Life with Crohn’s disease can be difficult, particularly when it comes to watching what you eat. Learn about Crohn’s-friendly snacks you can try.

While no specific diet can cause or cure Crohn’s disease, research suggests that some foods may be more likely to increase the risk of developing it.

But there are also foods that can help reduce Crohn’s symptoms, replenish lost nutrients, and promote healing. Even better?

You can use snack time to help manage your Crohn’s symptoms and treat yourself to some goodies.

Glass of green juice
Lindsay Crandall/Stocksy United

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

While Crohn’s can affect any part of the GI tract, it most commonly affects the small bowel and upper colon, penetrating the entire thickness of the intestinal wall.

This can cause symptoms such as:

  • abdominal pain
  • persistent diarrhea
  • rectal bleeding
  • gas or bloating
  • weight loss or decreased appetite
  • fever
  • fatigue

There’s no perfect diet for those with Crohn’s disease, but some research has shown that a few different approaches might help relieve symptoms.

Eating smaller amounts of food more often is recommended. And during flare-ups, a bland diet may ease symptoms. This means avoiding foods with too much fiber or spice and instead choosing soft, bland, low fiber foods.

During periods of remission, a diet low in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) that includes a variety of acceptable foods may ease any irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)-like symptoms while providing adequate nutrition.

People with IBD who have overlapping IBS may benefit from a low FODMAP diet, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

Some studies have shown that the foods included in the Mediterranean diet, such as nuts and seeds, can be beneficial to intestinal health if eaten during periods of Crohn’s remission but not during flare-ups.

The low FODMAP diet involves eliminating fermentable, poorly absorbed carbohydrates and polyols from your diet for 6 to 8 weeks. After that, you can slowly reintroduce foods. This may help you identify the foods that are triggering your symptoms.

On the contrary, a high FODMAP diet may make it difficult to manage Crohn’s.

High FODMAP substances and foods

  • Lactose: dairy milk, butter, cream, and cheese
  • Fructose: apples, mangoes, honey, agave nectar, and some other sweeteners
  • Fructans: onions, garlic, asparagus, and wheat
  • Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS): legumes, nuts, seeds, and some grains
  • Polyols: cauliflower and sugar-free sweeteners
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There have been no prospective clinical trials on diet and Crohn’s disease.

However, two retrospective studies have been published in the Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

The research suggests that a low FODMAP diet can help those with Crohn’s disease reduce symptoms and identify individual foods that trigger them.

With so many foods to avoid, following a low FODMAP diet may make you feel like there’s nothing left to eat. And trying new foods may be nerve-racking if you don’t know whether they’ll cause painful symptoms.

But it’s not all bad news!

There are still foods you can eat during the trial period of a low FODMAP diet and beyond if you have Crohn’s disease. And snacking is a great way to fit more essential nutrients into your day.

Whether you want to take them on the go or keep them handy in your fridge at home, these Crohn’s-friendly snacks are easy to make and easy to digest.

Lactose-free yogurt parfait

To make:

  1. In a glass, layer one container of lactose-free yogurt, such as coconut yogurt.
  2. Alternate layers with banana slices and papaya chunks.
  3. Top with 1 tbsp. smooth nut butter of your choice.

Cucumber-cottage cheese toast

To make:

  1. Toast a slice of your favorite gluten-free bread.
  2. Spread with 2 tbsp. lactose-free cottage cheese mixed with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  3. Top with peeled, sliced cucumbers.
  4. Sprinkle with fresh mint.

Crunchy peanut butter balls

To make:

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup puffed rice with 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter.
  2. Add 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 cup local honey, and 1/4 cup powdered peanut butter.
  3. Roll mixture into balls and store in the refrigerator.

Please note that honey is not low FODMAP.

(1 serving = 1–2 balls)

Nut and seed banana slices

To make:

  1. Slice a banana in half lengthwise.
  2. Spread each side with 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter.
  3. Sprinkle with unsweetened shredded coconut and other toppings of your choice.

Tropical green smoothie

To make:

  1. In a blender, blend 1/2 small banana, 1/4 cup frozen pineapple, a handful of spinach, 1/2 cup lactose-free coconut yogurt, and 1/4 cup nut milk or coconut milk.
  2. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.

Pressed for time or don’t have any appliances at the ready? Try these even simpler and equally delicious Crohn’s-friendly snack ideas:

Fruit and cheese snack plate

Make yourself a mini cheese plate with:

  • 1/3 cup grapes
  • 1 oz. brie
  • crackers

Mini antipasti skewers

Thread black or green olives, cherry tomatoes, basil, and prosciutto onto toothpicks. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper.

Tuna cucumber bites

Mix 1/2 cup canned tuna with 1 tbsp. light olive oil mayo, 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Scoop onto peeled cucumber slices.

Turkey veggie rollups

Slice zucchini, red bell peppers, and carrots into matchsticks. Roll 3 slices of turkey around veggies and eat!

If you want to give the low FODMAP diet a go for other meals, try adding some of these foods to your meal prep for an endless variety of options.

Remember, the most fun part is mixing it up and getting creative. Crohn’s doesn’t have to make you feel like you have limited options for eating well and deliciously!

Gluten-free grains

Gluten-free foods aren’t as difficult to find as you might think. Avoid store-bought granola bars, as they often contain high fructose sweeteners and added fibers such as inulin, which may cause uncomfortable symptoms.

Gluten-free foods

  • gluten-free oats
  • rice
  • quinoa
  • gluten-free bread
  • corn tortillas
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Low lactose dairy

Keeping your favorite nut milk and lactose-free cottage cheese and yogurt in your fridge will make it easy to have a snack on hand at all times.

Low lactose foods

  • lactose-free cottage cheese
  • lactose-free yogurt
  • nut milks
  • low lactose cheeses such as cheddar, feta, brie, and Parmesan
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Low fructose and low polyol fruits

Low FODMAP fruits

  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • grapes
  • kiwi
  • oranges
  • pineapples
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
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Some yummy fruits are low in FODMAPs, and you can usually tolerate them fine. Just make sure you limit yourself to one serving per meal or snack to reduce the risk of irritation.

Low GOS vegetables

The same goes for vegetables, which is good news because having enough fruits and veggies in your diet is key for good digestion and health.

Just try to avoid garlic, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, and artichokes.

Low FODMAP veggies

  • bell peppers
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • cucumbers
  • kale
  • spinach
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Meat, eggs, and seafood

Protein foods such as meat, eggs, and fish contain no carbohydrates and are least likely to cause GI symptoms. You can keep some of these foods in the fridge year-round for easy access.

Keep hard-boiled eggs, canned tuna, or deli turkey in your kitchen or pantry for easy, nutritious snacks.

Low FODMAP protein

  • hard-boiled eggs
  • canned tuna
  • deli turkey
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Remember that your Crohn’s nutrition plan is highly individualized. What works for one person may cause negative effects in another. Consult a healthcare professional — preferably a registered dietitian — for help with your food choices.

It’s true that life with Crohn’s can make eating feel like a chore and even a nuisance. But remember: Food is not your enemy!

With the right foods, you can enjoy delicious meals and snacks with minimal preparation and maximum deliciousness any time of day.

What are your favorite Crohn’s-friendly snacks?

Read this article in Spanish.

Kaleigh is a registered dietitian, food blogger at Lively Table, writer, and recipe developer passionate about making healthy living fun and accessible for everyone. She believes in a non-diet approach to healthy eating and strives to help clients develop a positive relationship with food. When she’s not in the kitchen, Kaleigh can be found hanging out with her husband and three Brittany spaniels. Find her on Instagram.