Nutrition with inflammatory bowel disease (1352)

Key points below

Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Indeterminate Colitis

Do I need to follow a special diet?My Plate graphic to help choose healthy foods

There is no special diet when you have IBD.  It is very important to eat a variety of foods to get a balanced diet.   Include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy every day. This will help you get enough calories, protein and nutrients. Use MyPlate as a guide.

Sweets and higher-fat snack foods can be part of the diet, but should be eaten less often and in small portions. 

Stay away from foods that cause discomfort. These foods are different for everyone. 

Your health care provider may recommend one of these diets.  Often the diet is used for a short time. 

Low fiber:  this diet may be used if you have narrowing of your intestine. 
Low lactose:  this diet may be used if you are not able to digest lactose (a sugar found in dairy products) easily.

Calcium and Vitamin D

You will need to make sure that you are taking in enough calcium and vitamin D.  They help to build strong bones and teeth.  Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.  Supplements may be needed.  If more calcium is needed, it is best to take it in 2 or 3 doses each day.

This shows how much is needed based on age:

1 to 3 years: 700 mg of Calcium and 15 mcg of Vitamin D

4 to 8 years: 1000 mg of Calcium and 15 mcg of Vitamin D

9 to 18 years: 1300 mg of Calcium and 15 mcg of Vitamin D

19 to 30 years: 1000 mg of Calcium and 15 mcg of Vitamin D

Mealtime tips

Milk, 8 oz - 280-300 mg of Calcium
Yogurt, 8 oz - 350-400 mg of Calcium
Cheese, 1 oz - 175-275 mg of Calcium
Ice cream, ½ cup 88 mg of Calcium
Fortified soy milk 200-300 mg of Calcium
Greens (beet, collard, mustard, spinach) 1/2 cup - 100-180 mg of Calcium


Most supplements have 500 to 600 mg of calcium.  They come in both pills and chews.  Some examples are listed below.  Read the Supplement Facts panel to find out how much calcium is in a supplement.  Always make sure to look at the serving size when reading the label.

Viactiv® (chewable) - 650 mg of Calcium and 12.5 mcg of Vitamin D
Tums® Regular Strength - 200 mg of Calcium and no Vitamin D
Calcium carbonate (generic) - 500-600 mg of Calcium and Vitamin D varies on brand


Iron helps the red blood cells carry oxygen to the body.  It is also needed for growth.  Iron-deficiency anemia is fairly common with IBD.  It makes you tire easily and get sick more often. 

Iron-rich foods: Some foods are better iron sources than others. 
Super Iron Sources
Good Iron Sources

Meal tips

Daily iron needs for children and teens

1 to 3 years - 7 mg
4 to 8 years - 10 mg
9 to 13 years - 8 mg
14 to 18 years - 11 mg (males), 15 mg (females)
19 to 30 years - 8 mg (males), 18 mg (females)

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Many kids with IBD need a multivitamin supplement to help meet their nutrition needs.  Ask your doctor or dietitian if you should take a multivitamin.
Your doctor will check your vitamin levels every year.  If your levels are low, you may need to take extra supplements.  Ask your doctor about your vitamin levels and if you need a supplement.
What about other food choices?
Studies are being done in the area of diet and supplements to treat IBD.  There is much to learn.  The use of special diets or supplements should be discussed with your doctor or dietitian and should not be used in place of medical treatment. 

For more health and wellness information check out this resource:




Call your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if your child has special health care needs that were not covered by this information.