Dining out while following a low FODMAP diet can seem like a scary prospect. But, with a little preparation – it doesn’t need to be! Now that cafes and restaurants are reopening to the public, it’s the perfect time to master how to comfortably eat out on the low FODMAP diet.
Researching your dining options and taking your time when selecting a restaurant can help to reduce any anxiety you may have. This is particularly important, as stress can trigger symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in some people. Many eateries have a version of their menu available online, and are usually happy to answer any questions you might have before you place a booking.
When looking over a restaurant menu, there are a few things to keep an eye out for, for instance:
- Is it clear whether dietary requirements are catered for?
- Are gluten-free options available? (for minimising fructans)
- Are simple meals such as grilled salmon or chicken with seasonal (low FODMAP) vegetables and rice available?
- Remember to identify any menu items potentially high in FODMAPs like traditionally-made pasta and pizza bases, creamy and broth-based dishes, marinated meat, chicken and fish, sauces, gravy, salad dressings and dips.
Don’t be afraid to let the restaurant staff know that you can’t eat certain foods. Generally, you can expect them to be accommodating. Some questions to ask include:
- whether onion and garlic can be omitted from a meal,
- is wheat-based bread or pasta able to be replaced with a gluten-free alternative,
- is there milk, sour cream, ricotta or cream cheese hiding in any dishes, and
- what are sauces and salad dressings seasoned, sweetened and thickened with (artificial sweeteners are off the menu, as they contain polyols).
It’s worth noting that cross-contamination during food preparation is not something to worry about on the low FODMAP diet. If all else fails, there’s no harm in asking to order something that isn’t on the menu.
Some cuisines tend to have more low FODMAP options than others. These include…
Sushi and sashimi are great low FODMAP options, just be mindful of tempura (traditionally made with wheat flour) and avocado (you will need to limit your serving size to roughly 2 tablespoons) e.g. one avocado and salmon Californian sushi roll. Other safe options include miso soup, and grilled fish, chicken or hard tofu (not soft or silken) in a miso-based or soy sauce-based marinade / sauce. Soy sauce is safe to have in small amounts on a low FODMAP diet.
Vietnamese & Thai
Opt for stir fries and salads containing low FODMAP vegetables, and rice or rice noodle-based dishes e.g. Vermicelli rice noodle salad with chicken, carrot, cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts and a garlic & onion free sauce.If ordering a broth-based meal (e.g. pho), don’t forget to check that the stock doesn’t contain garlic or onion (including dried). Try and steer clear of ordering a Thai curry, unless you can be certain it doesn’t contain any garlic or onion, and the coconut milk or cream used is free of inulin.
Although perhaps not technically a cuisine, ‘pub grub’ can be very low FODMAP. Steak that hasn’t been marinated in any high FODMAP ingredients is a good choice, particularly when served with a side of salad (dressed in lemon juice and olive oil), or steamed / roasted low FODMAP vegetables. The same can be said for grilled / roasted chicken, beef or fish – just check that any seasonings used are garlic and onion-free, and that any gravy is free of wheat and artificial sweeteners. French fries and potato wedges are safe options, as long as they haven’t been seasoned with garlic or onion powder. Tomato sauce (ketchup), can be moderately-high FODMAP, however this will depend on where the sauce is sourced e.g. USA. Other dipping sauces may only be okay if you know exactly what’s in them.
Egg-based dishes make for a tasty brunch option. Opt for fried or poached eggs rather than scrambled (or, ask for your scrambled eggs to be made without milk or cream). If choosing an omelette, ensure no added milk, cream, onion, dried garlic, mushroom or other high FODMAP food. Most cafes now provide a gluten-free bread option or true plain sourdough bread, which makes ordering low FODMAP toast easy! Great side options include sautéed spinach, plain grilled tomato or smoked salmon. Butter is a safe spreadable option; along with strawberry jam (strawberries are low in FODMAPs). Just make sure the jam doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, or fruit juice. Unfortunately ‘smashed avo’ is likely to contain a high FODMAP serving size of avocado! Porridge is another great brunch option, made with water or lactose-free / plant-based milk, topped with blueberries, kiwi fruit or strawberries, and toasted walnuts. Skip the honey though, and sweeten with maple syrup if available. Other tasty sweet options include dairy-free pancakes or crepes made with gluten-free flours, and greek yoghurt topped with a mixed low FODMAP fruit salad. Remember that juice is often high FODMAP, so go for smoothie options incorporating strawberries, blueberries, or baby spinach, and lactose-free or plant-based milk or greek yoghurt (skip the honey and honey combo, as the bananas used for this are often to ripe to be low FODMAP!).
Dining out is about much more than just the food itself. The occasion, the atmosphere, and the company are other (hopefully immensely enjoyable) aspects of eating outside the home. Focus on the foods that you can eat, rather than the ones you can’t, and if possible try and relax and enjoy the experience. Bon appetit!
Written by: Lauren Sedger
Approved by: Sotiria Karatsas (APD)