If you’ve landed here, you’re likely looking to find a meal plan for constipation, to take away some of the “decision fatigue” around what to eat. If so, you’re in the right place!
When you’re dealing with constipation, deciding what to eat is often the last thing you want to be thinking about.
Your appetite and hunger cues may feel diminished, and food might even sometimes lose its appeal.
But either way, you still need to eat!
And no, it doesn’t have to be “rabbit food” - despite what you may have been taught to believe. 😉
In this article you’ll learn how food choices and lifestyle factors may impact constipation (for better or worse).
We’ve also included a sample 1-day tasty and balanced meal plan for constipation, which you can refer to for ideas and inspiration as needed.
Disclaimer: This article was written for general educational purposes, not to be taken as medical or nutritional advice. The meal plan and guidelines provided in this article are not customized to accommodate your unique nutrient needs, food preferences, or any adverse food reactions. Consult with a registered dietitian to receive nutrition advice tailored to your individual needs.
What does it mean to be constipated?
When you’re constipated, it means your bowel movements are generally smaller, incomplete, not frequent enough, and/or strained/difficult to pass.
Small, incomplete bowel movements
If you’re constipated, your bowel movements may or may not resemble a “Type 1” or a “Type 2” on the Bristol stool chart.
- For reference, an ideal, healthy bowel movement resembles a “Type 3” or a “Type 4” on the Bristol stool chart, and we should be eliminating about 6 to 12 inches of stool per day.
Infrequent bowel movements
It’s generally considered healthy to have at least one bowel movement daily or every other day.
So if you’re constipated, you may be going less frequently than 1x/day or every other day.
Strained bowel movements
In many cases of constipation, bowel movements may feel strained and difficult to pass.
Gassy, bloated, and full
Many folks with constipation may also be more likely to feel gassy and bloated, and not as physically hungry at meals.
What causes it?
The reason(s) for why you’re constipated will be unique to you.
However, most folks suffering from constipation generally seem to share a lot of common ground in terms of the underlying culprits, which are worth knowing about.
Not enough fiber & fluids
In my clinical experience, most cases of constipation are caused by not getting enough dietary fiber from fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes - and/or not drinking enough fluids, which help to keep things moving in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Stress and a sedentary lifestyle
Since probiotic microbes also help promote healthy elimination, people with “dysbiosis” (not enough probiotic microbes, and/or an overgrowth of unhealthy microbes in the gut) may also experience constipation. (3, 4)
Lastly, there’s a small group of individuals who find that eating more fiber doesn’t help, and can actually make symptoms worse.
In these cases, you could likely be dealing with an underlying condition called methane-dominant small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
(This is a pattern I’ve observed through working with thousands of clients in my functional nutrition practice over the last decade!)
How to eat when you’re constipated
The best diet for YOUR constipation will depend on what’s causing it!
But getting enough fiber and fluids is always the best place to start, if you’re unsure.
(As a friendly reminder, it’s also important to prioritize sleep, movement, and stress management - which all majorly impact digestive health.)
Below is a general flow chart of dietary tips for managing constipation, which you refer to for supplemental guidance (in addition to consulting a doctor and dietitian 1:1).
High dietary fiber + adequate fluids
Getting enough dietary fiber and staying hydrated are fundamental for healthy digestion in most cases!
If you aren’t yet eating the recommended daily ~20-25 grams of fiber (for most adults in female bodies) or 25-38 grams per day (for most adults in male bodies) and drinking at least 64-80 ounces of fluid each day, this is a good place to start.
High fiber foods include:
- Fresh fruits (apples, bananas, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, berries, grapes, melon)
- Fresh veggies (leafy greens, carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, salads)
- Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat, oatmeal)
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fiber-rich plants (ground flax, chia seeds, psyllium husks)
Low added sugar
If you’re already eating plenty of fiber and drinking enough fluids (and you’re getting enough physical activity and managing stress), as a next step, it may be worth exploring ways to improve and optimize your gut microbiome.
For example, if you’re eating lots of foods high in added sugar, this may feed the unhealthy “dysbiotic” microbes in your gut, so replacing refined sugar with natural sweeteners may be beneficial.
(Note: Skip this step if you’re navigating or recovering from an eating disorder.)
Try adding some lacto-fermented probiotic foods into your diet a few times a day, and see if this helps!
If you have an underlying microbial overgrowth in your gut (such as methane-dominant small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), you may actually notice that high fiber foods (like psyllium and ground flax seeds) make you feel very bloated - and don’t help with constipation!
Note that people with SIBO also may not always tolerate probiotic fermented foods. If that is the case for you, listen to your body and consider consulting your healthcare team about ruling out SIBO!
Folks with methane SIBO actually feel better on a low FODMAP diet, eating more cooked (versus fresh) veggies and steering clear of functional fiber-rich foods like psyllium and flaxseeds.
Anatomy of a balanced meal plan
Now that you have an idea of what types of dietary tweaks can help improve constipation, it’s important to make sure you know what a balanced plate looks like.
(The purpose of making balanced food choices is to ensure that you’re getting most of the key essential nutrients you need from food.)
About 50% of your plate (at lunch and dinner) should be non-starchy veggies, by volume - so you'll get enough fiber and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) each day.
- One serving of veggies is about ½ cup cooked, or 1 cup fresh - and we want to be aiming for at least 3 to 5 servings of veggies each day!
- Your veggies can be fresh OR cooked.
Complex, starchy carbohydrates such as oatmeal, corn, rice, and potatoes provide energy and sustenance - and they also serve as fuel for the brain.
- Make about ¼ of your plate (by volume) complex (starchy) carbohydrates such as ~½ cup to 1 cup of whole grain cereal or cooked oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, or quinoa.
- For optimal fiber intake, try to make at least half your grains whole!
Protein-rich foods (such as eggs, beans, chicken, tofu, turkey, fish, pork, grass-fed meat, or my homemade protein bars) help provide satiety, sustenance, and building blocks for maintaining muscle and making hormones.
- Try making ~25% of your plate protein at most meals.
- You can also aim for ~1 to 3 ounces of protein at breakfast, and ~3 to 4 ounces protein at lunch and dinner.
Incorporate small amounts of healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, ground flax seeds, natural peanut butter, olive oil, avocado, sesame tahini, or avocado oil with each meal and snack.
My favorite dessert recipe that's packed with healthy fats are these almond flour Snickers inspired bars. Between the peanut butter and almond flour, they are so delicious and good for you!
Aim for ~2-4 servings of fresh or unsweetened dried fruit per day, to get a diverse source of fiber, prebiotics, and antioxidants.
Staying mindful of calcium is important.
Yogurt and cheeses such as cottage cheese are generally easy and tasty ways to get calcium; however, in the world of gut heath, we find that lots of people have lactose intolerance and/or dairy sensitivity, so dairy isn’t always an option.
In these cases, consider leaning on calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, sesame tahini, oat straw tea infusions, and/or trying unsweetened calcium-fortified milk substitutes.
Don’t forget about fluids! These are important, not just for keeping you hydrated but for supporting healthy digestion and detoxification.
Aim for ~8 glasses of water most days.
Now that you’ve got all the behind-the-scenes info on what goes into a balanced meal plan for constipation, let’s put it all together!
Sample 1-day meal plan for constipation
12-ounce cup of hot lemon water
- ½ cup homemade granola
- ¾ cup fresh berries (or fresh fruit of choice)
- 2 tablespoons walnuts or ground flax seeds
- 1 teaspoon raw honey or real maple syrup (optional)
- Dash of cinnamon
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt (or swap for dairy-free)
- Cup of coffee/tea
- Apple or banana with 1 to 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter, nut butter, or seed butter OR a homemade larabar
- 8 ounces water
- Green goddess pasta salad
- 1 cup side of raw zucchini salad
- Optional: piece of fresh fruit of choice
- 8 ounces water
- 1 cup whole grain crackers or fresh veggies of choice
- 2 to 4 tablespoons hummus (or 1 ounce sliced cheddar cheese)
- 8 ounces of water
- Homemade brownie (made with hidden veggies) or Healthy Heavenly Hunks Oatmeal Dark Chocolate RECIPE
- Cup of herbal tea, water, or a glass of milk/unsweetened milk substitute of choice
- 65+ Best Foods and Drinks for Gut-Health In 2023
- How to Eat Guava and the Health Benefits
- Red Lentil Pasta Nutrition – Dietitian Reviews
- Can You Eat Uncooked Oatmeal in a Smoothie – Dietitian Reviews
- Is It Okay to Eat Oatmeal at Night? Foods for a Restful Sleep
- Oatmeal Pros and Cons – Dietitian Reviews
- Can Oatmeal Cause Gas? Oatmeal and Digestive Health
- Can I Eat Raw Oats? (No Gas, Diarrhea, Bloating)
Easy high fiber recipes for constipation
- Healthy Pumpkin Oat Bars Recipe
- Tomatoes on Toast
- Easy 5-Ingredient Orange Oat Bars RECIPE (Healthy, Vegan)
- Healthy Heavenly Hunks Oatmeal Dark Chocolate RECIPE
- Healthy Chocolate Banana Bread RECIPE (Easy, Gluten-Free)
- 5-Ingredient Vegan Banana Bread Recipe (Gluten-Free)
- Easy Strawberry Protein Bars RECIPE (Healthy, Gluten-Free)
- Easy and Healthy Homemade Granola RECIPE (4-ingredients)
- How To Cook Quinoa in the Microwave
- Simple Braised Red Cabbage RECIPE (5 ingredients)
- Protein Coffee Overnight Oats w/Collagen Powder RECIPE
Recap & final thoughts
Constipation is a pain in the butt (literally), but it’s manageable with the right diet and lifestyle tweaks in most cases!
Start with the fundamentals: make sure you’re getting enough dietary fiber (~20-25 grams per day for adult females, or ~25-38 grams per day for adult males) from fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes, to provide bulk and roughage to your stools.
It’s also important to drink enough fluids (about 64-80 ounces per day) to help stools move through and out of your gut more efficiently.
From a lifestyle standpoint, sleep, movement, and stress management are important for managing and reducing constipation.
In certain cases, when the foundational elements of fiber, fluids, sleep, movement and stress aren’t helping, it’s worth taking a closer look at the state of your gut microbiome.
Try reducing added sugar and increasing probiotic foods, and consult your healthcare team if you suspect you could be experiencing methane SIBO (a lesser-known root cause of constipation) which cannot be eradicated by diet alone.
Lastly, remember to always listen to your body, trust your gut (pun intended), and leave no stone unturned until you feel realigned!