Important Facts for Adults with CF

Adult man getting ready to take a bite of his food
  • A balanced diet, which includes optimal calories, vitamins and minerals, is important for good nutritional health for any adult with EPI due to CF. Remember that you need more calories, vitamins and salt than adults who do not have CF. Even if adults eat a diet that is well-balanced, they may also need to take additional vitamin supplements in order to maintain normal vitamin levels
  • Adults with EPI due to CF need to take supplemental pancreatic enzymes every time they eat or drink anything that contains fat or protein. It may be helpful to keep a supply of enzymes with you wherever you go
  • Examples of protein sources include: meat and meat products, milk and milk products, fish, seafood, soy products such as tofu, beans, eggs and nuts
    • Food high in protein is often rich in vitamins, minerals and fat
  • Additionally, adults should plan their meals ahead for work, parenting and other responsibilities
    • Cook once and eat twice. Make extra servings of meals (such as lasagna) to eat the next day or freeze for later in the week
    • Buy foods in bulk and freeze it in serving sizes that can be defrosted or reheated for a quick snack or meal
    • Keep foods such as nuts, trail mix, pretzels, or canned shakes in your car, desk drawer, or backpack so you always have an available quick snack
  • It can be a challenge to include fruits and vegetables in a high calorie diet. Think about topping ice cream, yogurt, or pudding with fresh fruit. Add vegetables to pizza, lettuce and tomato to sandwiches, and shredded carrots to spaghetti sauce
  • Calcium is needed for healthy bones and adults may need 1,000 mg of calcium daily - about three or four servings of dairy products every day
    • Whole milk and whole milk products, cottage cheese and yogurt have a lot of calories and calcium
  • Fat is the best source of calories. Each teaspoon of fat has 45 calories while protein and carbohydrates have 20. So adding fats to all foods will increase the calories
  • Adults who have CF need extra salt to replace the salt lost in sweat throughout the day, so adding salt to food and planning salty snacks will help replace the salt loss. Some adults enjoy eating Chinese noodle soups, pickles, pretzels or chips as a way to get extra salt. You may need to add more salt on hot and humid days or if you are very active. Talk with your dietitian about how much salt is best for your lifestyle

Developing Positive Eating Habits in Adults with CF

  • Plan your meals the night before or in the morning and pack a lunch and snacks you can eat while on the go
  • Prepare in advance for times when you are very busy at work or college; keep healthy and nutritious snacks in a refrigerator or freezer in your office or dorm
  • When going on vacation, call the hotel ahead of time to arrange for a refrigerator in your room, if available. If you are flying or have a long car trip, bring a bag of snacks such as crackers with peanut butter, muffins or sandwiches to help make the trip go smoothly
  • If you are planning to eat out for meals, see if the restaurant has a menu online prior to going. You can plan what you are going to eat before you get to the restaurant

Healthy Bones in Adults with CF

  • Having strong, healthy bones is essential for overall good health. Strong bones require enough minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and fluoride. When a person does not get enough of these minerals it may lead to either osteoporosis or osteopenia, which means the bones are not as dense as they should be
  • By following a well-balanced diet and maintaining an ideal body weight, you may be able to prevent bone density loss and maintain healthy bone tissue
  • To optimize bone health through nutritional habits, adults should:
    • Intake 1,000 – 1300 mg of calcium daily or about three or four servings of dairy products every day, such as whole milk, full-fat yogurt and full-fat cheese. For extra calcium adults can consume calcium-fortified cereals, breads and drinks, as well as add powdered dry milk to recipes
    • Eat food rich in fat-soluble vitamins D, K and A, which help the body absorb calcium and therefore increase bone density. Egg yolks and fatty fishes, such as salmon and tuna, are good sources of these key vitamins
    • Take vitamin supplements designed for people with CF to help maintain healthy bones
    • Choose foods high in zinc and protein, such as meats, eggs and nuts, to aid in bone growth and the maintenance of healthy bone tissue
    • Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and carbonated drinks like soda and coffee, as they may contribute to lower bone density and do not contain the calcium and vitamin D necessary for bone production
    • Engage in regular exercise and physical activity to help build and maintain strong bones. A combination of weight-bearing and resistance exercises, like running, walking and weight lifting, are important for good bone health. However, exercise burns calories, so it is essential for you to eat high calorie meals or snacks before and after physical activity (see “Managing & Maintaining Energy” section for more information). If you are not accustomed to regular physical activity, talk to your CF center care team about building an exercise program to address your health needs

*These models are not cystic fibrosis patients.

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.