Your Guide to the 5 Food Groups After Ostomy Surgery

Variety is the spice of life and the key to good health after ostomy surgery. Explore how to make all five food groups part of your daily diet with this helpful guide.

Your Guide to the 5 Food Groups

Get your practical guide to the 5 food groups.

The USDA says five food groups are the “building blocks for a healthy diet.” If you’ve had ostomy surgery, a varied and nutritious diet can help you get and stay healthy. Explore this practical guide to help you through your recovery journey and beyond.


Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or any other cereal grain is a grain product. This includes bread, breakfast cereal and pasta. Grains are divided into two categories: whole and refined.

  • Whole grains contain the entire kernel. For example, oatmeal, brown rice and whole meal flour are whole grains. Be sure to chew anything with seeds carefully and completely.
  • Refined grains have been milled to remove husks or fibre and have finer texture. They include white flour, white rice, white bread and pasta.

Good to know: If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you can still eat grains if you choose carefully. Many whole-grain products can fit your gluten-free diet, such as buckwheat, certified gluten-free oats or oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice, wild rice and quinoa.

Recommendations: A typical adult should eat three servings of grains per day. One serving equals a slice of bread, one half-cup of cooked cereal, a half-cup of rice or pasta or a cup of cold cereal.

Vegetables and fruits

Any fruit, vegetable or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice is included in this group. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Vegetables may be eaten raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, dried, whole, cut up or mashed
  • Fruit may be fresh, canned, frozen, dried, whole, cut up or puréed
  • Fruit juice often contains more sugars than just fruit. Keep this in mind if you are watching calories.

Good to know: Overall, fresh whole fruits and vegetables are better choices than juices that may contains sugars. However, if you’ve had an ileostomy, fibrous vegetables and certain fruits with skin may contribute to food blockage.

Recommendations: For vegetables, one serving equals about one cup. Depending on your age, weight and gender, guidelines call for one to three cups of vegetables a day. A serving of fruit equals one cup and three or four servings per day are recommended.


Oils come from many different plants and fish. Examples include canola, corn, cottonseed, olive, soybean and sunflower oils. The Oils food group includes both solid fats and oils. Some additional facts:

  • Solid fats are solid at room temperature. Examples are butter, tallow, lard, margarine and shortening.
  • Fats that are oils are liquid at room temperature. Those that are mainly oils include mayonnaise and salad dressings.
  • There are good fats and bad fats. Some fats contain high amounts of cholesterol, which can cause heart disease. Examples include butter and other full-fat dairy products, margarine, shortening and fatty cuts of meat.
  • Oils from plant sources do not contain any cholesterol. Fish oils are naturally good at reducing bad fats. Foods with naturally occurring oils are nuts, olives, fish and avocados.

Good to know: Moderation is a key to healthy eating and it’s especially important with oils.

Recommendations: Fats should be kept to a minimum. Daily servings of fats and oils often come from cooking, such as pan frying. A constant diet of deep fried food is unhealthy, but, it’s OK to indulge every now and then.

Milk products

A primary benefit of dairy products is calcium. All fluid milk products (and many foods made from milk) that retain their calcium are considered part of this group. Some facts to keep in mind:

  • Besides fluid milk products, you can get the benefits of dairy through cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, pudding made with milk, ice cream and ice milk
  • If you’re lactose intolerant, there are milk alternative products available that are lactose-free. Some cheeses and yogurts are lactose-free too. Read the label to make sure.
  • Consider soy milk and other soy products as dairy alternatives. But be aware that they may not contain the full array of nutrients that dairy products do.

Good to know: Other milk products, such as cream cheese, cream and butter, do not retain the calcium. So, they are not considered part of the Dairy food group.

Recommendations: Three servings a day will help keep your bones healthy and give you essential nutrients. One serving equals a cup of milk, a small container of yogurt or two ounces of process cheeses. With this many options, it is easy to get your daily intake.

Meat, Fish, Nuts and Beans

All meat, poultry, fish, dried beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds are considered part of this group. Some things to keep in mind:

  • This food group is high in protein, an important nutrient
  • Meat and poultry choices should be low-fat
  • Fish, nuts and seeds contain healthy oils, so be sure to include them in your diet frequently

Good to know: If you have an ileostomy, be cautious with nuts, popcorn and similar foods. Eating these can cause a blockage. Even just one nut can cause a small blockage. Be cautious when including these in your diet. If you love eating nuts, chew them very well before swallowing. Better options are peanut butter or cashew and hazelnut spreads.

Recommendations: Eat five or six servings of meat, fish, nuts and beans a day. A serving is about one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, a small handful of nuts or seeds, or one ounce of meat.

More information

Want more guidance? offers ideas and tips to help you eat healthy, meet unique needs and improve your wellbeing.

View or print the full PDF booklet: Living with an Ostomy: Healthy Eating