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Recipes for UC-Friendly Meals

Diet and Nutrition

April 19, 2024

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Photography by Aya Brackett

Photography by Aya Brackett

by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT


by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT


Living with ulcerative colitis can make meal planning challenging. Learn which foods are most likely to trigger symptoms and which ones can help reduce them. 

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and ulcers to form in your large intestine (also known as your colon) and your rectum, resulting in often-unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal (belly) pain, or blood in your stool. Symptoms typically worsen during flares and lessen or go away during periods of remission.

If you’re in remission, you’re likely eager to avoid anything that may trigger your symptoms. And if you’re experiencing a flare, you probably want to avoid any foods that could cause your symptoms to worsen — and maybe even find foods that can help reduce symptoms. We break it down below and even include some recipes.

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How food affects UC

The foods you eat can make a difference when you’re living with UC. Finding the right foods can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. And with a little help and work, you can develop a meal plan that works for you.

Foods that may reduce symptoms

According to a 2023 research review, the diets below are some of the best ones to help improve quality of life and reduce symptom severity in people with UC.

Low FODMAP diet

On a low FODMAP diet, you reduce or eliminate consumption of foods that contain fermentable sugars, which can be difficult to digest. These sugars are found in certain fruits, legumes, beans, grains, dairy products, and vegetables.

Eventually, you might be able to add these foods back to your diet slowly to see how each one affects your symptoms.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans while avoiding highly processed foods, added sugars, and alcohol. This is a traditional way of eating in the areas that border the Mediterranean Sea.

Anti-inflammatory diet

This is not a specific diet but a focus on eating foods that may help reduce inflammation, such as healthy fats, fatty fish, deeply colored fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, and certain nuts. It also focuses on avoiding foods that promote inflammation, such as red meat, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars.

The Mediterranean diet is one type of anti-inflammatory diet.

Foods that may reduce inflammation

A 2017 review suggests that eating a plant-based diet for at least 2 years may reduce markers of inflammation.

Similarly, a small 2020 study found that a low fat diet reduced markers of inflammation and increased quality of life for people with UC.

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, citing 2020 guidelines from the International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, recommends that people with UC consume more of the following foods, which may reduce inflammation:

  • cooked, cooled, and reheated starches, such as potatoes and rice
  • fruits and vegetables that are high in soluble fiber, such as bananas, berries, and applesauce
  • cooked vegetables, such as carrots, squash, and green beans
  • foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as seeds, nuts, and fatty fish

Foods that may trigger symptoms or inflammation

While the foods that trigger symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease vary from person to person, some are common enough that you may want to eat them in moderation or avoid them altogether. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, these include:

Foods that may trigger symptoms:

  • foods high in insoluble fiber
  • foods high in lactose
  • spicy foods
  • alcohol
  • added sugars
  • sugar alcohols and substitutes
  • caffeine

Foods that may trigger inflammation:

  • red meats
  • processed meats
  • coconut oil, palm oil, and dairy fats
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Recipes for UC-friendly foods

The following recipes provide tasty meal ideas that incorporate the above guidance. But keep in mind that some of the foods may trigger your UC symptoms, because every person’s body responds to foods differently.

Banana pancakes

Banana pancakes are a great substitute for traditional pancakes. Bananas are a good option for people with UC, and this recipe, with only three ingredients, is almost as easy as opening a box of premade pancake mix.

Get the recipe.

Grilled balsamic chicken

Grilling lean proteins, such as chicken, is a healthy option. Because chicken is low in fat, it may help reduce inflammation — and help you feel better.

This recipe uses skinless breasts to keep the fat content low and balsamic vinegar to provide most of the flavor.

Get the recipe.

Baked salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish with plenty of omega-3s and protein. A healthy bake seasoned with little or no pepper, some garlic powder, a little lemon juice, and Italian herbs makes a great meal that may reduce inflammation.

Get the recipe.

Salmon burgers

Salmon burgers may be a better way to get the benefits of salmon if you’re not keen on fish fillets. This recipe involves mixing in extra seasonings, and you can easily add more toppings.

Try the recipe.

Greek turkey burgers

If you’d rather your burgers be more traditional, you can still keep them healthy. Turkey is a leaner protein choice than beef and makes these burgers a good choice for people with UC who want to reduce their pro-inflammatory food intake.

Get the recipe.

Vegetable mash

A great side dish option, a vegetable mash is similar to mashed potatoes but contains a lot more nutrients and fewer refined carbs. The vegetables are fully cooked with the skins removed, so you won’t have to worry about getting too much insoluble fiber.

This recipe calls for milk and cream cheese, but both are optional, so you can easily cut down on dairy fat when making it.

Get the recipe.

Grilled pineapple

Instead of paying the price for a dessert full of extra sugar and fat, you can try grilled pineapple. The natural sugars and honey in the marinade caramelize as the pineapple cooks. The result is a tasty, mostly healthy dessert option or side dish. You can cook this indoors in a grill pan or on your outdoor grill.

Get the recipe.

The takeaway

Several types of food may interact with UC symptoms. Some foods, such as those that are highly processed or high in saturated fat, are linked to inflammatory activity. Other foods, including certain vegetables and fruits and lean proteins, may not worsen UC symptoms.

Some UC-friendly recipes provide substitutes for traditional favorites, such as turkey or salmon burgers instead of beef burgers. Others, like banana pancakes, offer easy alternatives to more processed meals.

Keep in mind that you may respond differently to certain foods than you expect. Keeping a food journal might help you figure out how your symptoms respond to different types of food, so you can then build your diet around your safe foods.

Medically reviewed on April 19, 2024

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About the author

Jenna Fletcher

Jenna Fletcher is a freelance writer and content creator. She writes extensively about health and wellness. As a mother of one stillborn twin, she has a personal interest in writing about overcoming grief and postpartum depression and anxiety, and reducing the stigma surrounding child loss and mental healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College.

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