If you have diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or are recovering from bowel surgery, your doctor might prescribe a low-residue diet. But what exactly does that include and can you get all the nutrition you need? Yes, if you choose your foods carefully and make a few diet modifications.

A low-residue diet is essentially a low-fiber diet. Most people are encouraged to go high-fiber to give our intestines a good workout, prevent constipation, and to ensure we eat enough fruits and veggies. However, people with bowel conditions, including the ones listed above, need to consume a diet that's as easy on the gut as possible. And designed to slow bowel motility and reduce bowel movements.

Most people are advised to aim for 25-38 grams of fiber per day which is easy to consume with whole grains, legumes, beans, raw veggies, nuts, and seeds. People prescribed a low-residue diet are advised to eat less than 10-15 grams of fiber per day. That means they have to eliminate some foods like beans and legumes and they have to cook others like most vegetables and fruits to break down their fibers. Instead of whole-wheat flour and breads, they'll choose white flour and bread. Instead of apples, they'll choose applesauce.

Can you get all the nutrients you need if you eliminate high-fiber foods from your diet?

Yes, a low-residue/low-fiber diet can include all the proteins, fluids, salts, vitamins, and minerals you need but it requires that you choose your diet carefully. Some people only need to stay on a low-residue diet for a short period of time, like when they're recovering from bowel surgery. Others have to stay on it for life and it might be wise to consult with a dietician for help in planning meals that meet all their nutritional needs.

What foods are in a low-residue diet?

Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and small amounts of hard cheese.

Refined, processed cereals, breads, crackers, and pasta; just make sure they contain less than a half-gram of fiber in each serving.

The following raw vegetables:

  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers (without seeds)
  • Onions
  • Zucchini

The following fruits (which can be eaten raw if they are very ripe):

  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Watermelon
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Plums

The following vegetables and drink juices made from them—if they are well cooked or canned and do not contain seeds or pulp:

  • Yellow squash (without seeds)
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes, without skin
  • Green beans
  • Wax beans
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Carrots

Many canned fruits, juices (not pineapple or prune), and fruit sauces, like applesauce are fine.

Protein, such as eggs, fish, and meats are safe, but avoid nuts and nut butters, deli meats, peas, beans, and tofu.

Oils, butter, and most condiments are fine but avoid spicy sauces.

Your doctor may also advise you to avoid caffeine and alcohol and other foods specific to your condition. If you're finding it difficult to consume a wide variety of foods, ask your doctor if you should be taking a vitamin supplement.

Dennis Bley, DO, reviewed this article.



Low Residue Diet. Medline Plus. National Institutes of Health