What is a Bland Diet? Foods to Eat and Avoid

If you’ve ever suffered from ulcers, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, or gas, chances are you doctor would have recommended a bland diet for you. This diet consists of foods that are easy to digest and are soothing to the stomach. People avoid bland diet because the name suggests it must be tasteless and boring. The word ‘bland’ means that people are discouraged from using spices and chilies in this diet. In fact, this diet can be delicious and good for the digestive system. Read on to learn more about this diet.

What is a bland diet?

A bland diet, also known as low residue diet, soft diet, or a gastrointestinal soft diet, includes foods that are soft in consistency, low in fiber, higher in pH, and gentle on the digestive system. Eating a bland diet helps relieve nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and diarrhea. It is an effective way to deal with peptic ulcers.  Doctors recommend the bland diet to people suffering from gastrointestinal infections, diverticulitis, and Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. People following a bland diet should eat smaller meals more frequently. They should eat slowly and avoid lying down soon after eating.

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People who need to follow a bland diet

Bland diets should be taken for a short period for treating symptoms of an underlying problem. Your doctor may recommend a bland diet if you have –

  • Bacterial food poisoning
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Morning sickness during pregnancy
  • Gastric surgery
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis

How does bland diet help?

The basic idea behind following a bland diet is to give your digestive system a rest. Foods that contain fiber are hard for the body to breakdown. So, people on a bland diet avoid consuming high fiber foods. A bland diet can also help people experiencing a flare-up of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis by reducing the number and size of bowel movements.

The bland diet also helps prevent the creation of stomach acid, which prevents gastrointestinal irritation. In some cases, surgeons also advise people to go for a bland diet for a few days if they are going in for surgery that involves the digestive system.

Foods you can eat

You must check with your doctor about your individual dietary needs. The commonly recommended foods for the bland diet are –

1. Low fiber fruits

Eat fruits are not fibrous and do not contains seeds. Cooked and canned fruits are the right choice. These include –

  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Applesauce
  • Avocados
  • Baked apples
  • Canned peaches
  • Canned pears

2. Well-cooked vegetables

Boil or steam the vegetables and cook them with as little butter as possible.  Avoid eating vegetables raw. Avoid cruciferous vegetables and eat veggies like –

3. Processed grains

You can eat processed grains and products like –

  • White bread
  • Crackers
  • Pasta made with refined white flour
  • Refined hot cereals
  • Processed oatmeal
  • Farina

4. Lean proteins

Eat lean proteins that are cooked with little fat and seasoning.

  • Skinless chicken
  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Silken tofu

5. Low-fat dairy

People who have lactose intolerance or milk protein intolerance should avoid dairy altogether. Others can eat dairy products that are low fat or fat-free.

  • Fat-free milk
  • Yogurt
  • Mild-flavored cheese

6. Other foods

  • Creamy peanut butter
  • Soup, especially broth
  • Weak tea
  • Jelly
  • Vanilla pudding

Foods to avoid

Though foods affect everyone differently, some of the common foods that you should avoid on a bland diet are tough, high-fiber, high-fat, spicy, and gas-producing foods. These include –

1. High-fiber fruits

Some fruits with skin and tiny seeds are high in fiber and are difficult to digest. The acidity in some fruits can trigger heartburn in some people. The fruits to avoid include –

  • Limes
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Prunes
  • Grapefruits
  • Berries

2. Some vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables can make you gassy. You should also avoid vegetables like tomatoes that are acidic.

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Pepper
  • Corn

3. Whole grains

Whole grains are high in fiber, which is not recommended for a bland diet. People who are intolerant to gluten should avoid all forms of wheat, rye, and barley.

  • Wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice

4.  Fatty meats

You should avoid eating fatty protein sources of any kinds, including deli meats.

  • Processed meat
  • Spiced or seasoned meat
  • Hot dogs
  • Sausage
  • Fried meat

5. High-fat dairy

If you have trouble digesting lactose avoid dairy products altogether. Others need to avoid high-fat dairy products.

  • Whole milk
  • Whipped cream
  • Ice-cream
  • Bleu or Roquefort cheese

6. Other foods to avoid

  • Pickles, sauerkraut and similar foods
  • Spices
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Alternative flavorings

  • Instead of your regular cooking oil, you can add a small amount of olive oil to add healthy unsaturated fats and flavor to your food.
  • While spices are not allowed in a bland diet, you can substitute them with herbs and sweet prices to add flavor.
  • Add sweet spices like ginger root, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and cloves to your dishes.
  • You can also use dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and fennel for flavor.
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, mint, dill, and basil are flavorful and good for health.
  • Substitute tea and coffee with fruit and herbal teas.
  • You can make your herbal tea with fennel seeds, ginger root, mint leaves, and lemon zest.

Guidelines for following a bland diet

You must follow some simple rules to avoid irritating the stomach walls further and to give your digestive system a rest. These are –

  • Do not eat raw food. Always eat food that has been boiled, baked, stewed, roasted, or creamed
  • Avoid fried food
  • Chew your food well before gulping it down
  • Do not eat peals of fruits
  • Have small meals, taken three or four times a day
  • Avoid eating late at night. Sleeping on a full stomach can worsen your symptoms
  • Try supplements like aloe vera and deglyccerhized licorice root

Food options for meals

Here are some healthy options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that you can safely include in your bland diet.

Breakfast

  • Fruit – Half a cup of stewed pears, apricots, prunes, and ripe bananas
  • Cereal – One bowl of refined cereal or processed oatmeal
  • Eggs – Soft boiled or poached
  • Bread – One or two slices of white bread with a small amount of jelly
  • Beverage – Decaffeinated tea or herbal tea

Lunch

  • Soup – One cup of chicken, celery, potato, or asparagus soup without cream.
  • Meat – Chicken, turkey, roast beef, or tuna sandwich. Eat it with yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Bread – One or two slices of white bread
  • Desert – Rice tapioca, bread or cornstarch pudding.

Dinner

  • Soup – One cup of chicken, celery, potato, or asparagus soup without cream.
  • Meat – Broiled steak, lamb chop, roast beef, broiled chicken, turkey, or fish. All meats should be lean cuts.
  • Vegetables – Baked sweet potatoes without skin. Boiled rice and carrots.
  • Bread – One or two slices of white bread
  • Desert – Rice tapioca, bread or cornstarch pudding.

Side effects of the bland diet

The lack of variety of foods and flavors in a bland diet can be difficult for some people. You can use onions and garlic, but make sure you cook them whole and remove them before eating. Use marinades to add to the flavor of the dish. You can also add sea salt to improve the taste.

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Eating a diet that is low in fiber can lead to constipation. So, drink plenty of fluids when you are on bland food. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels and regulates blood sugar levels. So, doctors recommend a bland diet for only a short period. They advise you to increase your fiber amount in the diet gradually.

Final thoughts on the bland diet

A bland diet helps patients to recover from gastrointestinal conditions. Though you must control portion sizes in this diet, it is not a solution for weight loss. This diet includes foods that are soft in consistency, low in fiber, higher in pH, and gentle on the digestive system. Many people find bland diet difficult to follow due to the lack of variety of foods and bland flavor, but alternative spices and flavorings can make it easier. A bland diet is a short-term diet, and most people return to their regular diet once their medical issues are resolved.

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