Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

After a particularly fat-laden meal, Marnina will often complain that she feels irritated and bloated.  Crohn’s disease often affects one’s ability to digest or absorb fat normally.  When Marnina does occasionally eat red meat (that is not lean) for dinner, she will wake up the next morning and claim to feel like last night’s dinner is still sitting in her. Her body just does not digest fat very quickly and instead sits inside of her. While many fatty foods are trigger foods, there are some foods that are particularly troublesome, such as butter, margarine, ice cream, fried foods and fatty red meat, among other foods.  Fat is harder to digest than other nutrients, plain and simple.

Did you know?

“In over 80% of people with Crohn’s disease, the small intestine is affected. Unlike most other dietary components, the digestion of fatty foods does not begin until the foods reach the small intestine and interact with the pancreatic enzyme lipase. If you have Crohn’s, because of your malfunctioning small intestine, you may often have trouble adequately digesting fatty foods such as fried foods, cream sauces and foods containing a lot of butter or margarine. The undigested fat passes into your large intestine and exacerbates diarrhea.”  Source:

To read more about the foods that commonly exacerbate Crohn’s disease symptoms, click here. 

When shopping for meat, we look for lean cuts of beef, or low-fat poultry (without skin!), or lean turkey. We also try to trim any visible fat from meat.  At the same time however, fat adds texture and tenderness to food, as well as to the sensory appeals of taste and smell.  Plus, buying fat-free products all of the time is not ideal because you lose the benefits of fat; it is the body’s main form of stored energy, and fats are converted to create important compounds, such as hormones.  Also, some essential nutrients, such as the vitamins A, D, E, and K, are all soluble in fat.  These vitamins are therefore often found in foods that contain fat and are absorbed most efficiently from them.  Also, it is a good idea to include some type of fat when eating a vitamin-rich food.  For example, nutritionists often recommend including some type of fat (a vinaigrette or straight-up olive oil) when eating a salad because the fat-soluble vitamins in the salad will be better absorbed by the body.

When Marnina was planning our menu and cooking for the week (I was in Boston for the weekend), she decided to cook a recipe from a Rachael Ray magazine that she found at the gym one morning. The recipe called for sausage. She had all intention of using Turkey sausage (to cut down on the fat content), but when she got to the grocery store, she found out they were out of Turkey sausage.   Instead she chose a beef sausage with the least amount of fat.  In the end, it never made her sick. This could also be because she ate in moderation, another key component of eating well while living with Crohn’s disease. The dish (recipe below) turned out to be incredibly tasty.  Try it!

Cutting up the sausage

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Fake-Sausage Cacciatore

Serves 4


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces (we used low fat beef sausage)
3 baking potatoes (about 1 ¼ lbs.), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ pound mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs
Salt and pepper
¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, toss the sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a baking sheet and cook, tossing occasionally, for 30 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes to the sausage and vegetables and stir to coat.  Arrange the mixture in an even layer and continue cooking for 30 minutes.  Top with the parsley.

Adapted from: Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine

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