Low fat diet plan for gallbladder is one of the best ways to get rid of gallbladder stones permanently. Most people with gallstones that are caused by too much cholesterol and saturated fats in their diet find out they can avoid having surgery if they eat a low fat diet, moderate their cholesterol intake, and exercise regularly. So, what exactly is a low fat diet?
Low-Fat Diet for Gallbladder Disease: Care Instructions
When you eat, the gallbladder releases bile, which helps you digest the fat in food. If you have an inflamed gallbladder, this may cause pain. A low-fat diet may give your gallbladder a rest so you can start to heal. Your doctor and dietitian can help you make an eating plan that does not irritate your digestive system. Always talk with your doctor or dietitian before you make changes in your diet.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Eat 4 to 6 small meals and snacks each day instead of three large meals.
- Choose lean meats.
- Cut off all fat you can see.
- Eat poultry, like chicken, duck, and turkey without the skin.
- Many types of fish, such as salmon, lake trout, tuna, and herring, provide healthy omega-3 fat. But, avoid fish canned in oil, such as sardines in olive oil.
- Bake, broil, or grill meats, poultry, or fish instead of frying them in butter or fat.
- Choose skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, other milk products, or fortified soy beverage.
- Read the labels on cheeses, and choose a reduced fat option.
- Try fat-free sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt.
- Avoid cream soups and cream sauces on pasta.
- Eat low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet. Avoid regular ice cream.
- Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. These are high in nutrition and low in fat.
- Limit the amount of avocado and coconut due to their high fat content.
- Eat whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, brown rice, or pasta. Avoid breads that have been fried or deep-fried, like bannock or doughnuts, or breads that have a high fat content, like croissants.
- Flavour your foods with herbs and spices (such as basil, tarragon, or mint), fat-free sauces, or lemon juice.
- Try applesauce, prune puree, or mashed bananas to replace some or all of the fat when you bake.
- Limit fats and oils, such as butter, margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressing, to no more than 1 tablespoon (15 mL) a meal.
- Avoid high-fat foods, such as:
- Chocolate, whole milk, ice cream, processed cheese, and egg yolks.
- Fried, deep fried, or buttered foods.
- Sausage, salami, and bacon.
- Cinnamon rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, and other pastries.
- Prepared snack foods, such as potato chips, nut and granola bars, and mixed nuts.
- Coconut and avocado.
- Fast food and convenience food meals that have lots of fat.
Dietary changes to help with symptoms of gallstones
There is no specific diet for treating symptoms of, or to prevent, gallstones. Most people with gallstones will have surgery to remove the gallbladder in an operation called a cholecystectomy. However, eating a low-fat diet is likely to reduce symptoms while you are waiting for the operation, as the gallbladder will not be stimulated to release bile into the small intestine. If you find that any particular foods trigger the onset of the pain then try to avoid eating those foods until you have had your gallbladder removed.
Once you have had the operation there is no need to follow any particular diet, although of course it is always a good idea to eat as healthily as possible.
If you are overweight, attaining a healthy weight will be beneficial. However, it is important to do this gradually, as rapid weight loss has been associated with the development of gallstones. A safe weight loss of 1-2 lbs (0.5 to 1 kg) per week is recommended.
A healthy balanced diet consists of:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables. Aim to have at least five portions each day.
- Plenty of starchy carbohydrates. Examples include bread, rice, cereals, pasta, potatoes, chapattis and plantain. Choose wholegrain varieties where possible.
- Some milk and dairy products (2-3 portions per day). Choose low-fat dairy products.
- Some meat, fish, eggs and alternatives such as beans and pulses.
- Limited amounts of foods high in fats and sugars. Limit saturated fat that is found in animal products, such as butter, ghee, cheese, meat, cakes, biscuits and pastries. Replace these with unsaturated fats found in non-animal products, such as sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. But remember that unsaturated fats can also trigger gallstone pain.
- Make sure your diet is high in fibre. This can be found in beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables, oats and wholegrain products, such as bread, pasta and rice.
- Drink plenty of fluid – at least two litres daily, such as water or herbal teas.
Try not to eat too much fat at one mealtime. It might be helpful to have smaller, more frequent meals. Some people find that specific foods are the triggers for symptoms. Keep a food and symptom diary to identify trigger foods. Avoid these foods for a two-week trial period and note any improvements in symptoms.
Cutting down on fat
A high-fat diet and fatty foods can sometimes cause discomfort and painful symptoms. They may also cause fatty stools (steatorrhoea), which are oily, pale and smelly. Steatorrhoea is a sign that fat is not being digested properly.
Here are some ways to cut down on fat in the diet.
|High-fat foods||Lower-fat alternatives|
|Butter, lard, ghee, oils, spreads.||Lower-fat/light spreads, oil sprays for cooking, jam, honey.|
|Whole milk, cream, full-fat yoghurts.||Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, half-fat crème fraîche, low-fat evaporated milk, low-fat or fat-free yoghurt.|
|Full-fat cheese, such as Cheddar, Brie and Stilton.||Cottage cheese, light soft cheeses such as Philadelphia® or Dairylea Light®, quark, reduced-fat Cheddar cheese or naturally lower-fat cheeses such as mozzarella and ricotta (matchbox-sized portion).|
|Snacks, such as cakes, biscuits, pastries, crisps and nuts.||Toasted teacakes, low-fat popcorn, fruit and vegetables, dried fruit, meringues, rice cakes, Rich Tea® biscuits, low-fat crisps such as Quavers® or Skips®.|
|Puddings, such as pies, ice cream and custards.||Jelly, sugar-free jelly, low-fat custard, rice pudding made with semi-skimmed milk, sorbet, tinned or stewed fruit, low-fat yoghurts.|
|Sauces and dressings, such as mayonnaise, creamy sauces.||Light mayonnaise, vinaigrettes, mustard, lemon juice, fat-free salad dressings, tomato-based sauces (some can contain oil), salsa, balsamic dressing.|
|Meats and processed meats, such as sausages, salami, corned beef, bacon, gammon, pork, lamb, beef mince, beefburgers, meat pies, fish tinned in oil.||Chicken, turkey, lean ham, lean or extra lean beef mince, turkey mince, red meat with visible fat cut off, and white fish, such as cod, haddock, pollock, and fish tinned in brine or water.|
Note: many processed foods that are low in fat can contain high amounts of sugar. Check the labels for high-sugar products and try to keep these to a minimum. A product that is high in sugar contains more than 10 g of sugar per 100 g.
Reduced-fat, light and low-fat are not the same thing. If a product is low-fat, this means that the product contains 3 g or fewer of fat per 100 g and is actually low in fat. A reduced-fat product does not mean that the product is necessarily low in fat. It means that the product contains 25% less fat than the original product, which is usually a very high-fat product, such as mayonnaise or Cheddar cheese. This is similar for ‘light’ products, which contain about a third fewer calories than the original product, or 50% less fat. Therefore, keep these to a minimum when choosing reduced-fat or lighter products.
Low Fat Diet
For a regular healthy diet, it is recommended that of the total calories eaten, no more than 30% should come from fat. However, certain diseases and medical conditions can make it difficult for the body to tolerate even that much fat, so a low-fat diet may help people with these conditions.
- Gallbladder Disease: Bile secreted from the gallbladder helps the body break down and absorb fats. When gallstones or gallbladder diseases are present, a low-fat diet is often used to prevent complications.
- Delayed stomach emptying (Gastroparesis) is a condition in which the stomach empties food into the intestine too slowly. This can cause bloating, nausea, and even vomiting. Normally, fat in foods delays stomach emptying, so fats make gastroparesis worse.
- Diarrhea can be caused by many conditions. When it occurs, it can be aggravated by eating fatty foods.
- Malabsorption of nutrients: Absorption is the transfer of nutrients into the bloodstream from the intestine. In some diseases of the pancreas and small intestine, patients have trouble absorbing nutrients from the diet, including fat. A low-fat diet may help to control symptoms until the cause of malabsorption can be diagnosed.
In most cases, this diet provides all the nutrients required by the National Research Council’s Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). In some cases, however, the physician may prescribe supplements. Women of childbearing age and those people with malabsorption may need to take certain vitamin and/or mineral supplements.
|Be careful how foods are prepared. Trim all visible fat from meats. Bake, steam, or broil meats and fish instead of frying. Toppings for potatoes and pastas should contain no fat above the three allowed daily servings.This low-fat diet should be used until the underlying medical condition is controlled or corrected. The physician will give any individual instructions, and tell you when you no longer need to use the low-fat diet.|
|Milk & milk products (2 or more cups daily)||skim milk, evaporated skim milk, skim buttermilk, nonfat sour cream, yogurt made with skim milk (3 gms fat or less/oz, maximum of 3 oz/day), fat-free cheeses, low-fat cottage cheese, part skim mozzarella cheese, part skim or skim ricotta cheese||whole milk, cream, sour cream, non-dairy creamer, whole milk cheese, cheese spreads|
|Bread & grains (4 or more servings daily)||whole grain and enriched breads, cold cereal, whole grain cereals (except granola), saltines, soda crackers, low-fat snack crackers, rice cakes, unbuttered popcorn, low-fat muffins, plain pasta, barley, oatmeal, home-made pancakes without fat, French toast made with egg substitute and skim milk||breads containing egg, cheese, or made with fat, biscuits, sweet rolls, pancakes, French toast, doughnuts, waffles, fritters, muffins, granola-type cereals, snack crackers, potato chips, packaged stuffing, fried rice, chow mein noodles|
|Vegetables (3 or more servings daily)||all vegetables (steamed, raw, boiled, or baked without added fat)||fried vegetables or those in cream, cheese, butter sauces, dips|
|Fruits (2 or more servings daily)||all other fruits||avocado|
|Meat or meat substitutes (5 to 6 oz daily)||poultry (without skin), veal, lean beef trimmed of fat (USDA good or choice cuts of round, sirloin, flank, and tenderloin), fresh, canned, cured, or boiled ham; Canadian bacon, lean pork (tenderloin, chops, cutlet), fish (fresh, frozen, canned in water), eggs (boiled, scrambled without added fat), luncheon meat at least 95% fat free||any fried, fatty, or heavily marbled meat, fish, or poultry, beef (USDA prime cuts, ribs, ground beef, corned beef), pork (spareribs, ham hocks), fish (canned in oil), eggs (fried in butter, oil, or margarine), luncheon meat less than 95% fat free|
|Beverages (4 to 6 cups or more daily)||decaffeinated or regular coffee or tea, cocoa made with skim milk, fruit juices, soft drinks, water||beverages made with high fat dairy products|
|Soups||fat-free broths, consommés, bouillon; soups made with fat-free broth, skim milk, evaporated skim milk||cream soups, soups with added oils or meat fats, soups made from stocks containing meat fat|
|Fats & oils (3 servings daily, each listed is one serving)||avocado 2 Tbsp or 1/8 medium, margarine 1 tsp,diet margarine 2 tsp,salad dressing 1 Tbsp,diet salad dressing 2 Tbsp, vegetable oils 1 tsp,nuts (raw or dry roasted):almonds 6, peanuts 20 small or 10 large, whole walnuts 2, whole pistachios 18, sesame seeds 1 Tbsp, sunflower seeds 1 Tbsp,saturated fats: bacon 1 strip, butter 1 tsp, dried coconut 2 Tbsp, cream cheese 1 Tbsp, sour cream 2 Tbsp, other fats: olive oil 1 tsp, peanut oil 1 tsp, large olives 10, peanut butter 2 tsp||any fat in excess|
|Sweets & desserts (servings depend on caloric needs)||sherbet made with skim milk, non-fat frozen yogurt, fruit ice, gelatin, angel food cake, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, graham crackers, meringues, puddings made with skim milk, tapioca, fat-free cakes and cookies, fruit whips made with gelatin or egg whites, hard candy, jelly beans, jelly, jams, marmalades, maple syrup||ice cream, pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts, pudding made with whole milk, cream puffs, turnovers, chocolate|
|grapefruit 1/2dry cereal 3/4 cupbanana 1/2whole wheat toast 2 slicesmargarine 2 tspjelly or jam 1 Tbspskim milk 1 cupcoffee 3/4 cup||fat free vegetable soup 1 cuplean hamburger 2 ozmozzarella cheese made with skim milk 1 ozhamburger bunsliced tomatolettucefresh fruit salad 1/2 cupangel food cake 1 sliceskim milk 1 cupcoffee 3/4 cup||tomato juice 1/2 cupbroiled chicken breast without skin 3 ozherbed rice 1/2 cupbroccoli 1/2 cup with low fat cheese sauce 1/4 cuphard dinner rollmargarine 1 tspcarrot/raisin salad 1/2 cuplow fat frozen strawberry yogurt 1/2 cupskim milk 1 cup|
|This Sample Diet Provides the Following|
|Protein||110 gm||Sodium||4,000 mg|
|Carbohydrates||299 gm||Potassium||4,245 mg|
Foods to eat
The gallbladder diet aims to help reduce the stress that diet can impose on the gallbladder, either by easing digestion or by supporting the gallbladder.
A 2015 study looked at the dietary habits and risk of gallstones in 114 females.
For this study, the researchers broadly described two types of diet:
Healthful diet: A high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juice, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts, spices, and legumes.
Unhealthful diet: A high intake of processed meat, soft drinks, refined grains, red meat, high-fat dairy products, sugar, tea, solid fat, baked potato, snacks, egg, salt, pickled food, and sauerkraut.
People who followed a healthful diet pattern overall were less likely to develop gallbladder disease.
Here are some tips on foods that can help keep the gallbladder healthy.
A healthful diet will provide a variety of nutrients. A diet that includes a range of plant foods can provide the nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.
Plant-based foods are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These may help prevent gallbladder disease.
Antioxidants are nutrients that help rid the body of toxic molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals develop in the body as a result of natural processes and environmental stresses, including processed foods. As free radicals build up, oxidative stress can result. This can cause cell damage, which can lead to various diseases, including cancer.
Protein is essential for the repair and growth of body tissues. Red meat and dairy products are good sources of protein, but they can also be high in fat, and a high fat intake can put stress on the gallbladder.
Low-fat protein foods are a suitable option. They include:
- zero fat dairy products
- nuts and seeds
- soy and soy products
- legumes, such as beans and lentils
- dairy alternatives, such as soy milk
Processed meats and dairy products are often high in added salt. Fresh foods without added sugar are a more healthful option.
A 2016 study found a link between a high intake vegetable protein and a lower risk of gallbladder disease.
Fiber supports digestive health, and it may offer protection from gallbladder disease by enhancing the movement of food through the gut and lowering the production of secondary bile acids, experts say.
In 2014, researchers looked at how a high-fiber diet affected the production of biliary sludge during a rapid weight-loss diet for people with obesity. Biliary or gallbladder sludge is a substance that increases the risk of developing gallbladder disease. It can build up in people who fast or lose weight quickly.
Those who followed the high fiber diet accumulated less gallbladder sludge, which reduced their risk of developing gallbladder disease.
This suggests that fiber can help prevent gallbladder disease in people who need to lose weight quickly, and perhaps overall.
Sources of fiber include:
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
Unsaturated fats, such as omega-3, may help protect the gallbladder.
- cold-water fish
- nuts, such as walnuts
- seeds, such as flaxseed
- oils from fish or flaxseed
People can also take supplements, but they should check first with a doctor, as some supplements are not suitable for everyone.
Moderate coffee consumption may help protect gallbladder function.
Research suggests that substances in coffee may have various benefits for gallbladder function, including balancing certain chemicals and stimulating the action of the gallbladder, and possibly intestinal activity, too.
An adequate intake of calcium in the diet can support gallbladder health.
Calcium is present in:
- dark, leafy greens, such as kale and broccoli
- dairy foods, such as yogurt, cheese, and milk
- fortified dairy alternatives, such as almond or flax milk
- orange juice
People with a risk of gallbladder disease should choose zero fat dairy products.
Vitamin C, magnesium, and folate
Vitamin C, magnesium, and folate may help prevent gallbladder disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of these nutrients.
Vitamin C is available in:
- red and green peppers
- oranges and other citrus foods
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that cooking in water may remove some of it from the food. Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are the best sources.
Magnesium is present in:
- almonds and cashews
- peanuts and peanut butter
- beans, including black beans and edamame
- soy milk
Good source of folate include:
- beef liver
- black-eyed peas
- fortified cereals
Supplements are also available, but it is best to get nutrients from dietary sources. People should ask their doctor before taking supplements.
Foods to avoid
Some foods may increase the chances of developing gallbladder disorders such as gallstones.
People who have concerns about the health of their gallbladder should consider avoiding or limiting the following food types.
Carbohydrates are a key part of most people’s diet, and unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole grains and oats, can provide essential nutrients.
However, refined carbohydrates may increase the risk of gallbladder disorders. In one study, researchers found that eating 40 grams (g) or more of sugar a day doubled the risk of gallstones with symptoms.
Carbs to limit or avoid include:
- added sugars and sweeteners
- white flour
- other refined grains
- premade baked goods, including cookies and cakes
- candy and chocolate
The gallbladder produces bile that helps the body digest fats. A high intake of fats, and especially saturated and trans fats, may put extra strain on this process.
Researchers have found that people who consume red, processed meats, and egg as part of an overall unhealthful diet have a higher risk of gallstones.
Unhealthful fats are present in:
- red, fatty meats
- processed meats
- other processed foods
- full-fat dairy products
- fried foods
- many fast foods
- premade salad dressings and sauces
- premade baked goods and desserts
- chocolate and other candies
- ice cream
After gallbladder removal
People who have surgery to remove their gallbladder will still be able to digest food, but they may need to make some dietary changes, at least for the first few days or weeks.
A doctor may advise a person to:
- eat small meals on the days after surgery
- follow a low-fat diet for several weeks
If the individual experiences bloating, diarrhea, or other digestive symptoms, it may help to:
- avoid caffeine
- avoid spicy or fatty foods
- avoid anything that makes symptoms worse
- gradually introduce more fiber into the diet
Anyone who notices greasy, frothy, or foamy stools should contact their doctor.