Nutritional Needs in Teens With Cystic Fibrosis

Teens with cystic fibrosis (CF) have unique nutritional needs. If you have CF, you and your parents will work with the registered dietitian on your health care team to help you grow strong and healthy.

How Can I Make Healthy Food Choices?

A healthy diet is important for building a strong, healthy body. Learning how to make healthy choices now is important as you become more independent.

If you're looking for easy ways to make healthy choices, try these tips:

  • Include color with a fruit or vegetable at all meals and snacks.
  • Make sure you have a good source of protein at all meals and snacks.
  • Choose whole grains often.
  • Skip sugary drinks (juice, soda, sweet tea, lemonade). Drink milk or water instead.

How Can I Think Positively About Food and Weight?

There is a lot of focus on weight and nutrition with CF. Sometimes this can cause stress around eating and a negative relationship with food.

Rather than thinking of foods as "good" or "bad," focus on eating the foods that fuel your body best. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and proteins. Enjoy treats in moderation as part of a balanced diet. If you label some foods as "bad," it can be easy to feel guilty if you eat them. Eating a balanced diet, which includes some treats and higher calorie foods, should never leave you feeling guilt or shame.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for everyone. But with CF, it's linked to stronger lungs. For this reason, there is extra focus put on weight with CF, and that can be frustrating. For some teens, the CF team may recommend gaining weight.

If you're worried about gaining weight, try focusing on the health and strength of your body rather than the weight. A strong body will help you stay healthy, fight infections, and have more energy throughout the day. If fear of gaining weight is keeping you from reaching your nutrition goals, tell your CF team. They can work with you to set small, achievable goals or connect you with the team's psychologist.

How Can I Get More Calories?

Some teens with CF need more calories than their peers. The best way to meet these calorie needs is by eating a well-balanced diet while adding extra calories with added fat.

Here are some tricks for adding extra calories to your day:

  • Add extra butter or oil to pasta, rice, potatoes, or cooked vegetables.
  • Pair raw vegetables with salad dressing or hummus.
  • Top salads and sandwiches with avocados or guacamole.
  • Grill sandwiches in butter or margarine.
  • Add a splash of heavy cream to milk, oatmeal, smoothies, or cream-based soups.
  • Focus on high-calorie snacks: trail mix, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, full-fat yogurt with granola, cheese crackers.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and

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