Kalee Eichelberger knows how important healthy food is for a person with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). When the 22-year-old student at the University of Florida was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease five years ago, she had to completely change her diet with foods that wouldn’t irritate her GI tract.

While each individual with IBD is different, Eichelberger knows what works for her — and what doesn’t. “When I’m flaring, for example, I have a list of go-to safety foods, like rice, smoothies, grilled chicken, peanut butter, and scrambled eggs,” she says.

She frequents the farmers market on weekends and says she enjoys the variety compared to what's available at grocery stores. “The farmers market is actually a breath of fresh air for IBD life because you're able to meet with those selling and preparing the food, address any concerns, and check for ingredients,” she says.

Eichelberger says the farmers market can also be an instant mood booster. “I find when I’m not feeling the best, getting out and walking around can help clear my mind. And planning out meals for the week helps me look forward to eating even when my appetite isn’t the best,” she says.

Kelly Kennedy, RD, nutritionist for Everyday Health, agrees that shopping at the farmers market provides benefits for people with Crohn’s because the produce tends to be higher in vitamins and minerals. “The more vitamins and minerals you can get in your diet, the more you’ll be able to absorb,” Kennedy says.

While it's important for your overall health to incorporate these nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables into your diet, there are a few other things you need to keep in mind to prevent Crohn’s disease symptoms from flaring.

“I prepare my foods in ways that adhere to my restricted diet and promote GI rest,” Eichelberger says.

How to Choose and Prepare Produce from the Farmers Market

One of the symptoms of Crohn’s is frequent bowel movements and diarrhea. And eating foods that are high in fiber, including fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, mangoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, and broccoli, can make those symptoms worse.

But you can still enjoy fruits and vegetables by preparing or cooking them in ways that reduce the amount of fiber you consume. “If a fruit or vegetable is able to be peeled, that can help,” Kennedy says. “If you remove the skin then you’re removing the majority of the fiber.”

Cooking produce — by roasting or steaming vegetables, or making applesauce — rather than eating it raw can also help decrease the fiber.

Other strategies for preparing fruits and vegetables, like pureeing, may also be easier on the digestive tract. “Think hummus versus whole chickpeas,” Kennedy says. And don't forget to remove seeds from fruits and vegetables before cooking them, since seeds can irritate the digestive tract.

Smoothies can also be a good way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet, and can be tailored for personal preference and health needs.

A lot of smoothies have milk as their base, which might not be good for people with Crohn’s — especially anyone who is lactose intolerant. As an alternative, Kennedy suggests using soy milk or adding yogurt.

Another thing to keep in mind is that certain vegetables tend to produce more gas, which can cause discomfort for people with Crohn’s. Kennedy advises to avoid gas-producing foods like:

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Beans
  • Brussels sprouts

But it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all diet for Crohn’s disease.

“What works for one person isn’t going to work for another,” Kennedy says. “So it’s important to work with a doctor or dietitian to find what works for you and to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs.”