Important Facts for Your Child with CF

Child getting ready to take a bite of her food
  • A balanced diet, which includes optimal calories, vitamins and minerals, is important to good nutritional health for your child with EPI due to CF. Remember that your child with CF needs more calories, vitamins and salt than children who do not have CF
  • Children with EPI due to CF need to take supplemental pancreatic enzymes every time they eat or drink anything that contains fat or protein
  • Enzymes, vitamins and extra calories will help your child gain weight, grow and be healthy
  • A child who has CF needs extra calories. To add extra calories and nutrition, include:
    • Whole milk at every meal. For extra calories add cream to the milk
    • Whole milk dairy products, like cottage cheese, yogurt and puddings. Add cream to cereal
    • Using healthy margarine or butter on hot foods, breads and crackers. Extra cheese in casseroles, on pizza and in sandwiches adds more calories to the meal
    • Use whole grains with added fat such as margarine, butter or cream cheese. Serve vegetables with margarine, butter or salad dressing for dipping. Try ripe avocado as a treat. Dip fresh fruit in whole milk yogurt. Spread peanut butter on toast, crackers and fruit
    • Fat is the best source of calories. Each teaspoon of fat has 45 calories while protein and carbohydrates have 20 calories. So adding fats to all foods will increase the calories
    • Calcium is needed for healthy bones. A child needs about 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium daily - about three or four servings of dairy products daily
  • Children 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. You may need to add even more salt on hot and humid days or if your child is very active. Talk with your dietitian about how much salt is best for your child

Developing Positive Eating Habits in Children with CF

  • Set regular times for meals and snacks, so your child knows when to eat and can become familiar with a routine for mealtimes. It is recommended that your child eat in the same place for each meal or snack to help develop a feeding routine
  • Children can often become antsy and may not want to sit long enough to eat a full meal. By setting a good example and eating with your child, you can help him or her become a better eater
  • Create a reward system such as a star chart for eating certain foods or for finishing a meal
  • Let your child help with meal preparation. He or she can tear lettuce, rinse fruit or help to set the table
  • If your child is a picky eater, pay attention to his or her favorite foods and adapt meals/menus as his or her food likes change. It is also helpful to keep food choices simple and make them as attractive as possible. Try making the food on your child’s plate colorful
  • Be creative with foods. Make faces on pancakes, cut sandwiches in interesting shapes with cookie cutters, or use vegetables to make faces on mashed potatoes
  • As children with CF get older, try to make meal planning and preparation part of your family’s weekly routine. Let each child make a dinner suggestion for a family meal. Fill in the foods such as vegetables or milk to make the meals balanced
  • When your child with CF starts sleeping over at friends’ homes, speak with the friends’ parents about your child’s dietary needs. Encourage your child to make healthy choices when eating at their friends’ homes, and pack CF-friendly snacks
  • When going on vacation with a child with CF, 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

Healthy Bones in Children with CF

  • It can be difficult for your child to absorb many essential nutrients from food, such as calcium and vitamins D and K, which are beneficial to build strong bones
  • To optimize early bone mineral growth, your child should:
    • Intake 1,000 - 1,300 mg of calcium daily or about four servings of dairy products every day, such as whole milk, full-fat yogurt and full-fat cheese. For extra calcium, children can consume calcium-fortified cereals, breads and drinks
    • Eat foods high in zinc and protein, such as meats, eggs and nuts, to aid in bone growth
    • Participate in regular exercise and physical activity to help build more bone early in life. Activities that include running and jumping, such as tag, jumping rope, basketball and soccer, are especially good for developing strong, healthy bones. Keep in mind that exercise burns calories, so it is essential for your child to eat high-calorie meals or snacks before and after physical activity (see “Managing & Maintaining Energy” section for more information)

*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.