Hi everybody! Today, while I run around doing laundry, cleaning and buying groceries I thought I’d share some tips on how I try to cook healthy and tasty meals for my husband and myself keeping in mind that he has ulcerative colitis (UC) and therefore is on a very restrictive diet. For those of you not familiar with the disease, you can read up on it here. In a nut shell, UC causes inflammation of the large intestines, that inflammation can lead to sores on the intestinal walls which can lead to internal bleeding. Fun times right?
So to avoid that loveliness, we try to stick as closely to the recommended diet that was given to him by a dietitian which I’ve outlined below:
Foods to Avoid
- brown or wild rice
- granola, course bran cereal, and any other cereals with nuts or dried fruit
- multigrain bread, cracked wheat bread & breads, muffins and crackers containing nuts, seeds and dried fruit
- regular jam & marmalade (anything with seeds)
- pickles, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce
- popcorn, coconut, nuts
- highly seasoned food, pepper, salsa
- aged and strongly flavoured cheeses
- salted smoked meat (except ham), spiced meats, canned meat stews, corned beef, processed meats (i.e. hot dogs, pepperoni, sausages, chicken nuggets, etc.)
- nuts, seeds, dried peas and beans, lentils, chunky peanut butter
- raw fruits (except bananas) and veggies.
- dried fruit
- the following vegetables (regardless of if they are cooked or raw) barley, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, lettuce, lima beans, onions, peppers, radish, sprouts, sauerkraut, tomato and turnip
Okay, I’ll let all that sink in for a minute………….okay ready to move on? Here is what is on the “okay to eat” list:
- white or whole-wheat (but white is recommended) bread, muffins, waffles pancakes, biscuits and crackers with allowed ingredients
- most cereals including oatmeal and oat bran
- white pasta and white rice
- margarine, butter, cooking oils, mayonnaise
- plain soup stock (made without onion powder)
- jello, sherbet, fruit ices, fruit pudding (made with allowed ingredients)
- white, brown and icing sugar
- maple syrup (natural – no Aunt Jemima), corn syrup, molasses, honey
- plain candies, chocolate
- jelly & seedless jam
- water, carbonated beverages, coffee, tea
- mild herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, cinnamon, chives)
- milk, soft & mild to medium cheeses, yogurt, ice cream
- white fish & salmon, beef, pork, ham, poultry (must be baked, broiled, roasted poached or stewed – no frying)
- eggs, smooth nut spreads & tofu
- fruit juices and vegetable juices
- baked apples (peeled), applesauce, bananas, canned: apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, pineapple, mandarin oranges
- well cooked & tender:asparagus, beans (green & waxed), beets, beet greens, carrots, peas, mushrooms, eggplant, parsnips, potatoes (white & sweet), squash, pumpkin, spinach, swiss chard, water chestnuts, tomato paste & plain tomato sauce.
Most other items not listed in the “to be avoided” and “allowed” foods lists are okay too. Everyone is different so this is only a guideline given to us to use, any foods on the “appropriate” list should be fine, but any of the not listed items are sort of trial and error.
Honestly with the exception of a few things, unless it’s on that “allowed foods” list, we don’t chance it. So it’s been a few years (4 I think?) since I’ve had to start being a ingredient list ninja (onion powder? no good. Is there celery in that soup? Can’t have it. Coconut in those cookies? put them back. Seeds in the crackers? no good either…) and have found a number of items that we now consider staples around here that help to make eating regular meals a little bit easier.
Vega One or LeanFit All In One
These are the two protein powders that I swear by, they contain so much nutrition including greens, vitamins and minerals – as well as protein. Vega One has been my saviour for many years, and LeanFit has recently joined the rotation in my pantry. Since he can’t eat many vegetables in their standard form, I’ve got my husband use to having these protein shakes which really help him feel better overall. He usually combines one of these protein powders with greek yogurt, kefir, aloe vera juice, fruit juice and water.
Hunt’s Plain Tomato Sauce
For the first few years we used only tomato paste in pasta and pizza and to be honest, it’s a little tart. Not so enjoyable. Then I discovered Hunt’s Original Tomato Sauce. This is the only pasta sauce we use (well we will get the Hunt’s Original Tomato Sauce that is salt free if this isn’t available) because it really has next to nothing in it. The tricky bit is on the label one of the ingredients is “spice.” Does that mean there is onion powder in it? Possibly, but in this case I don’t think it does as it really tastes like straight up cooked tomato. I would be surprised if their “spice” was much more than some salt. There is no basil/oregano/parsley in it so you have to add that yourself, but it is real tomato sauce! The day I found this in the store I did a happy dance!
Prior to his diagnosis, my husband was not a yogurt eater. At first I got him eating it by giving him Activia, but then as I learned more about nutrition I started looking at food labels and quite frankly, Activia has a lot of crap in it. These days he gets vanilla Liberte Greek Yogurt – 2% or 5% (depending on what is available in store). Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt, and being on a high protein diet means adding in extra protein where ever you can!
Pre-packaged broths are another tricky one. How was it made? Does it have onion powder in it? Probably. But we’ve used it without any issues for a few years now so I’m going to say for us anyway, whatever “spices” are in there are in a small enough quantity that it is okay at least for him. Broth really adds a lot of flavour to meals that might otherwise taste bland, and you can “fry” your meats and veggies in a frying pan adding nothing more than broth.
Kefir is a fermented milk product that is like a tangier yogurt. It’s the consistency of those drinkable yogurt snacks that kids often get and is full for healthy gut bacteria. Not sure about the flavour? Toss a little in your morning smoothie and you won’t even notice it’s there. Scout’s honour. Learn more about kefir and how to add it to your diet in this post.
and LOTS of it. Especially if eating a more questionable food, drink a lot of water with it to help dilute the food and hopefully minimize any damage it may cause. Keep in mind though, that drinking a lot of water just before, during, and after eating actually shuts down the release of hydrochloric acid in your stomach making it harder for you to digest food. So it’s best to drink a lot of water throughout the day.
Peppermint is already known as a natural remedy for indigestion, but it also helps relieve many intestinal disturbances and is an excellent drink for anyone suffering from nausea, IBS, diarrhea, and aids in digestion.
Garlic works not only as a natural antibiotic, but as a natural anti-inflammatory. As UC causes inflammation of the intestinal wall doesn’t it make sense that eating food with anti-inflammitory properties (no matter how minimal they may be) is worth doing? Besides the health aspect, garlic adds a lot of flavor to foods and often times if a recipe calls for onion I can easily swap it for garlic without jeopardizing the taste of the meal.
Turmeric is an amazing spice that really battles inflammation. It’s effectiveness is increased something like 200% when eaten with black pepper, but of course folks with UC can’t have black pepper. Even still, adding a bit to your meals can go a long way to soothing inflammation.
Aloe Vera Juice
I know, I know, I know. It sounds awful. And truthfully, if taken straight it is awful. But if you add a little in with a smoothie you won’t know it’s there and it can really do a lot to heal you from the inside. Just think of how soothing aloe is on burns, it does the same in the inside. And when you have inflamed tissue on the inside, don’t you want to sooth it? You can easily find it online if you don’t find it in any stores near you.
Please remember, these things have worked for our family, but every case is different so what my husband may be able to eat without problem may not hold true for all patients with UC. I particularly wanted to write this post as when he was diagnosed nobody told us anything he should or shouldn’t eat. It wasn’t until a month later when he was admitted to hospital did we finally get some direction as to what he could and couldn’t eat. Unfortunately, I think this happens more often than not so if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed these guidelines should be a safe starting point but I beg and urge you to get an appointment with a dietitian to get a personalized evaluation of what you should and shouldn’t be eating. I truly believe that a large part of staying well with this disease is a result of your dietary habits.