Jamie's Blog

Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids

The Gallstones Diet

Disclaimer: I’m not your doctor, I’m not a surgeon and I’m not a dietician. I’m just a guy with some gallstone experience.

I have gallstones, as did my wife, and there’s a 1 in 5 chance that you will suffer from them during your lifetime. Basically, these little deposits can be a small as a grain of sand (mine are quite small) and happily sit in your gallbladder without generating any symptoms. However, when they do cause problems it often feels like this iconic scene from Alien:

Ultimately, the only real cure for gallstones is to have your gallbladder removed. However, in the meantime, you’re going to need to control your diet to avoid these devastating attacks and prepare for surgery (I believe surgeons won’t operate if the gallbladder is inflamed). Here’s some ideas for a gallstone-attack-avoidance diet:

The aim

A low fat diet which minimises the occurrence of gallstone attacks. Typically, you need to restrict yourself to items with less than 5g fat per 100g serving (i.e., < 5% fat). Do not be confused by product labelling which gives the fat content of a smaller serving or the percentage of your daily fat allowance — both will get you into trouble. Always check the label!

Things to avoid

  • Any Butter
  • Oil - if you need a little oil for frying use spray-on oil which is very efficient and actually contains an oil/water mix
  • Chocolate
  • Fatty meats such as duck and lamb
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Some curry sauces (too creamy)
  • Cheesy pasta sauces / Italian dishes such as lasagne
  • Replace full-fat milk with semi-skimmed or skimmed (I seem to be fine on semi-skimmed milk)
  • Breakfast / Energy bars
  • Crisps
  • Nuts

Main Courses

  • Meat: Chicken, lean mined beef, white fish, pork rashers or ham with all the fat trimmed off
  • Pasta sauces: Most tomato-based sauces contain very little fat (the “light” sauces are actually light on sugar). Make your own creamy pasta sauce with light or extra light Philadephia and some semi-skimmed milk —just remember to add plenty of herbs to taste!
  • Stir fry: Most asian sauces are fine
  • Spicy foods: Chilli and some curry sauces are fine (but not those which are based on coconut milk)
  • Rice, potatoes and pasta will form the bulk of the meal
  • Add plenty of interesting veg too!

Dessert / Treats / Snacks

  • Yoghurt
  • Yoghurt drinks like Yop!
  • Low-fat flavoured milk
  • Weight-watchers desserts (mousse things with < 5% fat)
  • Jacobs Low-fat fig rolls
  • Jaffa Cakes
  • Toast and jam (no butter!)
  • Fruit: anything and everything except avocados
  • Fruit smoothies like Innocent drinks (just watch out for anything with cream or ice cream)
  • Jelly sweets
  • Mints
  • Low-fat “diet” bars like Alpen and Fitnesse bars (a great way to sneak a little chocolate in!)
  • Starbucks “skinny” muffins (and a no-fat banana & choc chip muffin recipe Hilary found) but beware because the regular muffins ruined a perfectly good Friday!

Other links/resources with advice