What meals are good for pancreatitis?

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that sits behind the stomach and releases enzymes that aid in digestion. There are two main types of pancreatitis:

  • Acute pancreatitis is sudden inflammation that develops over hours or days and usually goes away within a week or two.
  • Chronic pancreatitis is long-standing inflammation that doesn’t heal or improve. It gets worse over time and leads to permanent pancreatic damage.

Some common causes of pancreatitis include:

  • Gallstones blocking the pancreatic duct.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption over many years.
  • High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in the blood.
  • Certain medications.
  • Trauma or injury to the abdomen.

Pancreatitis causes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and an elevated heart rate. Mild cases may resolve with rest, fasting and medication. More severe cases can lead to complications like infection, cysts, diabetes and pancreatic cancer. That’s why it’s so important to follow an appropriate diet when you have pancreatitis.

Why diet matters for pancreatitis

When you have pancreatitis, eating the wrong foods can make your condition worse. That’s because digestion begins in the mouth. As you chew and swallow, your digestive system starts churning out enzymes in preparation for breaking down food.

With pancreatitis, the pancreas is already inflamed and irritated. Eating the wrong foods forces it to work harder to produce more enzymes, which causes pain and may lead to dangerous complications.

Additionally, the nutrients from the foods you eat help to heal and protect your body. Making smart dietary choices provides your body with the elements it needs to reduce inflammation and repair damage to the pancreas.

Following an appropriate meal plan can help relieve symptoms, prevent flare-ups and support your recovery if you have acute pancreatitis. It can also slow the progression of damage from chronic pancreatitis.

8 Meal Planning Tips for Pancreatitis

If you have pancreatitis, keep these diet tips in mind:

  1. Avoid fatty foods. Fat digestion requires large amounts of pancreatic enzymes. High-fat foods like fried dishes, fatty cuts of meat, whole milk, cheese, ice cream and avocados can overwork your inflamed pancreas.
  2. Limit processed carbs. Refined grains (white bread, pasta, etc.) and added sugars cause blood glucose and insulin to spike and crash. This stress response may worsen inflammation.
  3. Reduce salt. For most people, more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day is too much. Excess sodium may increase pain and swelling.
  4. Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids daily to prevent dehydration and thinning of pancreatic secretions.
  5. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol increase acid production in the stomach, which can irritate the pancreas. They also lead to dehydration.
  6. Stop smoking. Smoking constricts blood vessels, leading to tissue damage. It nearly doubles the risk of developing chronic pancreatitis.
  7. Ask about supplements. Your doctor may recommend probiotics, antioxidants or digestive enzymes if you have nutrient deficiencies or severe symptoms.
  8. See a dietitian. A registered dietitian can provide personalized meal planning guidance based on your individual needs and formulate an appropriate pancreatitis diet.

Following a pancreatitis diet can seem complicated at first. But with some basic nutrition knowledge and meal planning skills, you can learn to manage your symptoms and enjoy tasty, nourishing foods.

The Best Foods to Eat for Pancreatitis

While it’s important to know what to limit or avoid, it helps to focus on all the delicious foods you can eat with pancreatitis. Try to incorporate more of these healing foods:

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and veggies provide antioxidants, fiber and nutrients with minimal fat. The best options for pancreatitis include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale.
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach, chard and collard greens.
  • Root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips.
  • Zucchini, squash, eggplant and other non-starchy veggies.
  • Berries, citrus fruits, melons, apples and pears.
  • Bananas, papayas, mangos, peaches and nectarines.

Lean Proteins

Protein foods help maintain muscle mass but should be low in saturated fat. Smart protein choices include:

  • Skinless chicken or turkey breast.
  • Wild caught fish like salmon, tuna, halibut and trout.
  • Shellfish such as shrimp, scallops, crab and lobster.
  • Eggs and egg whites.
  • Lean cuts of pork, beef and lamb.
  • Tofu, tempeh and beans/lentils.

Whole Grains

Choose whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat in moderation. They provide energizing carbs and fiber without spiking blood sugar.

Plant-Based Oils

Small amounts of plant-based fats like olive oil, avocado oil and walnut oil deliver essential fatty acids without overworking your pancreas:

  • Use 1-2 tbsp for cooking or drizzling on dishes.
  • Choose oils high in monounsaturated fats like olive and avocado oil.

Nuts and Seeds

Eat nuts and seeds in moderation for plant protein and healthy fats. Some options to try include:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Ground flaxseed


Stay hydrated with water, herbal tea, vegetable juice and low-fat milk. Limit caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate and inflame the pancreas.

Sample Menu for One Week

Wondering how to turn these foods into delicious, pancreatitis-friendly meals? Here’s a sample weekly menu:


Breakfast: Oatmeal made with low-fat milk, blueberries, walnuts

Lunch: Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato and avocado. Celery sticks.

Dinner: Baked salmon, quinoa pilaf, steamed broccoli


Breakfast: Greek yogurt with banana slices, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon

Lunch: Lentil vegetable soup. Mixed greens salad with vinaigrette.

Dinner: Chicken stir fry with vegetables over brown rice


Breakfast: Peanut butter-banana smoothie (with low-fat milk and ice)

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich with sliced pears. Carrot sticks.

Dinner:Roasted pork tenderloin, sweet potato wedges, green beans


Breakfast: Vegetable omelet with tomato, spinach and feta cheese

Lunch: Tuna salad stuffed in a pita with lettuce and tomato

Dinner: Turkey meatballs with marinara sauce over zucchini noodles


Breakfast: Avocado toast – whole grain toast with mashed avocado

Lunch: Butternut squash soup. Side salad with chickpeas.

Dinner: Grilled shrimp skewers, couscous, sautéed bell peppers and onions


Breakfast: Protein breakfast bowl – eggs, black beans, salsa, avocado

Lunch: Smoked salmon and cream cheese roll-ups. Fruit salad.

Dinner: Beef and vegetable kebabs. Quinoa with lemon and parsley.


Breakfast: spinach, tomato and feta omelet. Grapefruit.

Lunch: Leftover salmon, brown rice and veggies

Dinner: Chicken fajitas with peppers and onions on corn tortillas

9 Suitable Snacks

In addition to your main meals, small snacks can help control hunger between meals. The best snacks for pancreatitis contain protein, fiber and nutrients without excess fat. Try these tasty options:

  • Fresh fruit with nuts/seeds
  • Veggies with hummus
  • Cottage cheese with berries
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Nut butter on apple slices
  • Greek yogurt with granola
  • Protein shake
  • Edamame
  • Air-popped popcorn

Sample 3-Day Menu for Pancreatitis

Here is a 3-day sample menu featuring balanced, pancreatitis-friendly meals and snacks:

Day 1

Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries and almonds

Snack: Hard boiled egg

Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat, carrot sticks

Snack: Nut butter on apple slices

Dinner: Baked fish, brown rice, steamed broccoli

Day 2

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with banana, pumpkin seeds

Snack: Veggies and hummus

Lunch: Turkey burger on a whole wheat bun, side salad

Snack: Cottage cheese with berries

Dinner: Veggie and bean tacos on corn tortillas

Day 3

Breakfast: Veggie omelet with spinach and feta

Snack: Protein shake

Lunch: Salmon salad wrapped in lettuce leaves

Snack: Edamame

Dinner: Chicken stir fry with vegetables and brown rice

Foods to Avoid with Pancreatitis

Just as important as knowing what to eat is knowing what to avoid. Steer clear of these foods when possible:

  • Fatty cuts of red meat like ribs, sausage and bacon
  • Fried foods like french fries, fried chicken, etc.
  • Pizza, lasagna and other fatty baked goods
  • Whole-fat cheese and ice cream
  • Pastries, donuts, cakes and pies
  • Heavy creams and creamy sauces
  • Regular (full fat) milk and yogurt
  • Oils like coconut, palm and palm kernel oil
  • Chips, pretzels and other processed snack foods
  • Sugary drinks like soda and sweetened iced teas

Focus on the delicious, pancreatitis-friendly foods you can eat instead! With proper nutrition and meal planning, you can manage your symptoms while nourishing your body.


Eating the right foods can significantly improve pancreatic symptoms and prevent pain and flare-ups. Follow these diet tips for pancreatitis:

  • Avoid fatty, heavily processed foods that overwork your pancreas
  • Choose lean proteins, fruits, veggies, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Stay hydrated with water and limit caffeine/alcohol
  • See a registered dietitian to help formulate your diet
  • Make meal plans focusing on nourishing, anti-inflammatory foods

With a balanced approach, you can craft tasty menus and snacks to manage pancreatic disorders, reduce inflammation and promote healing. A smart diet high in antioxidants and nutrients provides the elements your body needs to reduce symptoms and recover. With proper nutrition and some simple meal prep, you can thrive with pancreatitis.

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