What Is a Low-Fiber Diet?

A low-fiber or low-residue diet contains less than 10 grams of dietary fiber per day.

What Is the Aim of a Low-Fiber Diet?

The aim of a low-fiber diet is to prevent irritation of the bowel and therefore provide it a relative rest in the following situations:

  • Before or after abdominal surgery
  • After radiotherapy in abdominal region or chemotherapy
  • During a flare-up of diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), ischemic colitis or intestinal damage after radiotherapy or chemotherapy
  • In bowel obstruction
  • In other bowel conditions, according to doctor instructions.

Dietary fiber is not absorbed in the intestine, so it travels through it, stimulates its motility and gives bulk to the stool. Low-fiber foods leave only a low amount of residue and slow down bowel activity. Normally, your doctor should give you written instructions about which foods to avoid and for how long.

Low-fiber diet is usually NOT recommended in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (read about diet in IBS). Diet in acute diarrhea or chronic diarrhea depends on its cause – it often does not need to be low-fiber.

Table 1: List of low fiber foods

ALLOWED (LOW-FIBER) FOODSFOODS TO AVOID
Plain tender meats and fishTough and luncheon meats
Cooked eggsFried or raw eggs
Plain milk and dairy products of any kind, but limit it to once a day, since it may stimulate the bowelDairy with fruits or seeds
White bread and other goods from white flour: pasta, noodles cookies, pastriesWholemeal and wholegrain breads, bran, seeds, nuts, coconut
White riceBrown rice
Corn flakesMorning cereals containing more than 1g/fiber per serving, popcorn, whole corn grains
Soft vegetables: cooked carrots, peeled potatoes, beets, alfalfa sprouts, celery, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, raw green salad, strained vegetable juiceBroccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, legumes: beans, peas, soy, lentils, olives, mustard, raw vegetables (except green salad)
Ripe bananasRaw and dried fruits, also pears, prunes, peaches, raisins, citrus fruits, berries, figs, dates, pineapple
SaltVinegar, spiced salad dressings,
Hard candies, honey 

NOTE:

1. Besides high-fiber foods, you might need to avoid other foods to lower amount or frequency of stools:

2. After switching to low-fiber diet you will probably need to drink more to get appropriate amount of water. You can assume, you are well hydrated if you excrete at least 200 mL of clear urine each morning (in absence of kidney disease or other disease affecting urine excretion).

Low-Fiber Menus

DAILY MENUS 1 LOW-FIBER FOODS
BREAKFAST
  • White bread or toast with margarine or peanut butter
  • A cup of tea
LUNCH
  • Plain crackers and mineral water
DINNER
  • Beef soup with white-flour noodles
  • Pureed potatoes
  • Turkey steak
  • Cooked spinach
SNACK
  • Puffed rice bar
SUPPER
  • Pancakes with juice of a squeezed lemon
  
DAILY MENUS 2
BREAKFAST
  • Two cooked eggs
  • A cup of tea
LUNCH
  • White flour pastry and orange juice
DINNER
  • Cooked macaroni or spaghetti covered by breadcrumbs heated on margarine
  • Applesauce
  • A muffin or other pastry from white wheat
SNACK
  • A plain yogurt
SUPPER
  • Sandwich from white flour, cooked meat, cheese and cucumbers
  
DAILY MENUS 3
BREAKFAST
  • Cornflakes with milk
LUNCH
  • Rolled pastry and kiwi juice
DINNER
  • A soup with grits heated on margarine and added mixed egg
  • White cooked rice with carrots
  • Cooked chicken
  • Beet/lettuce salad
SNACK
  • 1-2 bananas
SUPPER
  • White bread with honey

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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on December 17, 2011