Healthy eating for gallstones


This information is produced for adults under the care of Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. We usually give you the information after an assessment or appointment. Your dietitian or other health professional may give you different guidance, depending on your specific medical needs.

It is important to check with a health professional before making any changes to your diet. Please contact your dietitian if you have any questions or concerns.

If you are not a patient at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, please contact a GP or specialist health professional.

This information is intended to help answer your questions about a healthy diet if you have gallstones.

Gallstones are small stones that are usually made of a fatty substance called cholesterol. They form in your gallbladder, which is a small, pouch-like organ under the liver.

The information covers:

Signs and symptoms of gallstones

Most gallstones do not cause symptoms. However, some may block the flow of bile from your gallbladder. Bile is a liquid that your liver makes to help digest fat. This can cause symptoms, including:

  • sudden, severe pain in your tummy or abdomen (this is called biliary colic)
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • shivers
  • in some cases, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

The pain can spread to your back or shoulder and may make you feel sick (nausea) or be sick (vomit). If your gallbladder gets infected, it can become inflamed.

Gallstones do not often cause any other symptoms. They are sometimes mistakenly linked to indigestion or intolerance to fatty foods.

Treatment for gallstones

If gallstones do not cause any symptoms, your doctor may recommend leaving them untreated for now and monitoring your symptoms. You usually only need treatment if gallstones cause symptoms, such as abdominal pain.

Removal of the gallbladder is a common treatment. This type of surgery is called a cholecystectomy. 

Your gallbladder is not essential and can be removed safely. It is usually removed with keyhole surgery.

If your pain is associated with eating high-fat foods or being overweight, you may need to:

Diet and gallstones

There is no special diet to manage gallstones. It used to be recommended that everyone with gallstones should follow a low-fat diet. This is now thought to be unnecessary.

Eating fatty foods and large meals can, however, often trigger symptoms. For this reason, it is important to follow these tips:


  • eat as healthily as possible
  • have regular meals
  • try to lose some weight gradually if you are overweight


  • do not skip meals
  • do not try to lose weight rapidly because this can make gallstones worse

A well-balanced diet based on the Eatwell Guide is thought to be best for most people.

Eating a balanced diet

A healthy, balanced diet involves eating the correct amounts from each of the different food groups and having regular meals. The main food groups are listed in this section.

Carbohydrate or starchy foods

This group includes:

  • bread
  • rice
  • pasta
  • chapattis (a type of flat, round South Asian bread made without yeast)
  • yams (a root vegetable like a potato)
  • plantain (a tropical fruit similar to a banana with green skin)
  • porridge
  • cereals

Carbohydrate or starchy foods give you energy and should make up one-third of each meal. Choose wholegrain varieties whenever possible because they contain more fibre.

Fruit and vegetables

This group should also make up a large part of your diet. It is recommended that you have at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. They give you vitamins, minerals and fibre.

A portion of any fruit or vegetable is the amount that you can fit into the palm of your hand. Examples include:

  • a handful of grapes
  • a medium banana
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of peas

Protein foods

This group includes:

  • fish
  • meat
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • pulses (all tinned or dried beans, peas and lentils)
  • tofu (a soft pale food made from the soya bean plant)

Here are some healthy eating tips for protein foods:


  • try to have a portion of oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel or trout) once a week to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • choose leaner cuts of meat
  • remove the skin from poultry
  • trim any fat that you can see off meat or poultry
  • grill, bake or steam food instead of frying it

Milk and dairy foods

Foods in this group, such as cheese and yoghurt, are a good source of calcium. However, they can also be high in fat. It is best to choose low-fat versions, whenever possible.

Foods high in fat and sugar

These foods include:

  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • crisps
  • sweets
  • chocolate

You do not need these foods as part of a healthy diet. If you include them in your diet, it is best to have small amounts and only as an occasional treat. This is particularly important if you need to lose weight.

Oils and spreads

As all fats are high in calories, it is best to use small amounts only. Choose oils and spreads that are high in unsaturated fats, such as:

  • vegetable oil
  • olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • rapeseed oil

Try to avoid oils and spreads that are high in saturated fat, such as:

  • palm oil
  • butter
  • lard
  • ghee (a type of clarified butter where the milk solids have been removed)
  • coconut oil

Resource number: 3965/VER3
Last reviewed: April 2024
Next review due: April 2027

A list of sources is available on request.

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the nutrition and dietetics department.

Phone: 020 7188 2010, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email: [email protected]

We aim to reply to emails within 2 working days.

Pharmacy medicines helpline

If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, please speak to the staff caring for you. You can also contact our pharmacy medicines helpline.

Phone: 020 7188 8748, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email: [email protected]

We aim to reply to emails within 2 working days.

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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