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Low Bacteria Diet

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a low-bacteria diet?

A low-bacteria diet is a meal plan that involves choosing, preparing, and cooking foods with low amounts of bacteria. Bacteria in foods or beverages can cause an infection in your body. Bacteria are normally found in the home, on the hands of the person who prepares the food, or in the food itself. A low-bacteria diet helps prevent infections. Your healthcare provider may recommend this diet if your immune system is weak. Cancer treatments, organ transplants, and other medical conditions may weaken your immune system. Your healthcare provider will tell you how long you should follow this diet.

Which foods can I include?

  • Dairy:
    • Pasteurized milk and yogurt (Pasteurization is a process that heats food in order to destroy bacteria.)
    • Commercially packaged cheese made with pasteurized milk, such as mild and medium cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and Swiss cheese
  • Protein foods:
    • All well-cooked meats, such as beef, pork, turkey, chicken, fish, and shellfish
    • Canned meat or fish and meat spreads
    • Well-cooked eggs, egg substitutes, and tofu
    • Reheated deli meats and hot dogs
    • Nuts in baked products, shelled roasted nuts, canned or bottled roasted nuts, peanut butter
  • Fruits and vegetables:
    • Canned, frozen, and dried fruits
    • Pasteurized fruit juice
    • Raw fruit, vegetables, and herbs that are washed well
    • Frozen, canned, and cooked vegetables
  • Grains:
    • Breads, bagels, rolls, muffins, pancakes, and waffles
    • Packaged snacks, such as potato chips, pretzels, and popcorn
    • Cooked pasta, rice, and other grains
    • Cooked and ready-to-eat cereals
  • Drinks:
    • Tap water, bottled, distilled, and spring water
    • Instant and brewed coffee and tea made with boiling water
    • Brewed herbal tea made with packaged tea bags
  • Other foods:
    • Refrigerated commercial and homemade cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, and pudding
    • Condiments that have been refrigerated after opening, such as ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, soy sauce
    • Jam, jelly, and syrup that has been refrigerated after opening

Which foods should I avoid?

  • Dairy:
    • Milk and milk products, yogurt, and cheese that are raw or have not been pasteurized
    • Cheese from a deli counter and cheese that contains chili peppers or uncooked vegetables
    • Cheeses with molds, such as blue, Stilton, gorgonzola, and Roquefort cheese
    • Aged cheese, such as sharp cheddar, brie, feta, and farmer's cheese
  • Protein foods:
    • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, eggs, game, and tofu
    • Meat and cold cuts from deli counters and hot dogs (unless reheated until steaming hot)
    • Smoked or pickled salmon or other fish
    • Tempe (tempeh) products
    • Roasted nuts in the shell or unroasted raw nuts
  • Fruits and vegetables:
    • Unwashed raw fruit, vegetables, and herbs
    • All raw vegetable sprouts, such as alfalfa, radish, and broccoli
    • Salads from a deli or a salad bar
    • Salsa stored in a refrigerated case
  • Grain products and soups:
    • Uncooked grain products
    • Miso products, such as miso soup
    • Breads, rolls, and pastries from self-service bins
  • Drinks:
    • Well water (unless it is tested yearly and found to be safe)
    • Brewed tea made with warm or cold water
    • Fruit and vegetable juices that have not been pasteurized
  • Other foods:
    • Fresh salad dressing made with aged cheese
    • Raw honey
    • Herbal supplements (pills)

What are some food shopping guidelines I should follow?

  • Look at the expiration date on foods. Never buy a food when the date on the label has passed.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables that appear fresh. Ask a grocery store worker how fresh a product is before you buy it.
  • Do not buy food in dented or bulging cans, torn boxes, or leaky plastic wrappers.
  • Do not eat food samples in grocery stores.
  • Do not buy food that is stored in bins in grocery stores.
  • Do not buy eggs that are cracked or not refrigerated.
  • Place foods that can spoil in the refrigerator right away when you get home from a grocery store.

How should I prepare foods before I cook them?

  • Wash your hands well before you prepare foods.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave. Use foods right away after they have been thawed. Do not freeze foods again after you have thawed them.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables completely under running water before peeling and slicing them. Cut away bruised areas.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables.
  • Wash the top of canned foods with soap and warm water before you open them.

How should I cook and store foods?

  • Cook meat until it is well done. Buy a meat thermometer to check the temperature of meat to make sure it is completely cooked. Cook red meat to 165 degrees and cook poultry to 180 degrees. Microwave cooking can leave cold spots where bacteria can grow. When cooking or heating foods in a microwave, turn the dish often and stir the foods.
  • Do not taste food with the same spoon that you use to stir food while it is being cooked. Use a separate spoon for tasting.
  • Never leave food out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Foods with eggs or mayonnaise in them should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 1 hour.
  • Divide leftover food into small amounts and place them in small containers in the refrigerator so that they can cool off quickly.
  • Throw away unused food that has been in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Do not reheat or eat food that smells bad or has mold on it.

How can I decrease bacteria in the kitchen?

  • Wash dishcloths and sponges every day. Use bleach and hot water to wash them and rinse them well. Replace sponges once a week with new ones. Use clean towels every day.
  • Wipe up spills and keep your kitchen clean. Use a mixture of 1 tablespoon of bleach in 1 quart of warm water to clean your kitchen. Keep counters, cabinets, appliances, and other areas that food may touch as clean as possible.
  • Wash cutting boards in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher after you use them.

What should I avoid at a restaurant?

  • Avoid yogurt and ice cream from soft-serve machines.
  • Avoid food from salad bars, deli counters, buffets, and food carts. Avoid potlucks and food kept under warming lights.
  • Avoid condiments (such as mustard or ketchup) from self-serve containers. Ask for condiment packages.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.