Making a CF Diet Work for Everyone


Many families face the challenge of cooking for family members with various dietary needs, including CF, and it is important to find ways to prepare healthy meals for all family members. Some family members may need to eat a basic healthy diet, while others may be on a low fat or a low salt diet. How do you prepare meals without a personal chef or dietitian helping you? Here are a few simple tips that can help simplify home cooking for families impacted by CF.


Portion control is key

When preparing one meal for the whole family, adjusting the serving size is an easy way to make sure everyone is getting the amount of food that is right for them

  • For example, a plate of spaghetti - 1 ½ cups of pasta, 3/4 cup of sauce and 2 large meatballs - has 712 calories, and is an appropriate serving size for an average person. A person with CF needs more calories, so the plate should have 1 ½ cups of pasta, 1 ½ cups of sauce, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons of grated cheese and 3 large meatballs. By increasing the serving size, the same meal now equals 925 calories
  • Adjusting the amount of ingredients you put on a sandwich is another way to serve the same meal, and meet the needs of all family members. For someone without CF, make a ham and cheese sandwich with 2 slices of ham, 2 slices of cheese and low-fat mayonnaise, equaling 323 calories. For a person with CF, make the sandwich with 4 slices of ham, 4 slices of cheese and full-fat mayonnaise. By increasing the serving size, the same meal now equals 509 calories

Substitute ingredients that matter

An easy way to manage calories and fat for all family members is to keep both non-fat and full-fat milk in the refrigerator. The same can be said for cream cheese, yogurt, salad dressings, cheeses, soups and frozen dinners. To avoid adding too much salt to a family recipe, you can add salt to your food when served. Here are some more examples of methods to adapt recipes for you and your family:

  • To make a high calorie fruit smoothie equaling 454 calories, start with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit, add 1 cup whole milk yogurt, 1 cup whole milk and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. To make a lower calorie fruit smoothie equaling 242 calories, start with 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit as a base, add 1 cup low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup non-fat milk and blend
  • Many people eat eggs for breakfast because they are high in protein. Scramble two eggs in 2 teaspoons of olive oil, add 2 ounces of full-fat cheese, then wrap in a soft tortilla for a breakfast equaling 548 calories. For family members without CF, use an oil spray in place of olive oil to scramble 1 egg. Add 1 ounce of low-fat cheese, and wrap in a soft tortilla, for a breakfast equaling 276 calories
  • An easy way to add extra calories to any food is to add margarine or butter. Add this to foods that you do not normally think of, such as rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, and all breads and crackers. One teaspoon is about 45 extra calories

Don't forget to eat fruits and vegetables every day

Preparing meals with fruits and vegetables is a great way to meet your family's dietary needs because these foods have important nutrients needed for any diet. You can look at "Color Your Calories" for ideas on including fruits and vegetables in a high calorie diet. Here are some ideas to add extra calories:

  • Add fruit and honey to a bowl of whole milk yogurt for a refreshing breakfast
  • Prepare a Mexican-themed dinner with fajitas, tacos and guacamole. Avocados, a common ingredient in Mexican meals, are high in calories and healthy fats
  • Include grated carrots, chopped celery, broccoli, or kernels of corn to foods such as meatloaf, casseroles and pasta dishes
  • Dip fruit in whipped cream, whole milk yogurt, peanut butter or other nut spreads for extra calories
  • Eat a slice of fruit pie for a high calorie, nutritious dessert

Keep healthy snacks on hand

Snacking between meals helps to keep calorie intake high throughout the day, but be careful not to snack too close to meal times. You can look at "Grab and Go" for snack ideas to eat on the run


Steer clear from junk food

When you are looking for a snack try these healthy options:

  • Trail mix with nuts. Almonds, peanuts, cashews and walnuts are all great options as nuts have unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, which are necessary staples of anyone's diet
  • String cheese sticks or deli meat and cheese roll-ups. Meats and cheeses have protein and healthy fats
  • Hummus with pita bread. Hummus is made from chickpeas and packs in fiber, iron and protein, as well as important minerals
  • Air-popped popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain with a lot of fiber. Add a drizzle of melted butter and salt for a few extra calories
  • Dried fruit. High in calories and nutrients, dried fruit is a great snack for everyone in the family

The CFChef CF Nutrition Guide was developed with input from Registered Dietitian and CF Nutrition Specialist Suzanne Michel, MPH, RD, LDN, based on information and guidelines from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is not affiliated with, and has not endorsed, the AbbVie CFChef program. The content on is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.