What is a soft food diet?

If your healthcare provider suggests you follow a soft food diet, you might be wondering what this means. A soft food diet refers to food that is soft in texture, low in fiber and easy to digest. This way of eating is sometimes called a gastrointestinal (GI) soft diet. It is used after surgery or gut upset.

Eat foods from “easy to digest” list and avoid foods on “difficult to digest list.”

Follow this diet for as long as your healthcare provider recommends. This could be the next two to three weeks or until your appetite and bowel movements return to normal. If you have a hard time eating at home, contact your dietitian or physician.

If a food upsets your stomach or causes gas, avoid that food for a few days before you try it again.

Read food labels on all packaged food. Pick foods that contain less than 2 grams of fiber per serving.

Unless your dietitian or healthcare provider gives you different instructions, you can use these guidelines to help you decide which soft foods to eat. If you can’t tolerate a food, avoid that food for a few weeks before you try it again.

Food GroupFoods AllowedFoods to Avoid
Meats and meat substitutesChicken, turkey, fish, tender cuts of beef and pork, ground meats, eggs, creamy nut butters, tofu, skinless hot dogs, sausage patties without whole spicesTough fibrous meats with gristle, meat with casings (hot dogs, sausage, kielbasa), lunch meats with whole spices, shellfish, beans, chunky peanut butter, nuts
Fruits and juicesFruit juices without pulp, banana, avocado, peeled apples and applesauce, canned peaches and pears, cooked fruit without skin/seeds, peeled ripe peaches and pears, ripe seedless melonJuices with pulp, fresh fruit (except allowed peeled fruits), dried fruits, canned fruit cocktail and pineapple, coconut, frozen/ thawed berries
VegetablesWell-cooked or canned vegetables without seeds or skin, potatoes without skin, tomato paste, puree and smooth sauces, vegetable juice, vegetable juice without pulp, olivesRaw or lightly cooked vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, onions, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, summer squash, corn (fresh, frozen or canned), stewed tomatoes, potato skins, sauerkraut, pickles
Cereals and grainsLow-fiber dry or cooked cereals, white rice, pasta, macaroni, or noodles made with white or refined flourCereals with nuts, berries, dried fruits, whole grain cereals, bran cereals, granola or raw oats, brown or wild rice, pasta, macaroni or noodles made with whole grain flour, barley, quinoa, popcorn
Breads and crackersBreads and rolls made with white or refined flour, plain white bagel or toast, plain crackers made with white or refined flour, graham crackersBreads and rolls made with whole grain flour, breads and rolls made with raisins, nuts or seeds, multigrain crackers
DairyMilk, powdered milk, evaporated milk, non-dairy milk kefir, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheeseAny dairy product mixed with fresh fruit (except allowed peeled fruits), berries, nuts or seeds, and granola
DessertsPlain cake, pudding, custard, smooth ice cream, sherbet, gelatin, fruit whips, smooth milkshakes, marshmallows, cookies without dried fruits or nuts, snack chips and pretzels using refined floursAny dessert that contains nuts, dried fruits, coconut, or fruits with seeds
Herbs and spicesAll ground spices or herbs, saltWhole spices like peppercorns, whole cloves, anise seeds, celery seeds, rosemary, caraway seeds, and fresh herbs
Snacks/other foodsSugar, honey, smooth jelly without seeds, mayonnaise, smooth mustard, soy sauce, oil, butter, margarine, marshmallowsCarbonated beverages, jams, or jellies with seeds,

What are some other instructions for following a soft food diet?

  1. Chew all foods slowly to a mashed potato consistency. The more you chew your food, the easier it will be for your body to digest the food.
  2. Continue to eat every few hours during the day. You may feel more comfortable eating four to six meals daily rather than three large meals.
  3. Drink at least eight cups of fluid every day. You should count pudding, ice cream, sherbet, Popsicles®, soup, gelatin and yogurt as fluids.
  4. This diet may be low in some nutrients because of the foods restricted. A multivitamin may be needed if you are told to follow this diet for more than 2 to 3 weeks. Talk to your medical team before taking any vitamin or mineral supplements.
  5. Fiber is still an important part of a balanced diet. Once your symptoms resolve, begin to slowly add fiber-rich foods back into your diet. Add one new food into your diet every 2 to 3 days to watch for gut upset.
  6. Eating a variety of foods is important for good health. Listed below is a sample 1-day menu that should be easy to tolerate during the first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.


Option 1:

cheddar cheese omelet
1 croissant or English muffin
2 teaspoons grape jelly
8 ounces 2% milk

Option 2:

3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1 banana
1 slice white toast with butter or peanut butter
1 cup tea (hot or cold)


Option 1:

4 ounces grilled chicken with finely ground spices
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (made without skins) with smooth brown gravy
1/2 cup cooked canned green beans
1/2 cup applesauce
1 chocolate chip cookie
1 cup lemonade

Option 2:

turkey and Swiss sandwich on 2 slices seedless rye bread with mayo and mustard as desired
1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 to 1 ounce bag baked potato chips
1 cup lemonade

Afternoon Snackmozzarella string cheese
4 to 6 saltine crackers or 1 snack-size package of pretzels
1 cup water
Dinner1 serving penne pasta with meat sauce Parmesan cheese, olive oil, or butter as desired
1 slice seedless Italian bread
1 cup well-cooked carrots
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
1 cup iced tea
Evening Snack1/2 cup cottage cheese, pudding or JELL-O ®
1/2 cup canned peaches
1 cup water

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/25/2021.


  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrition Care Manual. (http://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/) Accessed 2/26/2021.
  • GI Society Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. Low residue diet. (https://badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/low-residue-diet/) Accessed 2/26/2021.

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