Nutrition with CF

Diving Into Nutrition

You know how connected nutrition is to staying healthy with cystic fibrosis (CF). Because of the way CF affects the body, people with CF need a diet that's high in calories and fat. 

While the information below can help you make informed decisions at mealtime, always work with a dietitian at your CF Care Center before making any changes to your diet.

Ready to make some meals that are low cost and tasty? Take a look at the budget-friendly shopping guide.

Not all fats are created equal

We all know a CF diet is packed with fat. But not all fats are created equal.

Peanut butter
  • Fats come in all shapes and sizes: There are a variety of fats, but all fats in food are a mix of unsaturated (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated) and saturated fatty acids, in different proportions
  • Fats do an important job: They pack a lot of calories, and that means more energy

As you may know, people with CF may have trouble absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. So, in addition to the vitamin supplements you may already be taking, consider adding these vitamin-rich foods to your diet:

SOURCE Eggs, milk, carrots, spinach, broccoli  Salmon, tuna, milk, cereal, eggs Almonds, peanuts, mayonnaise, broccoli, margarine Broccoli, spinach, peas, leaf lettuce, coleslaw
  • Fats are actually good for you: Why? Because some fatty foods are a source of naturally occurring nutrients such as essential fatty acids and vitamin E. According to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, unsaturated fats and oils are part of "healthy eating patterns" that also include fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy, and grains


Finding fats for your diet

Get to know the main kinds of fat.

Unsaturated fats—a.k.a. what you may want to have more of

Dietary fats
  • Vegetable oils such as olive, canola, peanut, soybean, corn, and safflower oils
  • Avocados and olives
  • Many nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout

Saturated fats—a.k.a. what you may want to go easy on

  • Fatty beef, chicken with skin, and bacon
  • Palm oil and coconut oil

Trying to add more healthy fats to your diet? Consider planning out your meals and snacks for the week. Maybe start by assigning a key “fatty” ingredient to each day of the week. For example, you can try making a habit of eating avocados every Saturday, or olives every Sunday. That way you can get your grocery shopping down to a science!

Reading nutrition labels

When choosing a food or an ingredient, you can refer to a nutrition label like this one to find out how much fat it contains.

Talk with your healthcare team if you have questions about the information you find on a food label.


Reading nutrition labels

Budget-friendly meals

Making your stomach (and wallet) happy

Nutritious meals don't have to break the bank. Try adding some of these budget-friendly staples to your grocery list.

Take a screenshot so this list is always handy.

Budget-friendly meals


High-fat staples under $5

  • 1 jar of peanut butter (16 ounces)
  • 1 gallon of whole milk
  • 1 pound of butter (about 4 sticks)
  • 1 block of cheese (1 pound)
  • 1 large tub of whole-milk yogurt (32 ounces)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 3 pounds of chicken legs
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 package of cashews (10 ounces)
  • 2 cans of coconut milk (13.5 ounces each)


Nutritious veggies under $5

  • 2-3 avocados
  • 1 pound of sweet potatoes
  • 1 pound of carrots
  • 1 pound of tomatoes
  • 1 pound of broccoli
  • 1 bag of baby spinach (10 ounces)
  • 1 bag of mixed salad greens (1 pound)
  • 3 cans of beans (15-16 ounces each)

Saving at the grocery store doesn't only come down to what you buy, but also how you buy. Consider some of these tips the next time you're filling your cart:

  • Try not to shop hungry: An empty stomach can quickly lead to an empty wallet
  • Take advantage of coupons and loyalty programs: The savings can add up quicker than you think
  • Buy in bulk when you can: Buying larger amounts of food can help you stretch each dollar even further
  • Shop around: Your neighborhood grocery store may not always have the best deals. Consider dollar stores, warehouse stores, or even the farmers market
  • Don't rely on the name: Many stores sell their own products that can be cheaper than the name-brand version
  • Go for quality over quantity: Foods that are higher in fiber and protein can help you feel full during your meal and for some time after

Balancing electrolytes

People with CF are prone to electrolyte depletion from sweating, especially when it's hot or when exercising. Here's when more electrolytes are especially needed:

Electrolyte drinks
  • Any situation that’ll make you sweat more—for example, during hot weather, or while hitting the gym
  • During certain illnesses such as the flu—fever and diarrhea can lead to loss of electrolytes. You also take in fewer electrolytes when you lose your appetite

One solution: People with CF are encouraged to eat food that is rich in sodium. So go ahead, drink more sports drinks, use more salt when cooking, and eat more salty foods. 

Switch it up with recipe swaps


Feeling like you're in a rut? Try something new with these tasty swaps:

  • Try turkey bacon instead of traditional (pork) bacon
  • Use black beans instead of refried beans
  • Swap in tofu for meat in your favorite recipe
  • Grab whole grain bread in place of white bread

Got stomach issues? If so, be sure to discuss your diet with your doctor as certain dietary restrictions can help with some stomach problems.