Low Residue Diet – What Is It And What Foods To Eat And Avoid

by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

Dietary fiber is the undigestible part of plants that maintains the structure of the plants. It escapes digestion as well as absorption processes and directly goes to the large intestine for fermentation (1). It includes includes cellulose, hemicellulose, polysaccharides, pectins, gums, mucilages, and lignins.

‘Residue’ means undigested foods that remain in our gut. A low-residue diet always leaves low gastrointestinal residues. In a low-residue diet, people are allowed to take 10 g of soft fiber per day (2).

Who Should Follow This Diet?

Inflammation of the lining of the intestinal wall causes Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), such as diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease (3), (4), (5). These diseases are painful and can cause acute diarrhea, fever, fatigue, reduced appetite, weight loss, and blood in the stools (6).To soothe the lining of the intestines, doctors often recommend following a low-residue diet or a low-fiber diet (7), (8), (9).

Health professionals recommend a low-residue diet or low-fiber diet after gut surgeries like ileostomy or colostomy (10). A low-residue diet is usually followed for a short duration. You should always consult a nutritionist to plan a low-residue diet for you. Due to impaired nutrient absorption, you may have to include vitamin supplements in your diet.

This article gives a detailed account of what a low-residue diet is, the low-residue diet plan, and the list of foods that you should eat and avoid if you are suffering from IBD.

Low Residue Diet

Low Residue Diet Sample Menu

Image: Shutterstock

MealWhat To Eat
Early MorningOptions:
  • 1 glass warm water with honey and lemon
  • Tea or decaffeinated coffee
BreakfastOptions:
  • Scrambled eggs with 1 slice of white bread toast
  • Pancakes
  • Strained vegetable or fruit juice
LunchOptions:
  • Grilled or baked chicken
  • Soft cooked and pureed vegetable salad
  • Baked fish (remove bones) with asparagus and green beans
Post LunchOptions:
  • 1 cup honeydew melon
  • 1 cup low-fat yogurt (if lactose tolerant)
  • Strained fresh fruit juice
Evening SnackOptions:
  • All purpose flour cookies
  • Flour crackers and jelly
  • Salted flour biscuits
DinnerOptions:
  • White rice with stir fried chicken and veggies
  • Grilled beef
  • Pasta

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Low Residue Diet Food List

Image: iStock

The low-residue diet limits your intake of fiber and several other important nutrients. Hence, you should not be looking at this diet as a long-term solution for your symptoms. Generally, you need to stay away from whole grains, nuts, and seeds as they are full of fiber. However, there are many other foods you can enjoy as part of your diet (11), (12), (13).

1. Grains

  • White rice, refined pasta, and noodles
  • Cooked cereals
  • Cold cereals, such as corn flakes
  • Bread and crackers made from refined white flour

2. Fruits and Vegetables

Usually, the skin and seeds of fruits are fibrous. Hence, you should peel off the skin soft cook, and avoid the seeds to enjoy a bland, low residue diet. Following is a list of fruits and vegetables you can include in your low residue diet:

  • Asparagus tips
  • Green beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Squash without seeds
  • Pumpkin
  • Potato without skin
  • Ripe banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Avocado
  • Canned pears without skin and seeds

3. Dairy Products

Dairy products leave residue and are difficult to digest if your intestinal walls are inflamed. Hence, it is better to avoid dairy products. However, you can consume fermented dairy products for better digestion.

4. Meat

The good news about the low-residue diet is that there is no restriction on meat and poultry consumption. You can have beef, chicken, lamb, and pork, provided they are soft, tender, and lean.

5. Fats, Condiments, And Sauces

You can eat the following as part of your low residue diet:

  • Margarine
  • Butter
  • Oils
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Jelly
  • Honey
  • Soy sauce
  • Salad dressing

Spices and condiments need to be included in very moderate quantities. It is better to use whole spices for flavor than the ground ones. Avoid strong, spicy food while on the low-residue diet.

Sauces contain preservatives and mono sodium glutamate (MSG), which further irritate the stomach lining. Hence, avoid them.

High caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee often disturb the intestinal lining and pH balance of the entire gut. Restrict your intake to a cup a day after meals.

You can also have plain cakes, cookies, puddings, custard, pretzels, hard candies, ice creams, and popsicles. Where the beverages are concerned, you should be looking at decaffeinated coffee and sodas.You can also drink fresh vegetable juices. However, make sure to strain them before consumption.

Foods To Avoid

You should avoid certain foods if you are following a low-residue diet. They include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Raw fruits and dried fruits
  • Whole grain and whole grain products
  • Beans and lentils
  • Vegetables rich in fiber, such as broccoli, peas, and Brussels sprouts
  • Tofu
  • Pickles
  • Cheese with fruits, nuts, and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit juices with pulp
  • Olives
  • Sauerkraut
  • Peanut butter
  • Preserves
  • Tofu

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Low Residue Diet Recipe

Baked Fish With Asparagus And Green Beans

Image: iStock

What You Need
  • Salmon fillet
  • 5 asparagus tips
  • 6 green beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 thyme stem
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
How To Prepare
  1. Marinate the fish with salt, pepper, and lemon juice for 10 minutes.
  2. Wash the veggies and remove the inedible parts and toss in a bowl.
  3. Add olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper in the bowl and mix well.
  4. In a baking tray, lay the fish, drizzle a little oil, and bake at 180°C for 5 minutes.
  5. Take out the baking tray and add the veggies. Bake for 5 minutes more.

Vegetarian Alternative

If you do not want to eat meat, you can use mashed potato (peeled).

Along with following a low-residue diet, you must also do light exercises to keep yourself active. Here’s what you’ve got to do.

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Role Of Exercise

Image: Shutterstock

Regular exercising will keep you active, build muscles, and strengthen your bones. Try to incorporate a minimum of 20 minutes of workout into your daily routine. Walking, lunges, jogging, stairs workout, rope jumping, bicycling, and yoga are recommended.

So, what are the benefits that you will experience by going on a low-residue diet? Find out next.

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Benefits Of A Low Residue Diet

  • Beneficial for people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Soothes the stomach and prevents bloating, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
  • Minimizes stress on the gut, giving it time to heal and recover.

On the flipside, the low-residue diet may have the following side effects.

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Side Effects Of A Low Residue Diet

  • May cause nutrition deficiency, which may lead to several health problems.
  • Since fiber helps to mobilize fat, a low-fiber diet may cause weight gain.

Finally, here are some dos and don’ts that you must keep in mind.

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Dos & Don’ts

DosDon’ts
Follow this diet only if you suffer from any inflammatory bowel disease.Do not follow this diet without a doctor’s advice.
Make sure to drink fresh fruit juice every day.Do not add the pulp of the fruit into the fruit juice.
Eat proteins to help you strengthen your muscles.Do not eat anything that is listed in the “foods to avoid” list.

A low-residue diet can help soothe the walls of your intestine and help you feel better. Check the fiber content before buying the veggies, fruits, and grains. Follow a low-fiber diet only if your doctor advises you to do so. If you experience stomach pain even after being on a low-fiber diet, see your doctor immediately. Also, being on a low-fiber diet can cause nutrient deficiency. Hence, you should take strained fruit and vegetable juices along with multivitamin supplements.

Important Note

Low-residue foods should be well-cooked. Avoid cooking methods, such as roasting, broiling, or grilling, which may make food tough or dry. Good cooking methods include:

  • Steaming
  • Braising
  • Poaching
  • Simmering
  • Microwaving

It may be necessary to drink additional fluids, especially water, to avoid constipation when reducing the volume of your stools with a low-residue diet. After you’ve been in remission for a good amount of time, your doctor may suggest gradually reintroducing higher fiber foods into your diet.

Hope this article was helpful. If you want to share how the low-residue diet helped you, please comment in the box below.

Cheers to good health!

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FAQs

  • How much fiber is present in a low fiber diet?

About 1 gram of fiber per serving is allowed for people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

  • Can I eat chocolate while on a low residue diet?

Yes, you can eat chocolate while following a low residue diet. However, you cannot have chocolates that contain nuts.

  • Do I have to follow a low residue diet before a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is a procedure to take a look at any inflammation, bleeding, ulcer, cancer, and polyps on the lining of the colon. Since high-fiber foods are tough to digest and may cause inflammation on the walls of the colon, it is advised to follow a low residue diet before colonoscopy.

  • Should I follow a low residue diet if I have diverticulitis?

Small pockets or pouches formed on the lining of the intestine can sometimes get infected and inflamed. This condition is known as diverticulitis. Your doctor may recommend you to be on a low residue diet for some time so that the bowel volume decreases (high fiber diet causes increased bowel volume) and the infection heals. Take your doctor’s opinion before following the low residue diet.

  • Should I follow a low residue diet if I have ulcerative colitis?

When the lining of the colon becomes ulcerated, it causes diarrhea and severe pain. To soothe the walls of the colon, a low fiber diet may be recommended by the doctor. Please consult your doctor to know the reason for abdominal pain and diarrhea before starting to follow a low residue diet.

  • Is a low residue diet the reason for constipation?

While on a low residue or low fiber diet, you have less bowel volume, and your intestinal walls need extra movement and energy for the bowel to move. This may lead to constipation. If you have any inflammatory bowel disease, the only way to avoid constipation is by drinking enough water throughout the day.

  • Can I consume alcohol while on low residue diet?

No. Alcohol increases the peristaltic movement of the intestine and causes more inflammation. Consuming alcohol will only further irritate the intestinal walls.

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Hope this article was helpful. If you want to share how the low residue diet helped you, please comment in the box below.

Cheers to good health!

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.
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