Diseases & Conditions

Diet Guidelines for Patients with Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the liver is a disease that has serious effects on the body. It often leads to loss of muscle mass and a buildup of fluid in the arms, legs, and abdomen. Loss of muscle mass is a common complication of cirrhosis and can have a negative impact on quality of life.

In order to slow and/or prevent loss of muscle mass, you need to eat enough protein, and adjust your meal and snack times. It is important to reduce long periods of fasting (not eating). The longest time period between meals is between dinner and breakfast. Snacks in the late evening may be helpful. The best snack option is a protein-rich snack.

To help prevent buildup of extra fluid, a low-sodium diet is recommended. A diet high in sodium may cause you to retain more fluids. You should also avoid added salt.

Here are some suggestions that will help you plan the nutritional management of your condition.

Protein guidelines

There is no need to limit your protein intake. Your doctor or dietitian will be able to tell you the proper amount of protein you need for your weight. It is important that you eat protein with every meal and for an evening snack (preferably around 9:30-10:00 pm). Casein, the protein found in milk products, is generally well-tolerated in people with cirrhosis.

Protein Source Serving size Protein per serving (grams)
Cottage Cheese, low-fat* 120ml (½ cup) 15
Milk 240ml (1 cup) 8
Greek Yogurt 150g (5.3 oz container) 15
Yogurt 170g container (6 oz) 5
Cheese, low sodium 1 slice 8
Laban 180ml 5
Plant Based
Boiled lentils 227g (1 cup) 18
Beans (ie: navy, garbanzo, lima) 227g (1 cup) 15
Edamame (green soybeans) 113g (½ cup) 9
Soy nuts 30g (1 ounce) 11
Peanut butter/Almond butter 1 tbsp 4
Tofu/tempeh 30g (1 oz) 5
Soy milk 225g (8 oz) 6
Soy - or bean-based veggie burger 1 patty 11
Nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds) 30g (1ounce) 5
Hummus 2 tbsp (1 oz) 1
Falafel 5.7 cm (2.25 inch) patty 2
Quinoa 227g (1 cup) 8
Pumpkin seeds 57g (¼ cup) 9
Sunflower seeds 2 tbsp 4
Poultry 30g (1 oz) 7
Beef 30g (1 oz) 7
Lamb 30g (1 oz) 7
Venison 30g (1 oz) 8
Liver 6
Fish/seafood 30g (1 oz) 7
Egg 1 egg 6
Egg white 1 egg white 4
Egg substitute 57g (¼ cup) 6

*caution: food may be high sodium

YOUR PROTEIN PRESCRIPTION IS _______________gm/day

Sodium (salt) guidelines

Too much sodium in your diet may cause you to retain more fluids. To avoid this:

  • Limit the amount of sodium you take in every day
  • Do not use the salt shaker
  • Use fresh foods when possible, or frozen vegetables instead of canned
  • Avoid convenience foods.
Food group Use Do not use
Meat/ProteinAverage 50mg sodium per ounce Lean fresh or frozen unsalted beef, veal, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs sausage, hot dogs, luncheon meats, meat spreads, canned meats, all processed meats unless low sodium
DairyAverage 100-200mg sodium per serving Milk, pudding, custard, yogurt, ice cream, low-sodium cheese laban Regular cheese, labneh, laban up
StarchAverage 200-400mg sodium per serving All breads (white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, pita, sandwich buns), bagels, dry or hot cereals, rice, potatoes, noodles, unsalted crackers, chips, pretzels, popcorn Salted, seasoned breadcrumbs, stuffing, rice or potato mixes, potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, tortilla chips, corn chips, all crackers (unless unsalted)
Fruits and VegetablesAverage 5-20mg sodium per serving Fresh, frozen, canned fruits, fresh, frozen, unsalted canned vegetables Canned vegetables, vegetable juices, sauerkraut, and beans, canned dried type beans (kidney, pinto, garbanzo)
CondimentsAverage 100mg sodium per serving Butter, margarine, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar Salt, meat tenderizers, monosodium glutamate (MSG), pickles, olives, sauces such as steak, barbeque, teriyaki, soy, Worcestershire, relish, ketchup

© Copyright 2017 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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