Food is a central part of living, provides your body with nutrition, and brings people together. If you live with ulcerative colitis (UC), food isn’t always easy, but eating a well-balanced diet is essential.
You need to eat enough food from all of the food groups. These groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins. You should also include some healthy fats in your diet, such as olive oil.
Read on for six breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes that are good for people with ulcerative colitis, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
- 2 bananas
- 2 eggs
- canola oil for greasing
- Peel the bananas. Mash with a fork in a medium bowl.
- Add the eggs to the bowl and stir until your batter is running. It’s OK if you still see a few small pieces of banana.
- Coat a pan with the canola oil and heat it on medium heat.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of the batter at a time into the pan and cook for 1 minute on each side until browned and golden.
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
- pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp canola oil
- Heat oil in a medium nonstick pan on medium heat.
- Add tomatoes and spinach, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach has wilted.
- Crack and whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Pour the eggs into the pan over the vegetables. Move the eggs around the pan until they are set.
- 600–800 grams fresh skinless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then add and stir in the garlic and parsley. Add the chicken and turn to coat.
- Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
- Put the chicken and marinade in a baking dish. Cover loosely with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 30–40 minutes at 400°F (200°C) until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).
4. Summer salad
- 4 tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into half-moons
- 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- juice of one lemon
- Mix all the vegetables together in a bowl.
- Drizzle with oil, squeeze fresh lemon juice on top, and season with salt and pepper before mixing again.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 small courgettes (zucchini), 2 diced and 2 grated
- 3 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
- 1 bunch fine asparagus spears, trimmed and stalks cut into 3
- 1 small glass of white wine
- 1–2 tsp capers, rinsed and chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- 350 grams (12 oz) penne (may be gluten-free)
- a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- parmesan cheese, grated, to serve
- Add the onion and a pinch of salt to an oiled and heated frying pan. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.
- Add all the courgettes and cook for 10 minutes or until they have cooked down and softened. Don’t allow them to brown.
- Add the garlic, asparagus, and wine. Raise the heat and allow to boil for 2–3 minutes, then return to a simmer. Cook for 2–3 minutes more or until the asparagus has softened, then add the capers and lemon zest.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, but keep a small amount of the cooking water.
- Return the pasta to the pan and toss together. Add the courgette mixture and parsley, then toss again. Sprinkle with parmesan before serving.
- 1/2 cucumber
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 250 grams (9 oz) plain yogurt
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped dill
- 4 salmon steaks or filets, skinned
- 2 tsp olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- Finely dice the cucumber and place it in a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 1 hour.
- Rinse with cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Stir the drained cucumber into the yogurt and add the mustard, spring onion, and dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Arrange the salmon filets in a shallow baking dish, brush with oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the salmon with lemon juice and roast for 8–10 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Adjust time depending on the thickness until it’s just cooked through but still moist inside.
- Remove from the oven and stir the juices from the dish into the cucumber sauce.
- Serve the salmon hot or cold, with the sauce spooned over it.
Food and UC have a strong connection. The foods you eat don’t cause you to develop UC, but they can affect your UC symptoms.
When your symptoms are flaring up, certain foods may aggravate them. When your symptoms are in remission, you may be able to return to your usual diet and enjoy foods that you typically avoid during a flare.
It’s important to learn which foods you should eat and avoid. This may help you eat well, enjoy your meals, and feel better.
There’s no single diet plan that works for everyone with UC. You need to be mindful of the effects that different foods have on your body.
It’s also important to remember that things can change. You may start having problems with foods you could tolerate before, or you may discover that you can now eat foods that were once problematic.
Eat small meals
Before you receive a diagnosis of UC, you may have eaten two or three large meals per day. That’s a lot of work for your intestines to handle.
Instead of eating a few large meals, try eating
Count your calories and nutrients
Over time, UC can make it hard for your body to absorb calories and nutrients from your food. This can lead to malnutrition and weight loss, especially when your symptoms flare up.
If a flare typically causes you to lose weight, try to raise your calorie intake by 250–500 calories a day or by the amount recommended by your doctor. This can help you get the energy your body needs.
You may also need to take multivitamins or carefully monitor the nutrient levels of the foods you eat. This will help you get enough calories, vitamins, and minerals to meet your body’s daily needs.
Watch your salt and fat intake
Some medications used to treat UC can cause side effects if you eat too much sodium. For example, they may cause swelling and bloating.
If you’re using corticosteroid drugs to treat UC, your doctor or dietitian may encourage you to eat a low salt diet to help prevent water retention. They may also recommend a low fat diet, especially during a flare.
When your symptoms flare up, greasy, fattening foods can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Avoiding large doses of fat may reduce your risk of complications.
Cut back on dairy
Many people with UC also have lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance can cause diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain when you eat dairy. If you’re lactose intolerant, you should avoid milk and other dairy products with lactose.
If you have to eat foods that contain dairy or you do not want to avoid them altogether, take a lactase enzyme product when you eat them. This can help your body break down the milk sugar, or lactose, they contain without causing unwanted side effects.
Talk with your doctor to learn if these products might be right for you. Also, make sure to continue eating other foods that provide you with both calcium and vitamin D.
Figure out fiber
Fiber-rich foods — such as grains, vegetables, and fruit — are an important part of a nutritious diet, but eating too much fiber can aggravate the bowels and make symptoms worse for some people with UC.
Fiber adds bulk to your stool, which can increase the frequency of your bowel movements.
Ask your doctor how much fiber you should get in your diet.
Changing how you prepare fruits and vegetables may also make them easier to digest. Instead of eating them raw, try boiling, steaming, or baking them.
Start a food diary
The best way to learn how different foods affect you is to keep a food diary. Each day, record your meals, snacks, and everything you drink. Then, record any symptoms that follow.
Take your food diary to appointments with your doctor or dietitian. Talk about possible connections between the foods you eat and the symptoms you experience. They may encourage you to eliminate foods that seem to trigger symptoms.
Over time, you can learn which foods make your UC symptoms worse and avoid them altogether.
What is the best and worst food for ulcerative colitis?
There’s not one group of foods that are the best or worst for people with ulcerative colitis. Eating a nutrient-dense diet containing a variety of foods while avoiding highly processed foods is the best thing you can do. The worst foods are any that trigger a flare.
If you think a specific food is triggering a flare, you may need to work with your doctor or a dietitian to do an elimination diet to determine which food is the culprit. You should also avoid or limit caffeine.
Can I eat pasta with UC?
Generally, whole-grain pasta can be a regular part of a healthy diet. That said, sometimes whole grains can aggravate UC symptoms. If you’re having a flare, choose white pasta instead.
What meats can I eat with ulcerative colitis?
In general, it’s best to select low fat cuts of red meat, as well as poultry and fish.
If you have UC, informed dietary choices can make a big difference. Nutrition takes on special importance, especially since the disease can make it harder for your body to absorb calories and nutrients. Choosing nutrient-rich foods is important.
Avoiding trigger foods is also key. They can make your symptoms worse. They can even keep your body from properly absorbing calories and nutrients from the foods you eat.
More research is necessary to confirm these findings in humans, but the research is compelling enough for those with inflammatory bowel disease to consider reducing how much processed foods they eat.
For these reasons and more, a well-balanced diet is important. It can help minimize your symptoms and lower your risk of complications from UC.