Practical Strategies for Optimal Nutrition with Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

By Dr. Brian Bressler and Ashley Charlebois, RD

It is one thing to know how to eat properly, and another to actually put it into practice on a daily basis. In the articles Meeting Energy and Nutrient Needs with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, meeting energy needs and avoiding common nutrient deficiencies was discussed. In order to meet energy and nutrient needs, improve overall health, and possibly reduce symptoms and increase energy levels, it is recommended to place a large emphasis on eating whole foods that make up a nutritionally balanced diet.

Practical strategies to meet basic energy and nutrient needs are the following:

  • Have a balanced diet

    • Aim to have 3 meals a day with 3-4 of the 4 food groups according to Canada’s Food Guide.
    • Aim to have 2-4 snacks a day with at least 2 food groups according to Canada’s Food Guide
    • Include a serving of vegetables and fruits with every meal and snack if tolerated (cooked, canned, and juices count)
  • Follow the “plate-rule” when in remission*

    • ½ plate represented by vegetables or fruit
    • ¼ plate represented by protein
    • ¼ plate represented by grain products or root vegetables

*Note: during a flare or when symptoms are worse, it may be beneficial to decrease the quantity of vegetables and fruit by having equal amounts of grain products and vegetables or fruit.

  • Aim to have small, frequent meals and snacks every 2-3 hours
    • This will help improve energy levels, may ease digestion when symptoms are worst, and help meet daily energy and nutrient needs

Meeting Energy and Nutrient Needs during a Flare

It is important to try to eat nutritionally balanced meals and snacks while symptoms are worse, even if it is more challenging. Sticking to your usual comfort foods, or omitting food groups, will limit the variety of nutrients you are consuming and may lead to energy and nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and weight loss. Once you start to try a greater diversity of foods during a flare – you will begin to have more safe foods that you know will not worsen symptoms further.

Many individuals with inflammatory bowel disease find eating a low fibre diet is better tolerated during a flare. However, this does not necessarily mean all vegetables and fruits and dairy should be limited. Below is a list of foods from each of the food groups according to Canada’s Food Guide that may be better tolerated during a flare. Try these foods to continue to follow the guidelines listed in the beginning of this article for meeting energy and nutrient needs.

Suggested: Popular Diets for Managing Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

It is recommended you contact a registered dietitian if you need further help meeting energy and nutrient needs or with meal planning.

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