogurt, whey protein powder, and fruit options from the section below
- Drinkable yogurt
- A hard-boiled egg
- Smooth oatmeal or cream of wheat made with milk instead of water (you can substitute Lactaid®, soy or almond milk if lactose is problematic for you)
- Canned "lite" tuna or salmon on white bread or crackers
To maintain intake of important phytonutrient rich fruits and vegetables, add these low fiber/low residue options to the snack ideas above:
- Cooked vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potato (without skin), or pureed cauliflower
- Canned fruits in natural juice (peaches, pineapple, etc.)
- Peeled apple, pear, or applesauce
- Ripe bananas
- Mashed avocado
- Ripe mango or papaya
- Ripe honeydew, cantaloupe, or watermelon, with all seeds removed
- Oranges, clementine, grapefruit or tangerine sections if pith (white part) is peeled off
- 100 percent fruit/vegetable juice without the pulp — using a juicer with fresh produce is fantastic if you have access to one
- Cooked fruits (i.e. baked blueberries, cherries, apple, pear — add cinnamon and a little honey)
Your meals should generally be spaced out into five to eight small meals instead of three larger meals. Also, make sure you are staying hydrated: dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in patients after small bowel resection.
We also recommend you meet with a Registered Dietitian, who can help you understand your individual weight goals and assist you in designing a healthful eating plan.