The key to meal planning being armed with information about what you should eat, and incorporating Crohn's-friendly recipes into your repertoire.

When planning meals, think balanced. Select foods from the four major food groups: meat, fish or other protein source; diary; cereals and grains; and fruits and vegetables. Don't try to follow any popular fad diets. These diets may prevent you from getting sufficient quantities of essential nutrients.

Here, a few general meal-planning tips:

  • Eat natural foods, such as fresh and organic fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods. How do you know if it's processed? If the ingredients lists includes anything you can't pronounce, or that sounds like something you'd find in your garage, it's processed.
  • Most people with Crohn's do well with a typical Mediterranean-style diet that is low in fat and rich in omega-3 fats. There are many Mediterranean cookbooks available. Find one with recipes that are appealing.
  • Increase your intake of healthy fats found in nuts and some oils. Fat provides twice the calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein. You need to consume enough calories to offset those you lose because of your illness.
  • If you cannot eat meat, or choose to follow a vegetarian diet, substitute legumes, nuts, soy and healthy oils, such as olive oil, which are good protein sources. If you do eat meat, select lean cuts, preferably from grass-fed animals who are not treated with hormones and antibiotics.
  • Include foods with soluble fiber, which helps nourish the good bacteria in your stomach. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, rice, psyllium and barley bran (not wheat bran). If you are sick or experiencing a flare-up of symptoms, you may need to eat low-fiber foods until you feel better.
  • Change it up. If you can't digest raw vegetables, for example, try cooking them. They may be easier to digest if soft. Juicing fruits and vegetables is another way to get the nutrition you need in a form your body can tolerate.
  • Avoid known trigger foods, which may include diary (if you're lactose intolerant), fatty foods (think processed, fast or fried foods), alcohol, caffeine, and hard foods-peas, corns, and seeds, for example-if you have strictures. As with fruits and vegetables, consider grinding these foods and mixing them in with others.

A registered dietician can help you plan meals that are nourishing and contain the right amount of calories and essential nutrients.