How to Plan eating Low FODMAP OUTSIDE?
When eating out, unless you’re dining at a “FODMAP-aware” restaurant, it’s likely that the restaurant’s menu will be laden with high-FODMAP foods. Onion, garlic and wheat are regularly used in recipes. Despite this, your special dietary requirements need not be a social prison sentence. Have the confidence to eat out and enjoy it.
Since FODMAPs are not known to cause damage to the intestine, a meal out at a restaurant with friends might be one time you break the diet and eat foods that aren’t low-FODMAP. Sometimes the symptoms might be worth it if there’s something on the menu that really tempts your taste buds.
In many instances, though, you may still wish to follow your low-FODMAP needs as much as possible. If you’re eating out with friends, they may leave it to you to choose the restaurant. Often, restaurants that specialize in gluten-free dishes are more flexible and open to accommodate other dietary needs.
It’s not always possible to choose the restaurant yourself, but even if you do, it’s wise to let the staff know about your dietary needs. Often, restaurant staff (even the chef) may not be familiar with FODMAP requirements, so it may be simpler to ask for a “gluten-free meal with no onion.” If you prefer to be more specific, I recommend asking what ingredients are used in the dish you wish to order. You probably won’t be able to speak with the chef directly, so ask the waiters to ask the chef for you – this is important, as waitstaff might know a lot, but only the chef knows exactly what has gone into the meal! It can often be helpful to carry a business card–sized summary of your low-FODMAP diet in your wallet and use it when explaining your dietary needs. A dietitian could also help you with this.
Over time you should become very confident in following the low-FODMAP diet outside the home.
You should enjoy the same FODMAP confidence at:
- Friends Houses
- Travelling Abroad
If you experience severe symptoms after a small “breakout” from the diet, you’ll know to be more strict next time.
If, however, you can enjoy a brief deviation from the strict low-FODMAP diet without suffering too many symptoms, then you might choose to be a little less strict when eating out.
LOOK FOR FRIENDLY PLACES TO DINE
If you are new to the low-FODMAP diet, look for establishments that demonstrate an awareness of gluten-free eating and indicate on the menu which options are wheat-free.
The waiters in such eateries usually have an understanding of food intolerances and may be more likely to oblige your special requests.
Although a low-FODMAP diet is
[highlight]not a gluten-free diet, they both restrict wheat[/highlight]
Restaurants and cafés that offer gluten-free options will more likely offer you a more extensive menu.
[message type=”notice”]Remember that gluten-free does not necessarily mean low-FODMAP; check that the other ingredients in your meal are also well tolerated.[/message]
FodMap Planning Ahead
If the restaurant or café does not specifically advertise gluten-free or wheat-free meals, it is always a good idea to phone in advance and explain your special dietary needs to the chef. Chefs are becoming increasingly aware of food intolerances.
Speak to Your Server / Chef
Most restaurant professionals are used to accommodating patrons with allergies and food sensitivities.
Even if they don’t recognize names like “the low-FODMAP diet,” you can still explain your special dietary needs, so that they understand your requirements. Tell them what you can and can’t eat. Ask about the ingredients in specific dishes. Give them enough information to help you—without information overload.
Send a list
You could even send a list of foods to the restaurant. This may feel daunting at first, but confidence builds with practice. The chef may be able to advise which meals would be suitable for you or even prepare you a special dish. Reiterate your requirements when you arrive at the restaurant to ensure the meal that arrives is low in FODMAPs.
Check out the menu online
Scope out the menu and decide what to order ahead of time. Consider calling the restaurant in advance to ask whether they accommodate special diets. With the rise in celiac and food intolerance diagnoses, lots of restaurants are becoming more flexible, so it’s likely that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Stick with Basic FODMAP Dishes
Think grilled, steamed, or broiled salmon, chicken, or steak. Baked potatoes, undressed salads, and steamed veggies are also good choices. Ask your server to hold the garlic or onion and stick to salt and pepper for seasonings.
Eating out tips
The following points might help you enjoy a low-FODMAP dining experience, but use them as a guide only.
Ask as many questions as you need to feel confident that your meal is low in FODMAPs.
- Write a summary of your low-FODMAP diet on a business-card-size menu card and carry it in your wallet to use when explaining your dietary needs. A registered dietitian could help you with this.
- A “gluten-free meal with no garlic or onion” is a simplified description of the low-FODMAP diet that is easy for waiters and chefs to understand.
- Small amounts of wheat can generally be tolerated by IBS sufferers—you do not need to avoid every crumb on the low-FODMAP diet. This means that you need not religiously avoid breadcrumbs on vegetables or a schnitzel, or croutons in salads. If you do wish to avoid even these small amounts of wheat, ask for your meal to be prepared without them, or just leave them on the side of your plate.
- Wheat as an ingredient in sauces (such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, malt vinegar, or mayonnaise) is not a problem for the low-FODMAP diet.
- Hidden sources of onion can include stock (used in risottos and soups), gravy, dressings, relishes, and sauces. It may also have been used in marinades for meat and chicken. Sausages often contain onion. Ask for gravies and sauces to be served separately.
- If you break your diet by eating a FODMAP intentionally or unintentionally, you may suffer IBS symptoms, but a break in the diet will not cause any gastrointestinal damage, so you may choose to be more or less vigilant depending on the situation and your anticipated symptoms.
- Contact your local FODMAP support group for any eating guides.
LOW-FODMAP SELECTIONS FROM DIFFERENT CUISINES
Some cuisines, such as Japanese, are friendlier than others. The following table lists meals from different cuisines that are often low in FODMAPs, or will require little modification to become so.
|Cuisine||Likely low-FODMAP dishes|
|Middle Eastern and Indian||kebabs (skewered meat); tikka dishes (yogurt marinade); tandoori dishes; plain cooked rice; kheer (rice pudding—note: contains milk and often pistachios); kulfi (Indian ice cream—note: contains milk and often pistachios)|
|Southeast Asian||fried rice (check that there is no scallion); steamed or sticky rice; rice paper rolls; sushi (check the fillings); omelets (check the fillings); steamed fish; chili, ginger, or peppered shrimp, meat, fish, or poultry; roast duck or pork; steamed and stir-fried vegetables; rice noodle soup; stir-fries (request no onion or scallion and check the sauces); sweet sticky rice; sorbets (check the flavors)|
|Italian||risotto (ask for no onion and garlic and check for onion-free stock); gluten-free pasta with pesto (check for garlic), carbonara, or many marinara sauces; steamed mussels; grilled chicken breast or veal steak; shrimp cocktail; mozzarella tomato salad; antipasto (no artichokes); polenta; steamed vegetables; gelato (check the flavors); granita; zabaglione (note: contains lactose)|
|Mexican||plain corn chips with chili-cheese dip (chili con queso); tacos (beef or chicken with shredded lettuce, cheese, cucumber, and sour cream filling—ask for no salsa); tamales (check that there is no onion or garlic); tostadas (topped fried corn tortillas—choose beef or chicken topping with no onion); fajitas (no onion or garlic, ask for corn tortilla); nachos (no salsa, no refried beans, no guacamole); arroz (rice); arroz con leche (rice pudding—note: contains milk); flan; helados (ice cream, sherbet, or sorbet—check the flavors)|
|Pub food||plain grilled or roasted meat with vegetables (check the gravy and type of vegetables); grilled fish; risotto (check for onion-free stock and suitable vegetables); salads (check the dressings, ask for no onion or garlic); flourless cakes; sorbets; meringues|
TAKE YOUR OWN FODMAP FOODS
You may also like to bring your own FOODS:
- Take your own suitable dressing or sauce (no onion, garlic, or other high-FODMAP ingredients) and use it on a plain salad or stir-fry.
- Take your own wheat-free bread or roll to a sandwich bar and ask them to fill it with your favourite low-FODMAP fillings.
- Take your own wheat-free bread or bread roll to a hamburger restaurant where they can provide an onion-free meat patty and fillings.
- Take your own gluten-free pasta to a restaurant and ask them to top it with a low-FODMAP sauce.
- Take your own pizza base to a restaurant and ask them to top it with onion-free sauces and low-FODMAP ingredients.
Eating at Family/Friends’ houses
It’s best not to assume that your friends and family can cater to your low-FODMAP diet. They may forget or make mistakes, not because they don’t care, but just because they are only human. To lessen the stress for you and your hosts, here are some useful suggestions:
- Ask politely what they intend to serve. Then decide if you’d like to ask them to make alterations, or if you would rather self-cater. Discreetly taking your own food will help ensure you don’t end up starving all night and can enjoy food with the others.
- If necessary, eat before you go—especially if you know in advance that the menu will not be suitable. You can then just nibble on appropriate snacks during the event. Don’t let the food (or lack of it) spoil your good time or anyone else’s.
FODMAP when Traveling
Although you have special dietary needs, this should not prevent you from enjoying your travel experiences.
[message type=”success”]The key to a successful FODMAP vacation is planning, planning, planning![/message]
FodMap on Airlines
Airline travel can be difficult, but airline companies are increasingly aware of special dietary needs, and the chances are you will be able to organize a suitable meal. Here are some helpful travel suggestions to ensure you keep your IBS symptoms to a minimum, your taste buds satisfied, and your stomach full:
- Airlines differ in the service they provide—you may need to choose the airline based specifically on the food service it offers.
- Notify the airline of your special dietary need when you book.
- Confirm with your airline a few days before travelling that your special dietary need has been recorded, and check again when you collect your ticket for departure.
- Carry suitable FODMAP snacks/food with you just in case there is a problem with your meal.
- You may like to learn some phrases explaining your dietary needs in the languages of the countries in which you’ll be travelling.