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Your Fatty Liver Meal Plan

May 8, 2023 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

Are you feeling overwhelmed with a new diagnosis of fatty liver? With an abundance of information (sometimes conflicting!) available about this diagnosis, it can be hard to figure out what to do and where to start with making meaningful lifestyle changes that can improve your liver health. A fatty liver meal plan is a great place to start and nutrition guidance from the very beginning is critically important. 

The liver is the ‘metabolic hub’ of your body, contributing to digestion and absorption as well as nutrient use and storage. While it is well known that the liver can be damaged by frequent heavy alcohol intake, there are various other reasons why your liver might not be functioning properly and most of them are related to diet and lifestyle. It is important to get routine medical testing done per your doctor’s orders to catch early signs of fatty liver. Catching it early allows you to make changes in your life to prevent it from becoming worse and causing liver damage. I tell my clients to always have their doctor assess liver function on yearly check-ups. 

Registered Dietitians are a great resource and support system to guide you through exactly what changes you can make to improve your liver health, and a meal plan designed with fatty liver in mind is a great place to start. If you’ve been diagnosed with fatty liver, make sure that a referral to a dietitian is one of the very first steps (you may have to request it!). You’re welcome to use me and my team as a resource if you need support – here’s a link to book a quick call to discuss. 

First, let’s dive into what fatty liver is and the role of nutrition-

What is fatty liver?

The liver plays a key role in lipid metabolism, movement, and storage. It makes digestive fluid (bile) for lipid digestion and specialized proteins (lipoproteins) for moving lipids throughout the body. The liver also processes dietary fats into energy and ships the extra away for storage in adipose (fat) tissue. Due to its role with lipids in the body, it is normal to have a small store of fat in the liver. In someone with healthy liver function, that’s around 5-10% of your liver is fat (by weight). Anything beyond this is “fatty liver” with severity dependent on what percentage of the liver is fat. 

Sometimes, the liver is not able to process digested fat molecules correctly – this leads to a build-up of fat in the liver. Fatty liver can be classified as either nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) based on severity and the presence of inflammation and cell damage. 

NAFLD is often called the “silent liver disease” as it tends to be asymptomatic and often will not result in permanent liver damage. The key distinguishing factor between NAFLD and NASH is the presence of inflammation and cell damage. NASH is defined as the presence of inflammation and damage in fatty liver. As the liver becomes increasingly inflated with fat, it becomes inflamed, cells begin to die, and the liver begins to lose function. This is what leads to unpleasant symptoms like liver/abdominal pain, severe tiredness, weakness, weight loss, yellowing of skin/eyes, spider-like blood veins, and long-lasting itching. NASH can lead to permanent scarring and damage, and in extreme cases, liver cancer and liver failure if you don’t get help and make guided changes. This is where dietitians are a great resource! Let’s look at the role of diet and other factors in how fatty liver can occur.

How does fatty liver happen? 

There are many elements of diet and lifestyle that contribute to fatty liver developing. Fatty liver has been well documented to be frequently associated with other health issues like:

  • High blood sugar/diabetes: excess sugar in the blood is converted to and stored as fat, contributing to excess fats that can get stuck in the liver.
  • High triglycerides/cholesterol: low activity and a high fat and sugar diet can lead to extra fat in your body that the liver isn’t able to process quickly enough, resulting in build up in the liver.

One reason there has been an increase in fatty liver in the United States is that the standard American diet (SAD) is high in saturated fats, added sugars, and ultra processed foods – all of which have been shown to increase risk of health issues like diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, and overall disease risk. SAD is also low in vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates (fiber). As many as 95% of Americans likely do not meet daily recommended fiber intake goals – this can be a major contributing factor to poor blood sugar control and excess fat in the body. With the prevalence of poor diet in the USA, it is not surprising that around 25% of Americans have NAFLD, and about 5% have NASH

Unfortunately, it is also possible for there to be no clear reason for fatty liver to happen, and there are other components that are thought to contribute (like genetics or medications you have to take). This is another reason why regular health check ups and preventative/early lifestyle changes are so beneficial – you might have zero known risk factors and still have altered liver function which can progress and become problematic if not addressed.

You can treat the factors that lead to NAFLD like high triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood sugar/diabetes, and even reduce the amount of fat in your liver by consuming a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory plant-based diet – and I’m here to help you get started. This is the foundation of what myself and other registered dietitian nutritionists do and how we help people. And I can tell you: it makes a huge difference. 

Nutrition to support the liver:

An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on eating a diet rich in nutritious foods that have anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, omega fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, and more. The foods known to be dense sources of these nutrients include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and plant-based proteins. 

Let’s take a look at how these nutrients support your health and liver:

Anti-inflammatory micronutrients: vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium, copper
fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds

  • Antioxidants
  • Immune support

Complex carbohydrates: soluble and insoluble fiber
whole grains, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds

  • Help lower your cholesterol 
  • Help you feel full longer 
  • Keep blood sugar steady
  • Supports healthy microbiome

Healthy Fats:
mono- and polyunsaturated fats, omega fatty acids (3 and 6)
beans/legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, plant oils (olive, flaxseed)

  • Help lower your cholesterol 
  • Help you feel full longer
  • Antioxidants

Phytochemicals (plant compounds):
plant pigments like carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols
whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds

  • Antioxidants
  • Immune support

Your Fatty Liver Meal Plan:

Making a change to your habits and lifestyle takes time, energy, commitment, and thoughtful planning. Many people just don’t have enough of these to dedicate to properly investing in nutrition – and it can get overwhelming fast. As a Registered Dietitian, I am here to support you in these things to help you improve your nutrition with ease and confidence. 

I am constantly developing quick and easy plant-based anti-inflammatory recipes for my clients to help reduce the amount of time spent in the kitchen while increasing their intake of important nutrients. I made this fatty liver meal plan to incorporate some of my favorite anti-inflammatory recipes to help take some of the pressure off of planning your meals, save time, and get great nutrition to support your liver health. 

With easy access to the recipes included (linked below each week), you can efficiently make a list and head to your local grocery store and grab all your groceries for the week in one go. Then the fatty liver meal plan guides you through strategically using these great recipes, designed to leave you leftovers that you can take for lunch later in the week. No more constantly worrying what’s for dinner or raiding the vending machine for lunch (this helps you strategically use your leftovers as well). 

This fatty liver meal plan was designed for you to be plant-based – a plant-based diet has repeatedly demonstrated its benefits for helping with blood sugar control, cholesterol management, and overall disease prevention. This is because plant-foods have high concentrations of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant nutrients and those nutrients that are “pro-disease” like saturated fats and large amounts of simple sugars are much less common in plant-foods versus animal products and ultra-processed foods. The foods I’ve included in your fatty liver meal plan were selected for their anti-inflammatory nutrients and abundance of healthy liver nutrients like B vitamins, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. 

Use this 3-week fatty liver meal plan to plan your grocery shopping, discover easy delicious anti-inflammatory recipes, and easily navigate your new approach to your diet, nutrition, and liver health. 

Week 1 recipe links

Spicy green butternut squash enchilada

Coconut lemon curd overnight oats

One pot minestrone

Guacamole

Zucchini muffins

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian lasagna casserole

Pumpkin spice homemade waffles

Crispy eggplant BLT

 

 

Week 2 recipe links

Egg and veggie breakfast sandwich 

One pan salmon and veggies  (by Real Food Dietitians) 

Teriyaki tofu sheet pan dinner

Hummus

Banana ginger oats

Tortilla soup (by Feel Good Foodie) 

One pot cauliflower curry

Simple quinoa apple power bowl

Coconut chickpea stuffed sweet potatoes

Vegetable stir fry with peanuts

Greens and sweet potato hash) by Morton Salt) 

 

 

Week 3 recipe links

Blueberry coconut oatmeal bake

Chipotle tempeh tacos (by Oh My Veggies)

Harvest vegan pasta (by Dietitian Debbie) 

Turmeric grits with greens

Apple cinnamon overnight oats

One pot red lentil soup (by Minimalist Baker) 

Chickpea and black bean veggie burgers

Wild blueberry oatmeal smoothie

One pot enchilada pasta

Garlic chili roasted brussel sprouts

Vegetarian sheet pan nachos

 

Good luck, and happy cooking! 

More NAFLD resources for you

For more resources on an anti-inflammatory plant-based diet, check out my ebook

Anti-Inflammatory Plant-Based Eating 101. This is a great place to find more great recipes, information on benefits of plant-based approach, shopping and budget guides, and more meal plans for anti-inflammatory eating.

For in-depth, personalized support getting started on your anti-inflammatory nutrition journey, enroll in my Anti-Inflammatory Restart Nutrition Program: https://gingerhultinnutrition.com/events/

My Meal Prep for Weight Loss 101 ebook is another great place to start for helping build healthier habits with 4 weeks of pre-made meal plans and recipes, grocery list and tools for meal planning for yourself, and an overall balanced, healthful approach to healthier habits and weight loss.

 

12 Comments

  1. Rehoboth on August 6, 2023 at 5:58 am

    Nice post

    • Ginger Hultin on August 10, 2023 at 10:46 am

      Thanks so much! I hope it’s helpful 🙂

  2. Naima on September 26, 2023 at 7:12 pm

    I thought no salt is crucial for a liver diet?

    • Ginger Hultin on October 13, 2023 at 6:58 am

      Hi there! Well, you can’t do ‘no salt’ because there’s a certain amount of sodium needed to survive. You’re right though, a lower sodium diet is indicated for liver disease so I’d recommend sticking with a sodium restriction (always discuss with your doctor first, of course!) of 1500-2000mg per day.

  3. JJ on November 19, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you. I discovered I have a fatty liver. Your discussion of fatty liver is informative. The meal plans are helpful. Interestingly, I’ve seen a longer list of associates conditions; I am overweight. I definitely need the support in turning things around. Thank you.

    • Ginger Hultin on November 30, 2023 at 1:21 pm

      Oh I’m so glad this helps – I hope you can use the meal plans to start feeling better. Be sure to reach out if you ever need individualized support!

  4. JJ on January 7, 2024 at 8:40 am

    Ginger,
    I like the meal plans. Is the variety necessary? Are the meals nutrient complete so that I can use 1 or 2 recipes from each of the meal plans (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and still help my liver?
    I have the ingredients. Is the variety necessary?
    Thank you,
    JJ

    • Ginger Hultin on February 10, 2024 at 7:49 am

      Hi there JJ – great question! You know, you can use the outline of the meal plan to make it as simple or as varied as possible. If you want to just rotate in 1-2 and keep it very easy for yourself, that’s just fine. Consider mixing it up week by week so you get a variety of nutrients. Enjoy!

  5. Hannah on March 6, 2024 at 5:40 pm

    hi Ginger is there other food I can use that is not spicy? I have GERD and NAFLD?

    • Ginger Hultin on March 21, 2024 at 7:39 am

      Hi Hannah! Absolutely – I’d recommend using herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, cumin, dill, or oregano for flavor without spice. Hope that helps!

  6. Joyce on April 29, 2024 at 2:43 am

    I have diverticulitis and fatty liver. I am constantly going back and forth with trying to figure out what I can eat and struggle with this daily. I’m having a flare up as we speak and have been in the hospital all evening in pain. What do you suggest eating for someone that struggles with both diseases?

    • Ginger Hultin on May 2, 2024 at 11:52 am

      Hi Joyce! Oh I’m so sorry to hear that; that’s very challenging and diverticulitis requires a special diet that changes as you have flares or not. This is absolutely a case for working 1:1 with a registered dietitian. Do you have one that you’re working with?

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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

Integrative nutrition specialist helping clients navigate complex health conditions to reduce inflammation and feel better.

Thanks for visiting! If you're struggling with a cancer diagnosis, autoimmune condition, gut health problems, or even a medical mystery, nutrition can make a HUGE difference in your day-to-day life. I run a virtual, concierge private practice where I partner with my clients over time to help them improve their health through nutrition. Be sure to visit the blog for easy, plant-based, anti-inflammatory recipes and our "Resources" page for a variety of self-paced programs, books, e-books, and nutrition podcast episodes.

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