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Meal Plans for Crohn's

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. It can occur in any part of your intestines from mouth to anus, but is most commonly found in the small intestines or colon. While there is no one particular diet for Crohn's disease, certain types of foods can trigger symptoms. Paying attention to what you eat can help reduce your symptoms and promote healing. Most importantly, you should eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods from each of the food groups to make sure you meet your nutrient needs.

Calories

Your appetite may be decreased and the diarrhea may prevent you from adequately absorbing nutrients, increasing your calorie needs. Consult with your physician to determine how many calories you need to eat each day. Your daily calorie needs may be as high as 30 to 35 calories per kilogram of body weight, according to Washington State University.

Grains

Grains provide your body with energy and may be your primary source of calories. How much you need to eat each day depends on your daily calorie needs, but aim for at least six servings a day. When your Crohn's disease is under control you should include more high-fiber grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, whole grain cereals and whole grain crackers. When having a flare-up, choose more refined-flour grain foods such as white bread, white pasta and refined-flour cereals. Keep a food diary to track your intake and symptoms. You may find that certain foods, even during periods when your disease is under control, cause abdominal pain and diarrhea and intake of these foods should be eliminated.

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Fruits

Include at least 2 cups of nutrient-rich fruits a day. Healthy fruit choices include apples, oranges, grapes, berries, melon, dried fruit, canned fruit and juice. During periods of flare-ups, choose more low-fiber fruits such as canned fruit, applesauce, cooked fruits without seeds or skins and juice.

Vegetables

Vegetables are also nutrient-rich choices and contain high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folate, magnesium and fiber. Aim for 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day. Healthy choices include green beans, spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes and white potatoes. You may need to avoid gas-forming vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions and peppers. Cooked vegetables also tend to be better tolerated than raw vegetables.

Meats and Beans

Meat and beans provide protein, iron and zinc. Adequate intakes of protein help you maintain your muscle mass and promote growth and development. Your protein needs can vary, and may be increased during flare-ups. Include at least 5 oz. of meat or beans a day on your daily meal plan. Choose more lean cuts of meat such as skinless poultry, fish, lean pork chops and beef tenderloin. Eating high-fat and fried meats may lead to diarrhea and malabsorption. Legumes can increase gas and intake should be closely monitored for symptoms.

Dairy Foods

Dairy provides your body with calcium and vitamin D. Include three servings a day to meet your needs. Choices include milk, yogurt and cheese. You may experience difficulty digesting the sugar lactose found in dairy products and may be at risk of calcium deficiency and bone disease. To meet your calcium needs you can try reduced-lactose milk products or milk alternatives such as soy milk. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the amount of calcium and vitamin D you are getting. Yogurt may be a good calcium-rich food choice for you. The live active cultures, also known as probiotics, in yogurt partially digest the lactose improving your tolerance. These probiotics may also help reduce inflammation in your bowel, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

Fat

While fat is a good source of calories, high amounts can increase your diarrhea. The amount you need each day depends on your tolerance level. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid recommends healthy adults include at least five servings of fat a day. Choices and serving sizes include 1 tsp. of butter, margarine, oil or mayonnaise; 1 tbsp. of salad dressing; and 1 1/2 tsp. of nut butter.

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