What foods are good to eat when you have gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. This can cause nausea, vomiting, bloating, and feeling full after eating only a small amount of food. Certain foods may be easier to digest than others for people with gastroparesis.

Quick answers

Here are some quick tips for gastroparesis diet:

  • Eat small, frequent meals every 2-3 hours
  • Choose cooked vegetables over raw
  • Go for soft, well-cooked foods
  • Avoid fatty, greasy foods
  • Reduce fiber from fruits, veggies, whole grains
  • Limit gas-producing foods like beans, cabbage, broccoli
  • Try smoothies and liquid meals if solids are hard to tolerate
  • Stay hydrated by sipping water, broths, juices throughout the day

What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis happens when the vagus nerve is damaged, either through illness, injury, or sometimes surgery. The vagus nerve controls the movements of the stomach muscles. When the vagus nerve doesn’t work properly, the stomach’s motility is affected. This means it can’t contract normally to help break down food and move it into the small intestine.

Some common causes of gastroparesis include:

  • Diabetes – high blood glucose levels can damage the vagus nerve over time
  • Viral infections – viruses like cytomegalovirus can infect the vagus nerve
  • Nervous system diseases – Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke can damage the vagus nerve
  • Medications – opioid painkillers, antidepressants, blood pressure medications may slow digestion
  • Surgery – gastric bypass, gallbladder removal, abdominal surgeries can sometimes injure the vagus nerve
  • Eating disorders – frequent vomiting from bulimia can cause gastroparesis
  • Unknown causes – idiopathic gastroparesis has no identified underlying disease

Symptoms of gastroparesis include:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting undigested food
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Bloating and abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Poor blood sugar control in diabetics

There is no cure for gastroparesis. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms through diet changes, medications, and sometimes surgery. Identifying well-tolerated foods is key for coping with gastroparesis.

Tips for following a gastroparesis diet

Here are some guidelines that can help determine which foods may be better tolerated:

Eat frequent small meals

Rather than 3 large meals a day, aim to have 6 smaller meals every 2-3 hours. Large volumes can overload the stomach and take longer to digest. Portioning meals into mini-meals prevents the stomach from feeling too full.

Choose low-fiber foods

Fiber adds bulk that fills up the stomach and can be hard to break down. Soluble fiber from oats, beans, fruits and veggies absorb water and expands in the stomach. Insoluble fiber in wheat bran, seeds, and vegetable skins can scrape the intestinal lining during slow digestion.

Limit high fiber foods like:

  • Whole grains – brown rice, whole wheat bread, bran cereal
  • Raw vegetables – broccoli, corn, cabbage, cauliflower
  • Dried beans and legumes
  • Skin, seeds, membranes of fruits and vegetables
  • Tough meat with gristle

Choose low-fat foods

High-fat foods like fried and greasy foods require more stomach acid and bile to break down. They also delay stomach emptying. Limit fat from:

  • Fried foods – french fries, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks
  • Fatty cuts of meat – bacon, sausage, prime rib
  • Whole milk dairy – cheese, ice cream, cream

Cook fruits and vegetables

Raw fruits and vegetables are more fibrous and harder to digest. Cooking softens the fiber and makes them easier to tolerate. Cook veggies until very soft by:

  • Steaming
  • Boiling
  • Roasting
  • Pureeing into soup

Some quick-cooking veggies include asparagus tips, spinach, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms.

Avoid gas-producing foods

Foods that produce gas as they digest can cause bloating, pain, and abdominal discomfort. Limit intake of:

  • Beans, lentils, soybeans
  • Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale
  • Onions
  • Carbonated beverages

Include naturally low-fiber foods

Some foods are naturally low in fiber, making them usually easier to tolerate:

  • Tender meats – chicken, turkey, fish, eggs
  • Low-fiber grains – white rice, pasta, crackers
  • Canned fruits like peaches, pears, fruit cocktail
  • Vegetable juice
  • Smooth nut butters
  • Milk, yogurt

Stay hydrated

Dehydration can worsen gastroparesis symptoms. Sip fluids throughout the day and aim for 64 ounces (8 cups) daily. Good options include:

  • Water
  • Fruit juice diluted with water
  • Clear broths – vegetable, chicken, beef
  • Herbal tea
  • Coconut water
  • Low-fat milk
  • Liquid nutrition supplements if needed

Avoid alcohol and smoking

Alcohol and smoking impair the ability of stomach muscles to contract and empty food. They can make gastroparesis worse. If you have gastroparesis, it’s best to avoid:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Second-hand smoke

Sample menu for gastroparesis diet

Here is a sample one day menu following a gastroparesis diet:

Meal Foods
Breakfast 1/2 cup oatmeal cooked in milk, 1 scrambled egg, 1/2 banana
Mid-morning Snack 1 slice white toast with peanut butter
Lunch Tuna salad sandwich on white bread, cantaloupe cubes
Afternoon Snack Low-fat yogurt, green grapes
Dinner Herb roasted chicken breast, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots
Evening Snack Crackers and cheddar cheese

This menu focuses on low-fat proteins, low-fiber grains, cooked fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions spaced throughout the day.

Foods to eat in a gastroparesis diet

Here is more detail on good food choices to include in a gastroparesis diet:


Lean proteins are usually well tolerated. Options include:

  • Skinless chicken or turkey, cooked until tender
  • Fish and shellfish like salmon, tuna, shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Tender cuts of beef like sirloin or round
  • Smooth nut butters like peanut or almond butter
  • Tofu
  • Low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese


Choose refined grains over whole grains to reduce fiber content. Good options:

  • White rice or pasta
  • White bread or crackers
  • Hot cereals like cream of wheat or oatmeal
  • Pancakes or waffles made with white flour

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals, but raw produce can be hard to digest. Opt for these low-fiber, cooked choices:

  • Canned or cooked fruits like applesauce, peaches, pears, fruit cocktail
  • Ripe banana
  • Vegetable juice
  • Well-cooked fresh or frozen veggies like carrots, asparagus, spinach, green beans, squash
  • Pureed vegetables soups or stews


Stay hydrated by drinking fluids throughout the day like:

  • Water
  • Clear broths
  • Fruit juices diluted with water
  • Herbal tea – peppermint, ginger, chamomile
  • Low-fat milk
  • Liquid nutrition supplements if needed


Some other foods that tend to be tolerated include:

  • Olive oil for cooking instead of fatty oils
  • Smooth sauces and gravies
  • Well-cooked grains like oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits
  • Ripe avocado
  • Applesauce
  • Smooth nut butters like peanut butter

Foods to avoid with gastroparesis

On a gastroparesis diet, it’s also important to limit or avoid foods that are challenging to digest. These foods tend to make gastroparesis symptoms worse:

High Fiber Foods

Insoluble fiber is difficult to break down and may obstruct slowed digestion. Limit:

  • Whole grains – whole wheat bread, brown rice, bran cereals
  • Dried beans, peas, lentils
  • Raw vegetables – broccoli, corn, cabbage, onions
  • Fruits with skin, seeds or membranes – oranges, grapes, berries
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Tough fibrous meats
  • Popcorn

High Fat Foods

Fatty and fried foods linger longer in the stomach. Avoid:

  • Fried dishes – french fries, fried chicken
  • Fatty cuts of meat – ribeye, bacon, sausage, hot dogs
  • Whole milk dairy – cheese, ice cream, sour cream
  • Butter and oils
  • Store-bought baked goods – donuts, croissants, muffins, cakes
  • Chips, crackers, cookies, chocolate
  • Salad dressings, cream sauces

Gas-producing foods

Foods that form gas can cause abdominal distension. Limit:

  • Dried beans and lentils
  • Vegetables in cruciferous family – broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Carbonated beverages

Alcohol and Caffeine

These stimulate stomach acid production and dehydrate the body. Avoid:

  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Coffee, energy drinks
  • Strong tea
  • Sodas, especially dark colas

Tips for managing gastroparesis flare-ups

During symptom flare-ups, try these tips to give your stomach a rest:

  • Stick to clear liquids – Broth, herbal tea, apple juice, water, electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte
  • Avoid solid food until vomiting stops, then reintroduce bland foods like bananas, rice, toast, oatmeal
  • Eat cooler foods – They require less digestion than hot foods
  • Choose liquid meals – Smoothies, shakes, soups may be better tolerated than solid meals
  • Try digestive enzymes or ginger capsules – Can help break down food and settle the stomach
  • Use antinausea medication if prescribed by your doctor
  • Practice relaxation techniques – Stress can make symptoms worse

See your doctor if symptoms don’t improve with dietary changes. They may recommend medications, nutrition supplements, or in severe cases, feeding tubes or surgery.


Following a gastroparesis diet can help manage symptoms by choosing foods that are more easily digested. Key strategies include eating small frequent meals, limiting high-fiber and high-fat foods, thoroughly cooking fruits and vegetables, and staying hydrated.

With patience and working closely with your healthcare providers, you can find the right dietary changes to minimize your gastroparesis symptoms and enjoy meals again.

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