What is a low-fat diet for pancreatitis? A low-fat diet for pancreatitis is going to be one that is limited to 5 grams of fat per meal. This is not an easy target but it is doable. I know because I do it.
In order to achieve the target of 5 grams of fat per meal your diet is going to need to be made up of plant-based foods for the most part. This means red meat, pork, lamb, duck, poultry with skin all need to be avoided. If you eat high fat foods you are asking for major trouble.
Poultry such as chicken, turkey, quail, grouse, pheasant, Cornish game hens and chukar can all be eaten in small amounts as long as they are skinless cuts of meat, cooked without oil, butter, margarine, or any other fat. The best ways to cook these meats are by either boiling, broiling or roasting so that the fat contained in the meat drains OFF the meat itself and does not cook in it.
Water foul (duck, geese) should be avoided. They are extremely high in fat.
White meat fish are nutrient dense with less fat. So when looking to choose fish for dinner look at halibut, cod, haddock, tilapia, red snapper, perch, crappie and bass. Shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, crawfish, etc) are excellent sources of protein with very little fat.
Meat and fish should probably not be eaten when your pancreas is still highly inflamed. My suggestion is to go vegan for at least 6 months and once your pain and abdominal tenderness is completely gone you can try adding skinless poultry and white fish to your diet.
What Is a Low Fat Diet For Pancreatitis? Think “No Fat.”
Think plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) for a low-fat pancreatitis diet. Plant based foods, especially raw plant-based foods are nutrient dense and healthy. More importantly most plant-based foods are highly anti-inflammatory. Since pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas anything that promotes resolution of that inflammation is beneficial.
Most fruit is acceptable. The exceptions are:
- Spotted, ripe bananas (spots signal sugar is turning to alcohol).
- Any over ripe fruit. Ripe is fine, over ripe is not. Over ripe fruit turns into alcohol (I.E. think peach brandy)
- Avocado, extremely high fat.
- Coconut, extremely high in fat.
All vegetables (tubers, leafy greens, cruciferous) such as yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, swiss chard, kale, watercress, celery, collard greens and asparagus when cooked without oil or fats are all loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants fight inflammation. Plus you could eat a heaping plateful of vegetables and have difficulty reaching 5 grams of fat as long as they are boiled, steamed or raw (NO OIL or FAT or GRAVY or SAUCES or BUTTER or MARGARINE or DIPS in cooking or eating).
I preach a “modified vegan diet” in order to control pancreas inflammation and begin healing but modified vegan is the key. Vegans cook with oils, they use nuts and seeds all of which are HIGH in fat and are not conducive to pancreas healing. Oils and high fat content foods such as nuts, avocado, coconut and sunflower seeds need to be avoided.
More Protein, No Fat
You can insert more protein into your diet by eating legumes. Bean, lentils and peas all offer a nutrient dense source of protein without fat. Black beans, Navy beans, red beans, Kidney beans, Garbonzo beans (chickpeas) and Lima beans all add a little variety in bean dishes, all offer a nice amount of protein.
Lentils can be used in soups or simply added to bean dishes and they are rich in protein. Peas are an excellent side dish with chicken or fish and the proteins complement one another.
Egg whites are a wonderful source of protein with ZERO fat. Scramble up half a dozen eggs whites with salt, black pepper and some sweet bell pepper and you have a tasty breakfast with zero fat, zero cholesterol and 24 grams of protein.
At this point you should be forming a pretty decent picture as to what foods are acceptable and those foods that are NOT acceptable when you need to eat a low fat diet for pancreatitis.
I’ve been accused of being anal retentive when it comes to diet but there really is a reason for my precautions. A damaged, inflamed pancreas, which most chronic pancreatitis patients deal with daily, is not going to heal if the person keeps eating high fat foods that irritate and inflame their already ticked off pancreas. What you need to get your head wrapped around is this: Food is not your friend when you have chronic pancreatitis. The next meal you eat can be the meal that triggers a severe acute pancreatitis attack which causes infected necrosis, organ failure and death. That is reality. IF my memory serves me correctly 20% of acute pancreatitis attacks are severe acute. That means you have a 1 in 5 chance your next attack is severe. The death rate in severe acute with complications such as infected necrosis is as high as 30%.
Those who have suffered an acute pancreatitis attack will recover more slowly if they do not eat pancreas friendly foods. High fat foods can irritate a newly damaged pancreas so much that it triggers another acute episode and with each recurrent acute pancreatitis attack it brings the person that mush closer to becoming a chronic patient.