If you are reading this either you or someone you care about and cook for has been put on a low fibre diet. You may have been put on a low-fibre diet because of a risk of bowel blockage or to recover from digestive tract surgery. Or you may be having cancer treatment-related diarrhoea, or difficulties in digesting your normal diet. Flare-ups in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may also require a temporary low-fibre diet, too. Eating less fibre can help with the bloating, wind, cramping, pain and fullness associated with these situations.
But, as you may have already noticed, a low-fibre diet is notoriously boring and bland, and hopefully needs only be adhered to until the gut is rested or any blockage alleviated. Some people may need to follow a low fibre diet for a longer time. With both timeframes in mind I have devised a number of recipes that should make the necessary dietary restrictions much more bearable. I have tried to make the recipes suitable for both the low-fibre patient and their family, using various flavours and combinations to bring the best out of the limited repertoire of foods. I hope you like them.
This is a work in progress, so please check back very soon as I will be endeavouring to post new recipes every so often. Refer to the guidance in Help with a Low-Fibre Diet before preparing any of these recipes for yourself or anyone with low-fibre needs. Visit your nearest Maggies Cancer Caring Centre, or click on their website/on-line community, for personal support. Other resources can be found on food.com, although the recipes aren’t written for low-fibre diets as such. Some other resources marked as ‘low fibre’ look wildly unsuitable (eg epicurious) or are message boards only.
100g (3 & 1/2 oz) salmon fillet
200g (7 oz) fresh haddock fillet (or similar)
100g (3 & 1/2 oz) undyed smoked haddock fillet (or similar)
100 ml (3 & 1/2 fl oz) double cream/heavy cream
2 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
lemon juice plus lemon wedges
Oil 4 ramekins and sprinkle very lightly with paprika.
Cut the salmon fillet into thin strips and divide between the ramekins, laying them neatly as this side will be uppermost when served.
Blend the smoked fish in a food processor, add one-third of the beaten egg mixture and one-third of the cream, blending until smooth. Set aside for now.
Blend together the fresh haddock and the remaining eggs and cream, adding a good pinch of salt and pepper, a teaspoon or so of lemon juice and a good pinch of paprika.
Put a tablespoon of the smoked fish mixture in each ramekin, then top with the fresh haddock mixture, press lightly to smooth.
Put the ramekins into a roasting tray; pour some boiling water into the tray so that it comes up about two-thirds the way, and bake in an oven preheated to 200C/400F for 30 minutes. OR microwave for eight minutes.
To serve, turn upside down on plate and garnish with soft lettuce (like salade mache) and a lemon wedge. Recipe adapted from one eaten at La Cuisine d’Odile, French Institute, Edinburgh in the 1990s (!).
This is simplicity itself and oh so tasty. You may need to get the miso – which is a thick paste made of fermented rice or barley plus soybeans – at the health food store, much tastier than it sounds, I promise. And don’t worry about the word beans – the natural processing removes any worries about fibre. Once opened it keeps really well in the fridge and can be used to perk up all kinds of things such as noodles and spread over halved and baked aubergine (flash under a grill, then eat the flesh only; see below). I’ve not stipulated the fish type as different types of fish are used in different countries. In the UK try haddock, gurnard, hake or coley rather than endangered cod. Regardless of where you are what you are wanting is a firm white fish. Serve with rice and well-cooked pak choi (bok choy) if you can tolerate it, or even vegetable stock-braised lettuce with a splash of mild vinegar for extra flavour.
2 x 150-175g (5-6 oz) firm, white fish (skinned), washed and patted dry
2 tbsp white/blonde or yellow miso
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp mirin, dry sherry or fresh lime juice
Mix together the glaze ingredients until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Brush most of the glaze on both sides of the fish and leave to marinate for half an hour.
Preheat your grill/broiler and place the fish on a baking tray, then pop under the heat until the tops are starting to brown and the glaze caramelizes – watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn – about three minutes. Take the fish from the grill/broiler, brush with the remaining glaze. Now either turn the heat to 180C/375C, or lightly cover the fish with foil (not touching the fish) and put on a lower rack, and cook until the fish is cooked through but still moist – about five minutes. This glaze is also superb on baked aubergine/eggplant: slice an aubergine in half lengthways slash a diamond pattern into the flesh (not cutting the skin), oil and bake in a medium-hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread over the miso glaze; place under a hot grill/broiler until bubbly. Scoop out the tender flesh with a spoon and enjoy!
Prawn and Tomato Skillet Dinner
Use fresh or frozen shrimp for a quick, delicious and low-fibre meal for the whole family. Serve with boiled or steamed white rice or potatoes.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 small courgettes/zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2 x 400g (1/2 of a 14 oz) tin of whole, peeled tomatoes, cut open and seeds removed
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 good sprigs parsley and 2 good sprigs dill (preferably tied together with kitchen string but okay if not)
500g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh (peeled and deveined) or uncooked, frozen (but defrosted) king prawns/shrimp – minced if required
100g (3 & 1/2 oz) feta cheese, crumbled
Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof skillet (a cast-iron one is ideal) over a low-medium heat. Add the onions and sauté gently for three minutes, then add in the garlic and courgette/zucchini and sauté for a further three minutes, until everything is quite soft. Add the de-seeded tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, dill and a good splash of water and let simmer for about 10 minutes. No need to add water if you are adding defrosted shrimp.
Add in the shrimp and allow them to cook through. Fish out the parsley anddill. Sprinkle over the crumbled feta cheese and pop under a hot grill/broiler until the feta melts. If you don’t have an oven-proof skillet just allow the heat of the dish to warm the feta; it will be nearly as good. Serve with rice and lemon wedges. Serves 4. This dish is easily halved.
Pear and Cocoa Pudding
This is a quick and extremely yummy pudding for the whole family. This recipe can easily be halved but the whole recipe makes fine leftovers and can even be served cold, with a splash of cream.
2 x 400g (2 x 14 oz)) tins pear halves or quarters in juice
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour OR 150g plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp fine salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
125g (1/2 cup) caster/fine sugar
150g (2/3 cup) butter or Earth Balance-type spread, plus extra for dish
2 medium eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla paste/powder
Drain the pears and lay in a pie dish or other ovenproof dish (e.g. 22cm square; I use an oval Le Creuset-type dish)
Pop the remaining ingredients in a food processor (or mix vigourously by hand) and whiz until it is completely smooth.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the pears and, with a wet spoon, carefully spread over the pears.
Bake in a 200C/400F oven for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes (if you can bear it!) before serving.
Savoury Bread Pudding
Savoury Bread Pudding
This is a great dish for for anyone who just wants a bit of comfort food – with a healthy streak. If you are trying to gain weight please use full fat versions of the dairy products mentioned, and perhaps add in more cheese too.
oil/butter or oil spray, for greasing your dish
150 g (5 & 1/2 oz) day-old white bakery-style bread, crusts removed & cut into cubes
4 medium eggs, beaten
1 x 400g (14 oz) tin/carton cream of tomato soup OR pouch of tomato soup (check that it is less than 1.5 grams of fibre per serving) – Tesco has a nice tomato and marscapone one, as does Sainsburys (both are UK stores)
¼ to ½ tsp garlic powder (optional)
200 ml (4/5 cup)) milk
50 ml (scant 1/4 cup)crème fraiche/sour cream (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
50 g (scant 1/4 cup) cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt, to taste
Spray or paint a one litre baking dish (approximately 27×18) with a little oil. Preheat the oven to 180C. Pop the bread cubes into the oiled baking dish and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the milk, crème fraiche, soup, garlic powder and the eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread cubes. Gently press the mixture into the bread and allow to soak up for about five minutes (or don’t press it and leave, covered, overnight in the refrigerator). Sprinkle over the cheese and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving warm with a a very small bowl of lettuce leaves. Need more calories? Use full-fat dairy. Serves 2 generously, with a little leftover.
Indian-style Chicken Stew
People on low-fibre diets are often advised to avoid spices; this isn’t strictly necessary. Although we associate spices with heat and pungency many spices are not ‘spicy’: cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, mace, allspice, vanilla – to name just a few. We use spices to enhance the aroma and flavour of foods and these very traits are what is often necessary to make low-fibre diets more varied tasting, if not varied in actuality. I developed this recipe to make use of the aromatic properties of some of the mild but highly-scented spices used in Indian cookery. The coconut milk adds further flavour but without the fibre of coconut itself. Any leftovers can be thickened with cornflour and wrapped up in buttered phyllo pastry to bake into delicious strudel for a quick lunch the next day. Those on a low-residue should double-check that using these spices is okay.
2 chicken or turkey breasts (approx 200g/7 oz), skinned and cut in half horizontally (to make them thinner and cook more evenly)
1 x 400g/14 oz (approx) tin or carton coconut milk (full or reduced fat)
3 cm/1 inch piece of peeled ginger, smashed but intact
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
3 green cardamom pods, gently cracked
½ tsp ground turmeric (or one thumb-sized piece of turmeric root if available – lightly bashed)
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 onion, peeled and halved
About 200ml/7 fl oz vegetable or chicken stock
Put the coconut milk and all of the spices into a saucepan wide enough to snugly fit the chicken or turkey. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer; loosely cover with a lid and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Boiling, or fast simmering, toughens chicken. Turn off the heat and let the chicken sit in the heady milk for a further 15 minutes. Strain the milk from the chicken and spices, and pour the strained milk into another pan. Shred or chop the chicken and set aside. Discard the spices.
To the strained milk add the chopped potato and halved onion. Pour in enough vegetable or chicken stock to cover the vegetables and bring to the boil, then simmer until the onions and potatoes are tender – about 20 minutes. Discard the onion and add in the chopped chicken and reheat gently. If you would like a thicker stew, mix 1 tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch with a little water and add this to the stew, stirring to thicken. Serve with white rice. Serves 2
Lemony Courgette Ribbons with Tagliatelle in Crème Fraiche Sauce
As much as the title is a mouthful to say, it is a fresh-tasting mouthful to eat. Make this simple dish even nicer by lifting the pasta out of the cooking water with tongs, rather than sliding it in a colander. This little change allows some starchy water to cling to the strands, which helps extend the sauce.
3 ‘nests’ of tagliatelle (or 1 ½ per person)
1 small bunch each basil and mint, tied together with kitchen string or preferably in a muslin bag
1 medium courgette, peeled
juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp half-fat crème fraiche, or soft cheese with a little milk added
Olive Oil Crumbs Topping
1 slice crustless white bread, rubbed into crumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp garlic powder, or to taste
Bring a pan of water to the boil along with the herbs, and cook the tagliatelle according to packet directions.
While the pasta is cooking, make the topping by heating the oil in a sauté pan and stir-frying the breadcrumbs and garlic powder until lightly coloured. Set aside.
Now take the courgette and peel into thin ribbons. Slice these ribbons lengthways into three strips and drop into another pan of boiling water, cooking for 1 minute. Drain and refresh with cold water. Pop the courgette ribbons back in the pan and add in the crème fraiche and lemon juice, heating gently.
Lift the pasta from the water, discard the herbs and add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and courgettes. Gently toss through before serving topped with the olive oil crumbs. Serves 2
More calories: Saute courgettes in olive oil
This recipe is also good for soft food and low-salt diets
This type of sandwich spread is common in the US ‘deep south’ (where I hail from) and it is called pimienta cheese. Nearly everyone over there just buys it ready made from the shops, but it is so easy to whiz up that it’s a shame that more people don’t make it from scratch. It’s certainly not for slimmers but if you need to keep the weight on, or if you are looking for something to liven up a prescribed low-fibre or easy-to-swallow diet, this tasty spread smeared on white bread might just fit the bill. In the States it is mainly a sandwich filler, but it would be nice as a dip with breadsticks or homemade pitta chips too.
80 – 100g (heaped 1/3 cup) roasted peppers in oil, drained (skins removed if still on)
50 g (1/2 cup) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 heaped tbsp low fat soft/cream cheese (or regular)
2 tbsp quality mayonnaise (I like the very French ‘Delouis Fils’ brand, available at most UK supermarkets, but usually mail-order for US)
¼ tsp garlic powder
pinch of pepper
Whizz everything up in a food processor and allow to ‘come together’ for 20 minutes before eating. Much tastier than the ingredients might suggest! Enough for 6 rolls