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Crohn’s Disease Grocery List: What To Buy At The Store

Published on
Updated on
Crohn’s Disease Grocery List: What To Buy At The Store

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Crohn’s disease can cause digestive discomfort, including abdominal pain and diarrhea. Certain foods may worsen these symptoms in some people. 
  • Experts recommend following a high-fiber diet (as tolerated) when you don’t have symptoms and reducing fiber intake during a flare-up. 
  • Most people with Crohn’s disease can tolerate fruits and vegetables low in soluble fiber, healthy fats, lean proteins, lactose-free dairy, and starches. Talk to your doctor and dietitian for individualized recommendations.

Crohn’s disease is a digestive condition that can lead to many uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms.

Certain foods are known to exacerbate these symptoms, but each person has individualized triggers and nutritional needs.

Emerging research shows that higher-fiber eating patterns may help reduce inflammation and reduce flare-ups of Crohn’s disease. 

Read this article to learn more about the relationship between diet and Crohn’s disease, and find a grocery list to guide your meal planning. 

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What is the Best Diet for Crohn’s Disease? 

Crohn’s disease is a gastrointestinal (GI) condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.

It’s a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and typical symptoms of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain and diarrhea.  

Specific foods and diet plans have been shown to reduce symptoms and inflammation markers in people with Crohn’s disease, but research hasn’t identified one optimal diet for everyone.

It’s common for individuals to have unique food triggers, which makes it challenging to prescribe a universal diet plan.

Additionally, many of these diets can be highly restrictive, which can further increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies and, in some people, disordered eating.

Experts recommend following the least restrictive diet possible if you have Crohn’s disease. 

A person with Crohn’s disease may need to modify their diet depending on whether they are actively in a flare-up or in remission.

A lower-fiber diet is generally recommended during a flare, while a higher-fiber diet can help prevent relapse in people with clinical remission.

It’s best to work with a registered dietitian specializing in digestive health to identify your food triggers and the best eating pattern for you to focus on.  

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Foods to Avoid for Crohn’s Disease

Though research shows that certain foods can increase symptoms in people with Crohn’s disease, dietary triggers vary greatly per person.  

However, there are some common food triggers that many people with Crohn’s disease struggle to tolerate. 

  • High-fiber foods, especially those containing insoluble fiber (bran, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc.)
  • High-fat foods, especially those rich in saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Lactose.
  • Red meat and processed meat.
  • Alcohol.
  • Artificial sweeteners.

Crohn’s Disease Grocery List: What to Buy at the Store

The following grocery list summarizes foods that tend to be better tolerated based on the available research on Crohn’s disease.

However, it’s possible for some of the things on this list to be an individual trigger for you.

Talk with your dietitian before making any major dietary changes. 

Lean Proteins

Lean proteins that are low in saturated fat are typically the easiest for people with Crohn’s disease to tolerate.

These include: 

  • Chicken.
  • Eggs. 
  • Tofu. 
  • Fish. 
  • Turkey. 

Research shows that a moderate intake of unprocessed red meat can be appropriate for people with Crohn’s disease.

A high intake of red meat or processed meat (like sausage, hotdogs, and salami) may contribute to inflammation in Crohn’s disease, but more research is needed. 

Proteins that are fried or greasy may trigger digestive symptoms due to their fat content. 

Interestingly, some research shows that a semi-vegetarian diet (with minimal meat intake) may help some people with Crohn’s disease stay in remission.

Healthy Fats

Studies demonstrate that reducing your intake of saturated fat and trans fat can help decrease inflammation in Crohn’s disease.

Focus on healthy fats, including: 

  • Avocado.
  • Olive oil.
  • Salmon. 
  • Nuts and nut butter (some people with Crohn’s disease may be unable to eat raw nuts).

In some people with Crohn’s disease, a high-fat diet may worsen symptoms.

You may notice that high-fat foods, especially fried and greasy foods, are a trigger for digestive symptoms. 

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Fruits

Eating fruit every day can help reduce inflammation in Crohn’s disease.

However, some fruits contain high amounts of insoluble fiber, which may be difficult to digest for certain people with the condition. 

As a result, some people may need to modify fruit to tolerate it.

For example, an apple without the peel or in the form of applesauce might be easier to digest. 

Certain citrus fruits, especially grapefruit, may trigger GI symptoms in some individuals. 

Fill your grocery list with fruits such as:

  • Mango. 
  • Banana. 
  • Strawberries. 
  • Melon. 
  • Pears. 
  • Peaches. 
  • Kiwi. 
  • Blueberries. 
  • Apple (without skin). 

Cooked Vegetables

Experts recommend a high intake of vegetables for people with Crohn’s disease due to their anti-inflammatory benefits.

Like fruits, vegetables can also be high in insoluble fiber, making them difficult to tolerate for some individuals. 

Certain vegetables, including corn, asparagus, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables, like kale, may be hard to digest and contribute to digestive symptoms.

Cooking, peeling, and removing seeds from vegetables may help you tolerate them better. 

Consider vegetable options such as: 

  • Zucchini. 
  • Cooked carrots. 
  • Green beans. 
  • Soft lettuce.
  • Cooked spinach.
  • Peeled cucumber. 

Easily Digestible Starches

There isn’t enough evidence to recommend limiting refined sugar or carbohydrate intake for Crohn’s disease.

Some studies show that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which restricts refined sugar or grains, is associated with clinical remission of Crohn’s disease.

However, more research is needed. 

Though many people report gluten as a food trigger, there isn’t enough evidence to recommend that all people with Crohn’s disease eliminate wheat and gluten. 

Talk to your doctor and dietitian for guidance on carbohydrate and sugar intake.

You may need to choose lower fiber options, like white rice, during a flare-up. 

Many people with Crohn’s disease tolerate starches such as:

  • Rice.
  • Oatmeal.
  • Potatoes. 
  • Pasta. 
  • Bread. 

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Dairy Alternatives 

Some people with Crohn’s disease have lactose intolerance, though this doesn’t occur at higher rates than the general population.

Research hasn’t identified an association between dairy consumption and flare-ups in inflammatory bowel diseases. 

However, a small study found that many people with Crohn’s disease report dairy as a food trigger for digestive symptoms.

If you have difficulty tolerating dairy, focus on dairy alternatives or low-lactose products, such as:

  • Soy milk.
  • Lactose-free cow’s milk.
  • Sheep or goat’s milk.
  • Yogurt. 
  • Kefir. 

Healthy Snacks

Experts recommend eating smaller, more frequent meals because this can help with digestion and minimize symptoms of Crohn’s disease. 

Be sure to include nutritious snacks on your grocery list, including: 

  • Yogurt with berries. 
  • Smooth peanut butter and crackers. 
  • Fruit smoothie with lactose-free milk. 
  • Hard-boiled eggs with crackers. 
  • Banana with smooth peanut butter. 

Tips for Grocery Shopping with Crohn’s Disease

Before following a specific grocery list or diet for Crohn’s disease, talk to your doctor and dietitian about personalized nutrition recommendations for you.

Guidelines for fiber and other nutrients will vary based on:

  • Your symptoms. 
  • Whether you have strictures (narrow areas of the intestines).
  • If you are in remission or an active flare. 
  • The presence of nutritional deficiencies
  • Your weight (many people with Crohn’s disease can experience unintended weight loss).

Once you feel confident about which foods work the best with your digestion, you can modify this grocery list to meet your needs.  

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Takeaway

Research hasn’t identified a universal diet for everyone with Crohn’s disease.

While studies do show that certain foods can trigger digestive symptoms, these vary greatly based on the individual. 

Foods high in insoluble fiber, high-fat foods, processed meat, and lactose are common triggers for people with Crohn’s disease.

On the other hand, many people can tolerate a higher fiber diet between flare ups.

Talk to your doctor and dietitian for personalized dietary recommendations. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

A registered dietitian is a nutrition expert and licensed healthcare professional.

Through individual counseling, they can help you manage digestive symptoms, treat nutritional deficiencies, and discover enjoyable food substitutions to replace food triggers.   

Together, you and your dietitian can develop an inclusive eating plan that helps you feel your best.

Find a registered dietitian near you through Nourish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are good to eat if you have Crohn’s?

The best foods for you to eat to manage your Crohn’s disease will depend on your digestive symptoms, the presence of any nutritional deficiencies and strictures, and whether you’re in an active flare-up. 

In general, a higher-fiber diet is recommended (as tolerated) to encourage remission between flares, while a temporary low-fiber diet may be necessary during a flare-up. 

Foods like lean proteins, healthy fats, starches, low-lactose dairy, and fruits and vegetables low in insoluble fiber are generally good options for people with Crohn’s disease.

Is a hamburger OK for Crohn’s disease?

High fat foods can increase digestive symptoms in some people with Crohn’s disease.

A fast food hamburger with a greasy patty, cheese, and creamy sauce may be a trigger food.

On the other hand, a homemade patty with lean ground beef or turkey cooked in minimal oil may be better tolerated.

What drinks are good for Crohn’s disease?

Beverages that are free of alcohol, caffeine, lactose, and carbonation tend to be best tolerated by people with Crohn’s disease.

Examples include:

  • Water. 
  • Fruit-infused water. 
  • Decaf tea or coffee. 
  • Lactose-free milk or plant-based milk.
  • Coconut water.

References

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