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. 

Peanut butter

Not all fats are created equal

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

  • 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:

VITAMINS A D E K
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 they are a source of 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
Dietary fats

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

  • 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!

      Electrolyte drinks

      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:

      • Any situation that’ll make you sweat more—for example, during hot weather, while hitting the gym, or while eating spicy foods
      • 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 a high-salt diet. So go ahead, drink more sports drinks, use more salt when cooking, and eat more salty foods such as cold cuts, cheese, soy sauce, soups and gravy, and pizza. 

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

      Nutrition corner


      Do you have young children with CF?

      If so, try to involve them in meal prep. Next time you make their favorite dish, put them in charge of adding 1 or 2 of the ingredients. This is a great way to keep an eye on their diet while teaching them a valuable skill that will serve them well into adulthood.