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Coronavirus & IBD: Nutrition Tips

The recent coronavirus outbreak has led officials to advise people to wash their hands, shelter in place, and practice social distancing to help reduce the spread of infection. Many with IBD are also wondering how and what to eat during this time. While a healthy diet can support the immune system, there is no evidence to recommend a specific diet to prevent SARS-CoV-19 or treat COVID-19. 


The best diet, right now,  is one that minimizes trips to the store; however, fresh food can usually be arranged via delivery services. Find tips to help you stay safe below.

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Balanced eating | Food safety | Take-out/deliveryGroceries | Food/supplement assistance

Tips for balanced eating

  1. When planning meals, include an item from each column for meal balance (see table below). 
    • Most of these items can be found in your pantry or freezer. Items can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. 
    • If on a low fiber diet, peel fruits/vegetables, cook fresh foods, avoid whole nuts, seeds, beans, and dried foods. Seed butters (tahini), nut butters (peanut, almond), bean purees (hummus), vegetable soups, and smoothies are ok to have on a low fiber diet. 
  2. Here are a few meal ideas to get you started:
    • Breakfast: egg omelet with sauteed zucchini and avocado toast
    • Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich with carrots and applesauce
    • Dinner: Chicken tacos with beans and avocado; orange
  3. Nutrition Supplements (Boost® Original, Ensure® Original Nutrition Shake, Kate Farms® Komplete, Orgain® Organic Nutrition All-In-One Nutritional Shake) are great to keep on hand to help nourish you during times when you don’t feel like cooking or eating. They can be great for helping you recover from a flare as well.

Choose 1

Choose at least 2 from different columns

Protein

Vegetable 

(1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw)

Grain

Fruit

Fat

½- 1 cup beans, tofu; 3-4 ounces tempeh, seitan

carrots

1 cup cooked rice

1 each apples or ½ cup applesauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

3-4 ounces chicken, turkey

green beans

1-2 each tortilla

½ banana

1-2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter

3-4 ounces canned tuna

potato

1-2 slices bread

¼ cup cooked pumpkin

seeds or 1 tablespoon seed butter (tahini)

1-2 eggs

zucchini or summer squash

1 cup cooked pasta

¼ cup dried fruit (raisins, mango, apple, pineapple)

1/4-1/2 avocado

1 cup yogurt

lettuce, spinach, or leafy greens

½-1 cup cooked quinoa

1 each tomato, ½ cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1-2 ounces cheese

onion

½ cup cooked oats

1 cup melon

1 tablespoon sesame oil

¼ cup nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter

broccoli

1 cup dry cereal

1 each orange

avocado oil

Practice food safety

  • Wash hands before and after unpacking grocery bags/take-out orders and when preparing meals
  • Sanitize or wash surfaces before and after unpacking grocery bags/take-out orders and when preparing meals
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water 
    • For produce with hard, shiny skin, consider washing in mild, soapy water. Rinse with running water afterward to make sure all soap is removed.
    • For porous produce (berries and mushrooms), rinse in running water right before eating or cooking
    • For produce with many folds or crevices (lettuce or broccoli), consider soaking in cool water for 1-2 minutes, then rinsing under running water
  • Never rinse raw meat
  • Don’t let food sit out for more than 2-hours at room temperature
  • Keep cold foods cold, and hot foods hot
  • When reheating foods, bring to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (use a cooking thermometer to ensure correct temperature)
  • Rotate foods in pantry and fridge by putting the newest food items in the back and bringing the oldest food items to the front so that they're likely to get used first
  • Find more info on food safety here: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html 

Tips for take-out/delivery 

  • There is no evidence that coronavirus is transmitted through food
  • Researchers1 have found that the SARS-CoV-2 can live on hard surfaces (plastics, glass, counter tops, stainless steel) for up to 72-hours and on cardboard, paper, and fabrics for up to 24-hours
  • Here are some tips to help reduce your risk when ordering take-out:
    • Have the delivery person leave food on your porch, outside door, etc.
    • Pick-up food once the delivery person is at least 6 feet away
    • Bring food inside and set on clean counter
    • Remove food from containers and portion into clean containers. Wash hands before eating

Purchasing produce or grocery items

  • Consider ordering online and use same rules for picking-up order as listed in the Tips for Takeout/Delivery. Below are a few examples of companies that offer grocery delivery: 
    • Walmart.com
    • WholeFoods.com
    • Shipt.com 
    • Instacart.com
    • Amazon.com
    • Farms also offer produce delivery to your door
      • FarmFreshToYou.com
      • LocalHarvest.org has a list of community supported agriculture by region where you can choose to purchase local, seasonal foods directly from a farmer
      • AMS.usda.gov has a national directory of farms that offer home delivery
    • Some markets have designated hours for elders, over 65, check with your local market for specifics
  • If visiting the grocery store 
    • Consider have a friend or family member make all the purchases
    • Be organized and make as few trips as possible
    • Wash hands before and after entering/leaving the home, car, and store
  • Use curbside pickup, if available.  Here are a few stores that offer this service:
    • Kroger
    • Costco
    • Sam’s Club
    • Meijer
    • Target

Food/Supplement Assistance

During this difficult time, additional assistance may be needed due to a furlough, lay-off and decreased family income. Additionally, children, seniors and individuals with disabilities may have lost food services due to social distancing efforts. Most states are working to provide these meals in a safe setting. However, these programs may change as situations evolve. Below are a few resources to consider if in need of food assistance.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides funds to low or no-income individuals to purchase foods. Some states (AK) are waiving the work requirement (the work requirement does not apply to those on disability) during the coronavirus pandemic. More info here: www.fns.usda.gov/snap
  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA) or a Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA):
    • These accounts allow you to set aside funds each year to purchase medical supplies
    • Medical supplies may include nutritional supplements such as Boost® Original, Ensure® Original Nutrition Shake, Kate Farms® Komplete, and Orgain® Organic Nutrition All-In-One Nutritional Shake
    • You may need a Letter of Medical Necessity from your healthcare provider for reimbursement—check your plan requirements
    • Certain vitamins and prenatal vitamins are also eligible—check your plan specifics
  • Food Banks provide food to those with low or no income. Find a local food bank here: FeedingAmerica.org
  • School free Breakfast & Lunch programs: For communities where social distancing activities include remote/home learning for school age children (elementary through high school) many schools are offering free breakfast and lunch programs.  Check your local school district or department of education for more details.  You can learn more about the federal school breakfast and lunch programs by visiting USDA Child Nutrition Programs
  • Food Assistance for Elders: The National Council on Aging offers information and resources on food assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Senior Framers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Please see this link from the USDA website, and contact your local school system or program for more information on how and where they are providing meals.

For additional information and resources please contact the IBD Help Center. We are here to help you and your family find information and resources. Our helpline is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. Call us: 1-888-MY-GUT-PAIN (888-694-8872, extension 8) or email us at [email protected]

 

All information is reviewed by the Foundation's National Scientific Advisory Committee

Last updated 3/29/20

 

References

1. van Doremalen N, Morris D, Holbrook M, et al. (2020, March). Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1 [Letter to the Editor]. New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973