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Chylothorax: Minimal Fat Diet

What is a chylothorax?

A chylothorax (say: KY-low-THOR-ax) is a build-up of fluid in the space around the lungs. The fluid, called chyle (say: kile), is a normal fluid that is made when the body digests fat. When it builds up, it puts pressure on the lungs and makes breathing more difficult.

Treating a chylothorax

The doctors often drain the extra fluid from around the lungs with a chest tube. Sometimes, that is all that is needed. But if the body keeps making too much chyle, your child may be put on a special diet. This diet will lower the amount of chyle your child’s body makes. This will help prevent a build-up from happening again.

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Minimal fat diet

Your child’s doctor or dietitian will help you with the details of your child’s diet. In general, your child should avoid eating fats. The less fat in your child's diet, the less chyle the body will make.

Always read food labels

The goal of this diet is to lower the amount of fat your child eats. Read the Nutrition Facts label to find out how much fat is in the food. Choose foods that have less than 0.5 g of total fat per serving. Make sure the serving size is the same amount as your child will eat.

If the front of the food packaging says “fat-free,” it means a food has less than 0.5 g of total fat per serving. You should always check the label to be sure.




Foods your child can and cannot eat

Milk and alternatives

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

Dairy products such as milk and yogurt with less than 1% milk fat. Milk fat is often labelled M.F. or B.F.

Fat-free processed cheese slices

Fat-free sour cream

Fat-free cottage cheese

Fat-free cream cheese

Fat-free pudding

Dairy products such as milk and yogurt with more than 1% milk fat.

Regular or low-fat cheese

Regular or low-fat cream cheese

Regular or low-fat cottage cheese

Cheez Whiz

Meat and alternatives

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

Lean white fish, skinless chicken breast, or skinless turkey breast (1 to 2 oz per day)

Beans and legumes

Fat-free hot dogs

Tuna packed in water (2 to 3 oz per day)

Fat-free deli meats

Egg whites (if your child is older than 1 year)

Peanut butter and other nut butters

Fried and battered meats and poultry

Egg yolks

Beef, pork, and fatty fish

Seafood such as shrimp, scallops, and lobster

Shellfish such as clams, mussels, and oysters

Grain products

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

Bread, buns, plain bagels, and pita bread

Plain pasta

Plain rice

Melba toast

Fat-free crackers


Cereals, except granola and cereals with nuts. Choose a cereal with less than 1 g of total fat per serving.

Cheese and egg breads, buns, bagels, and croissants

Pasta stuffed with meat or cheese, such as ravioli or tortellini

Egg noodles or fried rice

Packaged noodle dishes such as Sidekicks or Mr. Noodle



Vegetables and fruit

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

All except avocado and olives

Fruit and vegetable juices

Apple and fruit sauces

Dried fruit bars and fruit snacks such as Fruit-to-go and Fruit Roll-ups

Pasta sauce with less than 1 g of total fat per serving



Pasta sauce with more than 1 g of fat per serving, including meat, cheese, or cream sauce

Snacks and treats

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

Rice cakes without chocolate, cheese, or butter

Fat-free granola bars

Fat-free cookies

Freezies and sorbet

Air-popped popcorn with no butter

Baked plain pretzels

Cereal (see "Grain products" above)

Fat-free chocolate, strawberry, and maple syrup

Ice cream and frozen yogurt if less than 0.1% fat

Gummie candies and gum

Jell-O and fruit gels

Chips and cheezies


Nuts and seeds

Muffins and cakes


Regular or flavoured popcorn




Ice cream and frozen yogurt if more than 0.1% fat

Oils, spreads, and other foods

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

Ketchup, mustard, and relish

Fat-free broths and soups


Fat-free mayonnaise

Jams and jellies

Honey (for children older than 1 year)

Ultra low-fat Cool Whip (0.9% fat)


Fat-free salad dressing

Fat-free croutons

Soy sauce

Teriyaki sauce

Vegetarian sushi (no avocado, egg, or crabmeat)




Regular mayonnaise

Soups and cream soups

Sushi with meat, fish, avocado, egg, or crabmeat

Foods for babies and toddlers

Low-fat items your child can eat High-fat foods to avoid

Portagen or Tolerex formula

Plain infant cereal

All fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetable juices (limit to 4 oz per day or as directed by dietitian)

Baby mum-mum rice rusks

Homemade pureed or minced lean white fish, skinless chicken breast or turkey breast (limit to 1/2 to 1 oz per day)

All infant formula except Portagen and Tolerex

Minigo, Danino, and Danimals yogurt and cheese

Yogurt tubes and drinks with more than 1% fat

Infant cereal with formula, milk, or yogurt, such as Milupa

Jarred baby custards and some desserts

Cookies, including Arrowroot and Farleys

Baby jars of meat and foods with meat

More tips to reduce fat

When cooking

Do not add any oil, butter, margarine, or other fats.

Use low-fat cooking methods such as steaming, broiling, barbecuing, or baking.

Choose the right foods

Choose foods that are appropriate for your child’s age.

If you are unsure about a food, talk to your dietitian.

List foods you would like to ask the dietitian about here:


Your dietitian’s name:

Your dietitian's phone number:

Jennifer Russell, MD, FRCPC

Louise Bannister, RD

Sarah Farmer, RD, CNSD

Carrie Morgan, RN, BScN, MN