The term residue generally refers to any solid contents in the large intestine after the digestion process. This mostly includes all the undigested and unabsorbed food resulting from gastric secretions, bacteria, and dietary fiber. That is why, it is recommended to add low residue foods to your diet.
1. Low Residue Foods: What Is It?
Low-residue foods are part of a low-residue diet that limits our fiber intake by restricting the food that is generally rich in fiber. Usually, in this type of diet, the fiber intake is limited to less than 10 to 15 grams a day for both men and women.
The main goal behind incorporating these low-residue foods into the diet is to decrease the frequency of bowel movements.
2. Low-Residue Foods: Who Is It For?
On a day-to-day basis, most of us require foods that are rich in fiber. However, fiber-rich foods may be unsuitable for a certain section of people with specific health conditions as the body takes a long time and effort to digest fiber. For people with such conditions, low-residue foods may be a better option.
People with the following health conditions are required to eat low-residue foods:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis
- Severe abdominal pain or cramps
- Any obstruction to part of the bowel
- Before or after bowel surgery.
- Recovery from gastrointestinal surgery, including colostomy
Low-residue foods can greatly help individuals suffering from bowel obstructions because of their low fiber content. They can also reduce symptoms like pain and bloating.
3. 7 Effective Low-Residue Foods
Some of the low-residue foods recommended by health experts include:
3.1. Meat, Fish, And Proteins
Individuals can eat tender meat, ground meat, tofu, fish, shellfish, peanut butter, eggs, and other meat varieties.
They can either boil, bake, or poach these meats using mild seasonings. Apart from their original form, they can also be consumed in the form of stews, soups, sandwiches, meatloaves, and casseroles using other approved ingredients.
On the other hand, eggs can be consumed by boiling, scrambling, or poaching them. They can also be consumed in omelettes, puddings, casseroles, and soufflés.
Recommended Quantity: 2 to 3 servings or a total of 6 ounces a day.
Foods to avoid include:
- Processed meats, sausages, hot dogs, and cold-cut varieties
- Tough meats that come with gristles.
3.2. Dairy Products
Individuals can consume milk and dairy products in small to medium quantities.
They can include the following products as a part of their everyday diet:
- Chocolate milk, buttermilk, and other varieties of milk
- Sour cream
- Ice cream
- Frozen desserts (with no nuts)
Recommended quantity: 2 servings per day.
These items can also be consumed as snacks and desserts.
3.3. Bread, Grains, and Cereals
Individuals can eat any variety of the below-mentioned products:
- White bread, French toast, waffles, or plain toast
- Plain Noodles
- Plain Pasta
- White Rice
- Pancakes and bagels made with refined white flour
- Cereals with no added fiber or dried fruits.
Recommended Quantity: 6 to 11 servings each day.
It is important to note that white rice, wheat, and other varieties should be well-cooked before consumption.
The above-mentioned grains can be included in puddings, casseroles, soufflés, and kugels as well.
Stay away from any food that contains:
- Brown rice or wild rice
- Whole grain or whole wheat products
- Dried fruits
- Cornbread or meal
- Any tender, well-cooked vegetables without seeds, skins, or stems can be consumed. E.g., spinach, asparagus, carrots, pumpkin, green or wax beans
- White or sweet potatoes without skin
- Cucumber and Zucchini without seeds or skin
- Strained vegetable juices, excluding pulp and spices.
Recommended Quantity: 3 to 5 servings per day.
Individuals can also eat these in the form of soups, sauces, casseroles, and soufflés.
Foods to avoid:
- All raw and steamed vegetables
- Vegetables with seeds
- All bean varieties
- Potatoes with skin
- Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower
- Garlic and Onions
- Soft canned fruits without skin or seeds
- Well-ripened bananas and melons
- Strained fruit juice without pulp
- Cantaloupe, papaya, peaches, and plums.
Recommended Quantity: 2 to 4 servings per day.
They can also be consumed in the form of sherbets, popsicles, milkshakes, puddings, gelatins, frozen desserts, and cakes. However it is important to consume them in small or appropriate amounts as advised by the doctor.
Foods to avoid:
- All raw and ripe fruits
- All berries, raisins, and figs
- Prunes and prune juices
Low-residue foods stimulate very little bowel activity and may result in smaller stools. Therefore, one may need to drink adequate liquids to prevent constipation.
Individuals need to drink plenty of water or juices or milk or drinks as advised by the doctor. Drinking adequate amounts of water also helps one to stay hydrated and refreshed for a longer period of time.
3.7. Snacks And Beverages
Apart from the usual food options that are available to people, some of the other foods that constitute low-residue foods are:
- Mayonnaise, sour cream, and salad dressings
- Cooked herbs and spices
- Ketchup and mild mustard
- Broth, soups, and stews made with allowed vegetables
- Sugar and Honey syrup
- Margarine, cream, and butter
- Plain chocolate, cakes, and cookies
- Plain crackers
- Clear jelly, marshmallows, pretzels, and hard candy
- Coffee and tea.
Foods to avoid:
- Potato chips
- Jam, marmalade, and preserves
- All desserts that contain many seeds, nuts, and coconut and that are made from whole grains
- Potato chips
- Pickles and olives
4. Need A Good Start? Try This Menu
If you are confused about where to start, here is a sample menu for you:
- 1 scrambled egg
- 1 slice of buttered toast
- ½ cup of frozen orange juice without any pulp
- A cup of milk
- Mashed potatoes with no skin
- Chicken salad sandwich
- Half a cup of melon
- Drinks of choice
4.3. Evening Snacks
- 1 cup of milk
- Plain cake or cookies.
- 3 ounces of lightly seasoned baked chicken
- ½ cup of white rice
- Cooked carrots
- Drinks of choice.
5. Things to Keep in Mind while Consuming Low-Residue Foods
While consuming low-residue foods, it is important to prepare all the items while they are tender. Some of the ideal methods to cook these foods include steaming, stewing, poaching, and simmering. Baking or microwaving low-residue foods in a covered dish is also a suitable method.
Also, while consuming low-residue foods, it is important to note that there may be only little bowel movements and smaller stools. One may need to drink more quantities of fluid to avoid constipation.
Another noteworthy and important thing is to note the fiber content that comes in packaged foods, as there is a high chance of them containing insoluble fiber – which is a type of fiber that does not easily dissolve in the stomach, unlike soluble fiber.
The undigested fragments of the insoluble fiber irritate the gut and cause severe problems. Hence, it is best to stay away from grains, whole wheat and vegetables, and fruits with skin.
6. How to Get Back to Eating Fiber-Rich Foods?
When you get back to eating high-fiber foods, it is best to introduce them slowly into the diet plan to prevent any uncomfortable short-term side effects.
The first step is to gradually increase the intake of fiber by 5 grams a week. This can be done by slowly eating one fiber-rich food each day. If the food does not cause any short-term side effects, you can gradually incorporate it into your daily diet.
It is always important to remember not to experiment with new foods, as it could make the digestion process harder and even make the person sick. Hence, it is always better to stick with foods that the body had previously tolerated well.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the fiber our body needs based on two factors: age and sex. According to them, people following a 2000-calorie diet require the below-mentioned quantities of fiber:
- 38 grams of fiber each day for men and 30 grams for males over the age of 50
- 25 grams of fiber each day for women and 21 grams for females over the age of 50
One of the healthiest ways to get back to eating fiber is by eating fruits and vegetables with skins left on. Some of the other organic foods that give fiber are nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Low-residue foods are not generally intended for all people. Since most low-residue foods restrict what we eat, they do not meet all our nutritional needs. Most importantly, low-residue foods are not intended for weight loss and can cause unprecedented side effects and symptoms in the later stages of the individual’s life.
Therefore, one should always go for low-residue foods only under the guidance and direction of a healthcare expert. They will advise on how long one should continue eating low-residue foods depending on their health condition.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
7.1. Why do we need low-residue food?
Low-residue foods are supposed low in fiber which helps decrease the frequency of bowel movements.
7.2. How can we consume low-residue foods?
We can include low-residue foods in our daily diet with low-fiber foods. You must avoid products with fibers and consume them if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or gastroparesis.
7.3. How long should you stay on a low-residue diet?
Do not exceed more than 5 days with a low residue diet. It can irritate your digestive system.