9 Foods to Avoid When You Have Gallstones

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  • Gallstones are stones that form in your gallbladder. They can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Smaller stones may just irritate your gallbladder, but larger ones can block the ducts completely, causing severe pain. Not all gallstones are preventable, but consuming certain foods can increase the risk of stones forming. While there’s not necessarily a gallstones diet, it can be smart to follow this list of foods to avoid with gallstones.

  • 1
    Fatty Meats
    Cutting Board with Meat

    If you enjoy eating meat, stay away from fatty meats if you’re trying to follow a diet for gallbladder health. You can still eat red meat, but ensure the meat is lean to reduce the risk of gallstones. If there is visible fat on the meat, cut it off. You can also eat chicken and turkey, since they are both sources of lean meat, but don’t eat the skin, as the skin is very fatty. Avoid frying your meat in favor of healthier options like grilling, baking or broiling.

  • 2
    Oil-Packed Fish
    Grilled sardine fish

    Many types of fish are good additions to your diet, but some are fattier than others. Avoid fish that are canned in oil, such as sardines and tuna. If you like canned fish, look for fish packed in water. Fresh fish, such as salmon, tuna, and lake trout, are better options. They are good sources of healthy omega-3 fat, without the extra fat from tinned fish.

  • 3
    High-Fat Dairy
    dairy products high in fat milk, butter and cheese

    If you enjoy a cold glass of milk or you like snacking on cheese, you might not have to give them up if you have gallstones, providing you choose low-fat options. When shopping for cheese, read the nutritional label for the fat content. You want cheese that has less than 5 grams of fat per ounce. Low-fat milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and sour cream are options when you’re grocery shopping. And if you can’t find low-fat ice cream but you have a craving for it, there are many non-dairy frozen desserts that can hit the spot.

  • 4
    Avocado
    avocado

    Most fruit and vegetables are on the recommended list for people with gallstones. However, avocados are high in fat, something you are trying to avoid. If you enjoy putting avocado on your toast, try a nut butter instead. Other fruits and vegetables are not only lower in fat, they are high in fiber, something that is encouraged in a gallstones diet. The skin of the fruit and vegetables have the most fiber, so eating the skins or peels makes the food even healthier.

  • 5
    White-Flour Products
    uncooked-spaghetti

    White bread, white rice, and white pasta are not high in fiber, something you need to help reduce your risk of gallstones. Instead, choose whole-grain products. This means whole-wheat or multigrain breads and pastas, and brown rice. Other options include quinoa, which you cook like rice, as well as oats, barley, and other whole grains. Quick-cooking oats make a fast breakfast in the morning, and many people like to mix oats and nuts into yogurt for a snack.

  • 6
    Butter
    Stanols and Sterols

    Butter is commonly used not only when frying or sautéing, but also as an added flavor in foods. When baking, consider substituting applesauce or mashed bananas. If you need a dairy product, like sour cream, look for low-fat varieties. When cooking a main meal or appetizer, enhance the flavor with herbs and spices, instead of oils or butter. If your recipe calls for ingredients like mayonnaise or salad dressings, again, choose low-fat versions.

  • 7
    Processed Meats
    Meat and Cheese

    Processed meats, like hot dogs, cold cuts, fish sticks, sausages, and canned meats (not including fish), can all contribute to gallstones. While these products are convenient, processing adds compounds to the food that experts believe increase the risks of certain diseases. Processed meats are also often quite high in fat, something you are trying to avoid. If you like the convenience of processed meats, think about freezing fresh meats in small quantities instead. And if you feel you need to give in to a craving for a hot dog or a sausage, keep your portions as small and infrequent as possible.

  • 8
    Sodas
    Soda shopping

    If you enjoy the fizz from sodas or the jolt from high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks, there are alternatives. These drinks are not healthy for your body, including your gallbladder. For fizzy drinks, consider buying a dispenser that allows you to make your own carbonated water and control the amount of sugar in your soda. You can add fruits and flavors to broaden your drink options. Juicing is also very popular. You can combine any number of fruits (and vegetables) in your blender for a unique drink that is filling and thirst-quenching.

  • 9
    Sugary Desserts
    Unseen Caucasian couple eating dessert and drinking wine at restaurant

    For people with a sweet tooth, not having a sugary dessert may make the meal seem incomplete. But these desserts can be quite high in fat and if you’re following a diet for gallbladder health, you’ll have to avoid them. Instead, choose fruit and yogurt, non-dairy frozen desserts, fruit pies, or light cookies. Salty treats, like pretzels and chips, must also be avoided, unfortunately. Instead, try unsalted nuts or roasted chickpeas.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 13
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Gallstones. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gallstones/symptoms-causes/syc-20354214
  2. Eating Guidelines For Gallbladder Disease. HealthyLinkBC. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthy-eating/gallbladder-disease
  3. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones/eating-diet-nutrition
  4. Low-Fat Diet for Gallbladder Disease: Care Instructions. MyHealth.Alberta.ca Network. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=uh4542