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Gastrointestinal Soft Diet

By Michele Turcotte, MS, RD

A gastrointestinal soft diet is a low-residue, low-fiber diet composed of foods that are soft in texture, easily digested and well tolerated. A soft diet is nutritionally adequate and may include many semi-solid foods. Follow your doctor's instructions when consuming a soft diet.

Identification

A gastrointestinal, or GI, soft diet is different from a mechanical soft diet. A mechanical soft diet is usually recommended for individuals who are unable to chew regular foods, such as senior citizens with dental problems. A GI soft diet often serves as a transitional diet between a full liquid and regular diet for surgical patients or as a way to reduce irritation and inflammation in the GI tract for people with chronic GI disorders such as diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and gastroparesis. Cancer patients with mouth soreness may also benefit from following a soft diet.

Purpose

The purpose of a soft diet is to give the gastrointestinal tract some rest prior to re-introducing high-fiber, coarser, raw foods which are harder to break down and absorb.

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Carbohydrate-Rich Foods

A GI soft diet includes refined, white flour bread products such as white rolls, biscuits, muffins, crackers and seedless light rye bread. You can also eat pancakes, waffles and refined cooked cereals such as cream of wheat, grits, cream of rice and farina. White or sweet potatoes without skin, white rice and pasta are also recommended for soft diets. Choose canned or cooked fruits and vegetables, generally without seeds or skins. Pulp-free juices are allowed. Examples of appropriate fruits and vegetables include green or wax beans, lettuce and carrots as well as canned peaches and bananas.

Protein-Rich Foods

Protein-rich foods are particularly important for patients recovering from surgery and those fighting infections, because it helps build new tissue. A GI soft diet includes a wide variety of protein-rich foods such as well-cooked, lean and tender meats, including ground meats. Fish, lamb and fowl also serve as excellent protein sources. Eggs, cheese, milk, custards, puddings and tapioca also contain easy to manage protein. Creamy peanut butter and tofu can also add protein to your soft diet.

Foods to Avoid

Foods to avoid are those which may cause distress, including abdominal gas, bloating and diarrhea. Omitted foods include raw fruits and vegetables and dried fruits, especially prune products. Avoid coarse breads and cereals, such as bran as well as nuts and seeds. Take rich desserts, spicy foods fried foods and fatty cuts of meat, olives and coconut off your shopping list. Restrict foods such as poppy seed salad dressing, crunchy peanut butter and horseradish. Caffeinated and carbonated beverages may be off-limits as well.

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