Your pancreas secretes enzymes into the small intestines to help you digest food, it also secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon into your bloodstream to help you regulate blood sugar. Chronic pancreatitis is a prolonged inflammation of the pancreas. When your pancreas is inflamed, its ability to secrete digestive enzymes significantly decreases, increasing malabsorption and malnutrition. In addition to malabsorption, chronic pancreatitis causes a lot of pain that affects appetite. People with chronic pancreatitis need to follow a high-calorie diet that is nutrient-rich but low in fat.
Calorie needs vary from individual to individual based on your age, height, weight, sex, activity level and stress factor. Consult with your doctor to determine your specific calorie needs. Most people with chronic pancreatitis need about 30 to 35 calories per kg of body weight to maintain weight, according to the University of Washington.
Milk can be source of fat in your diet; choose low-fat or nonfat milk and milk products depending on your tolerance. Choosing higher fat milk can help you meet your elevated calorie needs. Aim for two or more servings of milk a day. Good choices and serving sizes include 1 cup of milk -- nonfat, low-fat or whole milk -- as well as 1 cup of low-fat or nonfat yogurt, 1 cup of skim buttermilk, 1.5 ounces of nonfat or low-fat cheese, and 1 cup of low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese.
Bread and Grain
Most bread and grain choices are low in fat and can be a good source of calories on your low-fat diet. Aim for at least six servings of grain a day, and eat more as tolerated. Low-fat choices and serving sizes include one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of plain rice or pasta, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup of hot cooked cereal, six saltine crackers, two rice cakes and 3 cups of air-popped unbuttered popcorn. Choosing more whole grain products, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, can help increase your overall nutrient intake. Whole grains are naturally high in magnesium and selenium. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends avoiding commercial baked goods, like cookies, pastries, and doughnuts, if you have pancreatitis.
Vegetables are naturally fat-free and contain high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and potassium. Antioxidant-rich vegetables may help alleviate your pancreatitis symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, by preventing further free radical damage. Try to include at least three servings of vegetables each day, where 1 cup is equal to one serving. Healthy choices include spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, kale, leafy greens, green beans and Brussels sprouts.
Fruits, like vegetables, are also fat-free and nutrient-rich. Include two or more servings of fruit in your diet each day. Healthy choices and serving sizes include a small apple, large orange or banana, 1 cup of cut-up or canned fruit, 1 cup of juice and 1/4 cup of dried fruit.
Meat and Meat Substitutes
Meat and meat substitutes provide protein, iron and zinc. How much you need to eat depends on your protein needs. Consult with your doctor or dietitian to determine how much protein you should be eating each day. Start with at least 5 to 6 ounces a day. Low-fat choices include skinless poultry, fish, beef tenderloin, lean pork chops, eggs prepared without fat, 95 percent lean luncheon meats, low-fat tofu, legumes and peas. A 1/4 cup serving of legumes or peas equals 1 ounce of meat.
The amount of fat you can have on your diet for chronic pancreatitis depends on your tolerance. Fat can be a concentrated source of calories and help you meet your elevated calorie needs. But eating too much fat can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Aim for at least three servings a day. Fat choices and serving sizes include 1 teaspoon of margarine, butter, oil or mayonnaise; 1 tablespoon of salad dressing; one slice of bacon; and 10 large olives.