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What is a Bland Diet?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Someone who experiences a gastrointestinal problem such as peptic ulcer disease, chronic gastritis, reflux esophagitis or dyspepsia might be told by his or her doctor to begin an eating regimen called a bland diet. This diet consists primarily of soft foods that have low acidity and minimal seasoning. The consumption of foods such as dried beans, fried meats, whole grain products and most raw fruits and vegetables are heavily restricted on a bland diet. Drinking beverages such as coffee, chocolate and carbonated sodas also is restricted.

Softer Foods, Smaller Portions

While following a bland food diet, a patient eats softer foods such as cream of wheat, mashed potatoes or cooked rice in place of heavier starches such as bread, crackers and grain cereals. Portion sizes are controlled to minimize the effects of digested food moving through the digestive tract, a process known as peristalsis. Patients who are recovering from certain surgeries or other medical conditions such as hemorrhoids also can benefit from a reduction in peristalsis. Foods that have rough skins should be avoided, as should any foods or drinks that are very hot or very cold.

Fruit Restrictions

A bland diet also allows for the consumption of soft or processed fruits, such as applesauce, bananas and seedless canned fruits, but it does not allow for the eating of acidic raw fruits or berries that contain seeds. Some mild fruit juices are permitted, such as apple juice or grape juice, but acidic citrus-based beverages such as lemonade or orange juice are not. This is because acidic foods and seeds can irritate the gastrointestinal tract during digestion.

Dairy Restrictions

Many milk and dairy products are permissible — or even recommended — on this diet, but there are a few exceptions. Chocolate-flavored dairy products are forbidden, as are any strongly spiced cheeses or high-fat dairy products, such as heavy cream. Mild dairy products tend to soothe irritated linings, but excessive fats, cocoa and strong spices can have the opposite effect.

Protein Restrictions

Perhaps the most difficult adjustment to this diet involves meats and proteins. In a strict bland diet, softer meat substitutes, such as smooth peanut butter, eggs and tofu, are encouraged over any type of fibrous or seasoned meat. Certain meats, such as chicken or fish, are permitted if they are not heavily fried, breaded or processed. Steamed chicken breast served with a salt substitute would be a typical protein serving for someone who is following a bland diet.

Maintenance and Transition

A bland diet is designed primarily to help patients overcome gastrointestinal conditions or other medical circumstances that would be aided by improved digestion. It is not considered to be especially effective as a long-term weight-loss diet. Many people find this diet to be difficult to maintain, although some find that the use of acceptable mild spices, such as salt, paprika, parsley or mace, does make it easier. Most patients slowly return to a more normal diet after their medical issues have been resolved. Experts generally recommend that patients monitor how they feel after eating and avoid foods or drinks that irritate their digestive systems.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon323978 — On Mar 07, 2013

Let eating be a means of staying alive, not necessarily a social experience. That's the only way I can handle a bland diet. Meals are brief and over quickly. I eat to survive, not to enjoy the food. I find other ways to enjoy life. No food is necessary to read a good book, or sit down and have a sweet conversation with family and friends. I visit a neighbor, watch a movie, take a ride in the country, go to church and enjoy interaction with people there.

By golf07 — On Nov 17, 2012

After my husband had gallbladder surgery he was supposed to eat a bland diet. Since I don't like to cook more than once I decided to eat the same foods he was eating. This really wasn't all that bad and I ended up losing a few pounds along with him. If I was craving something sweet I would eat some applesauce with a little cinnamon sprinkled on it.

By andee — On Nov 16, 2012

I was in the bad habit of giving my dog table food. This is something I wish I had never started doing. Every time we ate she would want something too and she put on a lot of weight. Even though I knew this wasn't good for her, it was hard to resist.

My vet told me I needed to put her on a bland diet for dogs. Instead of immediately stopping all the table food he told me to slowly wean her off of it. This included giving her bland foods such as rice and cottage cheese.

By SarahSon — On Nov 15, 2012

After I was diagnosed with chronic gastritis I was told to go on a soft bland diet. I was miserable enough that the foods I was supposed to avoid didn't sound good at all. I ate a lot of oatmeal, and toast with creamy peanut butter on it. I also made milk shakes with bananas in them.

These foods were soothing to my stomach yet gave me protein as well. I actually ended up losing a few pounds and felt a lot better all the way around.

The sad thing is once I started to feel better I wasn't so good at staying with the bland diet. I was a lot more conscious of the foods I ate and made an effort to avoid those that bothered me. This has helped with the gastritis, but I gained back all the weight I had lost.

By Mykol — On Nov 15, 2012

After reading through the list of things you can't eat, it makes me wonder what I can eat. I guess the comfort foods and all of the spicy, greasy foods have caused me to have acid reflux, so it makes sense that these would be the first foods I would try to avoid.

This is a lot easier said than done and I don't last very long on a bland diet. I can handle it for a couple of days and then give in to my craving for a slice of pizza and a can of soda.

By feasting — On Nov 15, 2012

Cream of wheat and toast helped me get through my two-week bland diet period. I think that cream of wheat has such a wonderful texture and simple flavor, and it is very soothing.

I discovered that applesauce tastes good when you use it like jelly on toast! I couldn't use butter during this time, and my toast really needed some moisture. The applesauce was the perfect thing!

By seag47 — On Nov 14, 2012

I was trying to adhere to a bland diet plan because of all the heartburn I'd been experiencing, but I finally gave in to temptation. I was craving a steak fajita in a major way, and my friends took me out to a Mexican restaurant for my birthday, so how could I say no?

I fully enjoyed eating the fajita in all its spicy glory. However, I paid the price later. I had probably the most painful heartburn I'd ever had in my life, and after that, I had diarrhea, because my body had become accustomed to the bland food I'd been feeding it, and this sudden wave of spice was a shock to my system.

I really wish that there were such a thing as fajita steak flavored gum! That way, I could get the flavor without the heartburn.

By giddion — On Nov 13, 2012

It was so hard for me to take a break from my high fiber diet when I had a gastrointestinal sickness. I had gotten used to whole grain everything and raw fruits and veggies, but suddenly, I had to stop eating all of that.

One thing that made the transition easier was being able to eat peeled apples instead of applesauce. The fiber was mostly in the peeling, so as long as I got that out of the way, I could still eat the fruit instead of having to settle for the sauce.

By shell4life — On Nov 13, 2012

@Belted – That depends on the reason why you are on a bland diet. If you have been having diarrhea, then you should avoid ice cream and all dairy products.

However, vanilla ice cream is an acceptable bland diet food for someone with an ulcer. It's best if that ice cream is low-fat, though.

By Belted — On Oct 23, 2012
What about vanilla ice cream? Would that be permissible on a bland food diet?
By chivebasil — On Oct 22, 2012

I had some pretty intense surgery done on my intestines about a decade ago and I was on a bland food diet for almost three months after that.

I thought that it was going to drive me crazy. I have never been able to eat apple sauce since. I understand the science behind it, but sometimes the cure is as bad as the disease, know what I mean?

By vigilant — On Oct 22, 2012

I knew a girl in college that I swear only ate things that were white. Pasta, potatoes, cauliflower. It was weird because she didn't do it for any medical reason, it seemed to just be a compulsion of hers. I can't imagine how she could have ever been satisfied at meal times. I would have killed for a splash of hot sauce.

By anon121430 — On Oct 24, 2010

I do suffer with Acid Reflux but lately it has progressed to awful pain in my upper chest especially after dinner and through the night, I think in esophagus. I am on a new Acid reflux pill but it isn't helping much. Also take Domperidone 4X a day.

Have decided to really eat lightly today and try to stick with bland foods. Hubby is not so supportive of my bland diet foods. Don't have a family doctor where I live, which means I have to go to walk-in clinic for help.

By anon98518 — On Jul 23, 2010

Ugh, I am currently struggling to stay on the bland food diet. I agree, facing the pain if I don't is a contributing factor to my ability to stick to it though. Like pocurana, I long for the taste of fried chicken etc.

I wonder, if you eat these foods (pizza, fried chicken, broccoli, cauliflower etc.) but you blend them in the blender after cooking them soft, would that help your body since they'd already be broken down a little bit?

By anon91858 — On Jun 24, 2010

I don't find it particularly difficult to follow a long-term bland diet because when I eat the other way, I am so sick and in pain. It's sort of like aversion therapy.

By dudla — On Jun 03, 2010

Pocurana - I wish there was an easy answer, but I don't think there is. My husband is on a bland diet. He also has to avoid cheese because of his IBS. I think it's avoiding cheese that's harder for him than the bland diet, for whatever reason. And even though there are serious repercussions when he eats dairy, he seems willing to fight through them for the joy (and I mean joy ;)) he finds in a good old piece of cheese!

In my opinion, it's really a matter of mind over matter. Kind of like dieting. I think it helps if you really want to stay well *and* you have someone that can help keep you in line. The support is really helpful, in my experience.

By pocurana — On Jun 03, 2010

Anyone have any tips on accepting the fact that you have to eat a bland diet, long term. If it's short term, like while you hve the flu, I can see how you wouldn't even want to eat anything too flavorful. But if it's a diet that you have to eat long term -- like me, I have GI problems and really need to stick to a bland diet long term -- how do you ignore the cravings for a spicy burrito or some fatty fried chicken?

By motherteresa — On Aug 05, 2009

Diabetics eat a balanced, but also bland diet. That diet can be rather boring.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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