6 Simple Tips for Building a Crohn’s-Friendly Soup

From choosing the right broth to cooking with low-fiber vegetables, our dietitian’s got you covered for a healthy and delicious Crohn’s-friendly soup.

bowl of chicken noodle soup
Simple tips can turn soup into a Crohn's-friendly feast.Ivan Solis/Stocksy

In the middle of a painful Crohn’s disease flare-up and not sure what to eat? The uncomfortable side effects of Crohn’s, a form of irritable bowel disease, or IBD, include nausea, gas, and diarrhea — all of which can contribute to a decreased appetite. Plus, the unpredictable urgency and frequency of bowel movements can make eating even more unappealing.

Research suggests that most people with Crohn’s don’t get enough of the nutrients they need. A meta-analysis published in July 2021 in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that adults with IBD consume inadequate amounts of calories, folate, fiber, and calcium per day. Additionally, intake of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereal, and dairy were also found to be insufficient.

During remission, it’s important to eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes all the food groups. In fact, a review in Nutrients found that eating foods higher in fiber may actually help to improve remission rates. However, the same formula may not work during a flare.

Crohn’s disease affects people differently, so what works for one person may not work for another. Small meals, increased fluids, and electrolytes (such as sodium) are often recommended during a Crohn’s flare-up.

Soup can be the perfect vehicle for meeting all of these recommendations in one delicious bowl because it contains liquid, sodium, well-cooked veggies, and easy-to-digest grains.

Here are six tips from a dietitian for making healthy and Crohn’s-friendly soups along with recipes that can be adjusted to meet your nutritional needs.

1. Choose a Clear, Low-Sodium Broth

A clear, low-sodium broth is a great way to add fluids and a healthy amount of sodium that can replenish what’s lost through diarrhea. Compared with a cream-based soup, a soup made with a clear broth is also lower in fat, which makes it easier for those with Crohn’s disease to digest.

Try a Chunky Chicken Soup from The Pioneer Woman that calls for unsalted or low-sodium broth. This broth will help to replace any fluids lost and has just enough sodium to replenish losses without going overboard.

2. Add Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy

If it fits for the type of soup, adding some fat-free or low-fat dairy such as milk or yogurt is a great way to add valuable vitamins and minerals like calcium and potassium that are commonly lacking in people with Crohn’s. People with Crohn’s disease are more likely to be lactose intolerant as well. If this is the case for you, don’t shy away from the dairy aisle. Instead, opt for a lactose-free version so you won’t be missing out on the nutritional benefits of dairy foods.

Turkey Pot Pie Soup from Skinny Taste is not only the perfect use for leftover turkey; it also calls for fat-free milk making it a great choice for anyone with Crohn’s. To make this recipe even healthier, opt for low-sodium turkey stock or chicken broth.

3. Pick a Lean Source of Protein

Protein is an important nutrient for everyone, but even more so if you’re in the middle of or recovering from a Crohn’s flare because the nutrient can help the body to heal. Lean sources of protein include skinless chicken and turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, and legumes. It’s important to avoid fatty and fried meats because they can decrease the nutrients your body is able to absorb and may worsen symptoms.

An Italian Wedding Soup from Inspiralized calls for both lean turkey and an egg, both of which are great sources of healthy protein. Plus, it uses low-sodium broth, cooked vegetable noodles, and it’s gluten-free (for those who have a gluten intolerance). To make it even more Crohn’s-friendly, peel the zucchini before spiralizing it if you are in a flare. And seasonings can be adjusted to fit each person’s tolerance.

4. Load Up on Lower Fiber Vegetables

It's not uncommon for people to want to avoid vegetables during a Crohn’s flare, but this really isn't necessary. Vegetables provide a wide array of nutrients the body needs and become extra important when you're not feeling well.

Instead of skipping the veggies, make sure that you peel them to remove much of the fiber and cook them well so they’re easier to digest. Crohn’s-friendly veggies include white or sweet potatoes without the skin, pureed pumpkin or squash, and peeled carrots.

Avoid gas-producing veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and dried beans and peas, which can cause discomfort during a flare.

Give a Creamy Pumpkin Soup from Whole Living Lauren a try to get a good dose of veggies without upsetting your gastrointestinal tract. Skip the cayenne and optional toppings for a soup that’s easier on Crohn’s.

5. Don’t Forget Your Grains

While it may not be what you are used to hearing, processed, white grains can be beneficial during a Crohn’s flare (although the opposite is actually true once you are in remission). They’re lower in fiber, which makes them easier for your body to break down and absorb than whole grains. White rice, orzo, and Israeli couscous all make delicious additions to a soup.

White rice is the perfect easy-to-digest grain that can help to minimize Crohn’s symptoms, and is part of a delicious Chicken and Rice Soup from Two Peas and Their Pod. To make this soup even better for Crohn’s disease, make sure to peel the carrots and use low-sodium chicken stock or broth.

6. Include a Healthy Fat

Whether your veggies are cooked in a small amount of olive oil before being thrown into the soup pot or you top it with some fresh avocado, you’ll be doing your body a great service by incorporating a healthy fat into your bowl. Healthy fats increase your body’s ability to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K that are often depleted in people with Crohn’s, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

A Vegetarian Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) from Cookie and Kate uses avocado oil, which provides delicious flavor while adding a perfect dose of healthy fats. To make this even more Crohn’s-friendly, use low-sodium broth or stock and skip the jalape?os, green onions, and lime slices.

Additional reporting by Ashley Welch.