Healthy High-Calorie Eating

The thick, sticky mucus that your body produces makes it hard to absorb fat and nutrients, which is why a good cystic fibrosis diet is one that is high in calories and high in fat.

7 min read
In this article
  • People with cystic fibrosis need extra calories for several reasons.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight — and sometimes increasing it — is key to fighting infection and keeping your lungs and body strong.
  • By making small changes in your daily routine, you can make a big difference in your weight.

People with cystic fibrosis need extra calories for several reasons. Although they take pancreatic enzymes, they still aren't able to use 100 percent of the energy they consume because enzymes cannot break down everything they eat or correct their problems with absorbing nutrients.

Fighting infections and coughing on a regular basis also burns extra calories. Maintaining a healthy weight — and sometimes increasing it — is key to fighting infection and keeping your lungs and body strong. By making small changes in your daily routine, you can make a big difference in your weight.

Tips for Planning and Preparing Meals

Give yourself time to plan. Before you go to sleep, think about the busy day ahead. Where will you be spending your time? Where can you easily stash food? Is there a refrigerator nearby? Microwave? How about a place to eat? Will you have enough enzymes?

Think about “packability.” Plan meals or snacks that you can carry in your backpack, purse, or briefcase and store in your desk drawer, locker, or a cooler in your car. Buy a variety of foods so you don't get tired of eating the same foods every day.

Cook once to eat three times. When cooking, make enough to pack a meal for tomorrow's lunch or use plastic containers to freeze meals that you can easily “grab 'n' go.”

Use a slow cooker. For breakfast, overnight oatmeal made with heavy cream and dried fruit and nuts is a hearty start to the day. If you find that you have more energy earlier in the day, make dinner in the slow cooker so that at 5 p.m. you don't settle for pizza or fast food.

If you are cooking for only one or two people, look for magazines and recipe books designed for smaller portions so food doesn't go to waste. Or, make a full portion and freeze part of it for when you're not feeling up to cooking.

You can find information about eating a vegetarian diet from this resource.

Organize Your Kitchen

Organize your kitchen so that everything you need for “grab 'n' go” snacks and meals are within arm's length. Stock up on things like paper bags, plastic bags, napkins, and food containers.

Create a shelf in your kitchen or refrigerator just for your “grab 'n' go” favorites.

Keep plastic containers on hand to store meal-sized portions in the refrigerator or freezer. In the morning, just grab a filled container to take to work or school or wherever you go.

Organize Your Shopping

Avoid wandering aimlessly around the grocery store by planning ahead. Plan out your menu for the week so you have what you need on hand and don't have to play the “What's for dinner?” game.

Many cooking websites provide creative ideas for menu planning, such as theme meals (Taco Night or No-Meat Mondays). Thinking ahead ensures you have more nutritious and satisfying options.

Buy peanut butter, jelly, cream cheese, and other foods in single-packet servings you can just toss in your bag. If you have trouble finding these in your grocery store, there are countless varieties available online at restaurant supply stores. (Use the search phrase “restaurant supplies condiments.”)

To save, buy in bulk. You can save money by buying in bulk at discount stores and individually wrapping foods yourself in plastic wrap, plastic bags, or foil.

Read food labels. Food labels will help you learn to choose foods that meet your goals. For more on food labels, see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website.

Keep an eye out for new ideas. Just look around you. “Grab 'n' go” options are everywhere. Check out the selection in convenience stores, vending machines, corner markets, food stands — even bookstores and sporting events.

Grab 'n' Go Meals and Snacks

Eating should be enjoyable. Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time can help you avoid added stress or going hungry during any part of the day. The following ideas can inspire you and even boost your appetite.


  • Scramble an egg or two with cheese, and wrap it in a warm tortilla that you have spread with a little butter.
  • Microwave a breakfast sandwich while you are dressing.
  • Keep canned shakes, yogurt drinks, and other high-calorie beverages in your book bag or briefcase.
  • Buy giant muffins in bulk, and wrap and freeze each in its own bag.
  • Before you go to bed, fill a water bottle with your favorite beverage or shake each night. Grab it before you head out in the morning.
  • Make a batch of French toast or pancakes, wrap individual servings and freeze. In the morning, pop a serving in the microwave.
  • Keep single-serving oatmeal (in a packet or a prepackaged insulated bowl) in your pantry or cupboard. Just add hot whole milk or cream and take it with you.
  • Buy cold cereal in individual containers (bowls or boxes) or pour your favorite cereal into a plastic container. Take along single servings of boxed liquid whole milk (the kind that does not need to be refrigerated).
  • Keep a bowl of fruit by your house or car keys. Grab a banana, orange, or apple on your way out the door.


  • Top bagel halves with spaghetti sauce and shredded cheese, olives, and pepperoni for a pizza bagel.
  • Make sandwiches (PB&J, ham, or turkey with cheese) at the beginning of the week and freeze them. Toss one in your bag and let it thaw during the day. You can also look for frozen sandwiches in the grocery store.
  • Think about refrigerated wraps or burritos. Buy microwavable burritos so you can wrap one in a paper towel, heat it, and run.
  • Pack microwavable instant soup, instant noodles, fun-size containers of spaghetti and meatballs, or macaroni and cheese.
  • Try a tuna kit (comes with tuna fish, crackers, and mayo).


You never know when you're going to be held up or stuck somewhere — carry a snack with you. Easy-access snacks are particularly important for those with CF-related diabetes.

Keep these snacks cool with an ice pack in an insulated lunch bag or cooler:

  • High-fat deli meat and cheese “roll-ups.”
  • Cheese sticks and single servings (peel-and-eat varieties such as Gouda, cheddar, and string cheeses).
  • Single servings of whole-milk cottage cheese.
  • Whole-milk yogurt and yogurt drinks.
  • Hummus in a small container and pita bread cut into triangles.
  • Single-serving canned pears, peaches, or fruit cocktail with heavy syrup.

Keep these anywhere:

  • Trail mix.
  • Granola, protein, and snack bars.
  • Fig bars.
  • Cheese and cracker packs.
  • Shakes (canned or bottled).
  • Individual peanut butter packets.
  • Muffins.
  • Graham crackers, vanilla wafers, gingersnap cookies, animal crackers.
  • Nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts).
  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Raisin bread.
  • Pretzels or chips.
  • Cereal.
  • Single-serving juice or milk boxes.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Bottled coffee drinks.
  • Pudding snacks (some brands do not have to be refrigerated).
  • Hot cocoa mix.
  • Fresh fruit.
Share this article
Maintaining Healthy Weight With Cystic Fibrosis Download (PDF)
Grab 'n' Go Meal Ideas Download (PDF)
This Eating Stuff is Hard Work! Recipe Book Download (PDF)
Energy Booster Card Download (PDF)
You Might Also Be Interested
Have questions? We’re here to help. Call us at 1-800-FIGHT CF

Mon - Thu, 9 am - 5 pm ET
Fri, 9 am - 3 pm ET


More Ways To Get Help