What you can and can't eat on the bland diet
In addition to specific food recommendations, people following a bland diet may have to eat smaller meals more frequently, eat more slowly, and avoid lying down soon after eating.
- The diet consists of low fiber foods.
- It is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery.
- Foods to be eaten or avoided vary based on individual reasons for following a bland diet.
- A bland diet is typically only recommended for a short period.
What is the logic behind it?
Smooth tomato soup may be gentle on the digestive system.
The goal is to give the digestive system a rest. Foods with fiber are harder for the body to break down, so people on a bland diet tend to avoid foods that contain fiber.
For people experiencing a flare of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, a bland, low-fiber diet may help reduce the number and size of bowel movements.
For people with gastrointestinal irritation, eliminating foods that create stomach acid can help to prevent further irritation.
Surgeons may recommend that people preparing for surgery or a procedure involving the digestive system should go on the bland or soft diet.
What foods should you eat?
It is essential for people to check with their doctor about their individual dietary needs.
Foods included in a bland diet are soft, low-fat, low-fiber, easy to digest, and not heavily spiced. Tolerance to foods may differ between people.
A bland diet eliminates foods that are likely to cause issues, such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, or nausea.
Since people may already be experiencing significant symptoms, the goal is to avoid foods that could cause additional symptoms or worsen existing symptoms.
Avocados may be a recommended option for the bland diet.
- applesauce (no sugar added)
- skinless and seedless cooked fruits, such as baked apples
- canned peaches and pears with no sugar added
- white or sweet potatoes, peeled
- well-cooked vegetables, including carrots, beets, green beans, pumpkin, squash
- tomato sauce
- smooth nut butters, such as peanut butter or almond butter
- smooth soups, such as tomato or mushroom
- cottage cheese
- tender or ground meats
- plant-based milk alternatives, such as almond milk, walnut milk, and coconut milk
- coconut yogurt
What foods should you avoid?
People on a bland diet should avoid eating crunchy peanut butter or almond butter.
People on a bland diet should avoid tough, high-fiber, high-fat, spicy, and gas-producing foods. These include:
- tough meats and meats with casings, such as sausages
- nuts and seeds
- crunchy peanut butter or almond butter
- dairy products (if the person has trouble digesting lactose)
- dried fruit
- fresh fruit (except for those on the allowed list)
- raw vegetables
- fresh and cooked corn, including popcorn
- skin of potatoes
- gas-producing vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, peppers, and cauliflower
- whole grain products, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole grain or Ezekiel bread
- high-fiber cereals
- fried pastries, such as donuts
- carbonated drinks
- gluten (for those who are intolerant)
The following foods and drinks may not be high in fiber but can cause gastrointestinal irritation in some conditions, such as acid reflux:
- certain spices and condiments, including pepper, hot sauce, and barbecue sauce
- strong seasonings, such as garlic, horseradish, and chili pepper
- caffeinated beverages
- citrus fruits
- tomato products
- peppermint and spearmint
- fried foods
- high-fat foods
Is it safe?
The bland diet is only recommended for a short time when necessary. After a person recovers or their condition improves, their doctor will advise them to increase the amount of fiber in their diet gradually.
Fiber offers many health benefits so following a bland diet for an extended period could adversely impact health.
Eating high-fiber foods can help decrease levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), promote stable blood sugar levels, and help with weight management.
What do the studies say?
There are not many scientific studies regarding the effectiveness of a bland diet. The diet proposes that people avoid eating foods that cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas and diarrhea. It also recommends eating softer, milder foods because foods with intense flavors and odors might exacerbate a person's nausea.
Because symptoms and triggers of acid reflux vary widely, there is little evidence to prove that people should avoid specific foods. Due to lack of evidence, the American College of Gastroenterology do not routinely suggest that people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) eliminate foods, such as chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks. However, it does suggest that elimination diets could be beneficial on an individual basis.
Are there any risks?
A bland diet could result in constipation since fiber helps to promote regular bowel movements. A long-term bland diet can also cause changes in a person's overall health because fiber feeds healthy gut bacteria.
A soft, bland diet may be beneficial for people whose gastrointestinal systems are compromised and need time to heal. The foods are easy to digest and unlikely to cause additional pain or symptoms.