5 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays When You Have IBS

Published on: 12/13/2022

Holidays can be packed with fun activities, time with family, and special meals. It’s common to unknowingly stumble upon, or knowingly indulge in, foods that are FODMAP “bombs”. For someone with IBS, this could mean having to bear the consequences in your gut!

Here are 5 tips to enjoy the holidays without risking an IBS flare (bloating, cramps/pain, diarrhea, etc.):

5 Tips to Enjoy the Holidays when you have IBS

1.    Plan your meals and snacks ahead

Make sure to set aside some time for prepping and cooking your favorite low-FODMAP meals and snacks even during this busy time of the year.

Planning ahead and having low-FODMAP foods and snacks available will make it less likely that you will end up eating something that may cause a bout of symptoms while you are out shopping or at a holiday party.

2.    Bring a low FODMAP dish

If you are hosting the Christmas dinner you can plan the menu so that everyone is pleased, including any family traditions that may be high in FODMAPs (your grandma’s apple pie?), with low FODMAP versions or other dishes (you can make fabulous mashed potatoes without garlic).

If you are going to someone else’s house, bring one dish you know you can enjoy without risking GI distress. Try my Rainbow Roasted Root Vegetables below; they are sure to please anyone.


3.    Decide what high-FODMAP food to “splurge” on

Alright, so Christmas only comes once a year and you are really looking forward to your grandma’s apple pie (which contains wheat, in the crust, and fructose plus sorbitol in the apples – triple whammy).

Decide ahead of time what favorite dish you can’t do without at the Christmas dinner, and eat a small portion of it. Having apple pie after an otherwise low FODMAP meal is better than having it after eating more than one FODMAP-laden course (garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, or stuffing made with onions… you get the idea).

4.    Beware of greasy foods, alcohol, and caffeine

Research is still trying to figure out whether these foods may be definite triggers of IBS symptoms. Nonetheless, many people report having bouts of symptoms when consuming fatty meals, or too much alcohol or caffeine.

If you know one of these may trigger your symptoms, be mindful of portion sizes. You may not need to avoid them altogether, just make sure you don’t get carried away.

5.    Find time to relax and…don’t forget to (deep) breathe

It is well known that stress can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms. Holidays can be stressful for many people, and it is important to find the time to manage stress in the middle of the holiday rush.

Find an activity that relaxes you – whether it’s walking in the woods or by the beach, taking a yoga or qi-gong class, or doing your favorite type of exercise.

One of the most evidence-based stress management techniques is diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal or deep breathing (this is when you expand your belly instead of your chest in the act of breathing).

Roasted Rainbow Root Vegetables


1 lb. parsnips

1 ½ lb. rainbow carrots (or regular carrots)

½ lbs. fingerling or baby potatoes (mix of yellow and red)

1 Tablespoon thyme leaves

2 Tablespoons avocado or sunflower seed oil

a few grinds of salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 425º F.
  2. After washing and drying the vegetables, peel the parsnips and brush the carrots with a vegetable brush. Cut the parsnips and carrots into 2 ½-inch sticks, about ¼-inch thick. Don’t worry about being perfect, as the vegetables are uneven in size. Do the best you can so that they will cook evenly. Cut the potatoes in half.
  3. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss the vegetables with thyme, oil, and a few grinds of salt and pepper and lay them evenly on the baking sheets. Add 1 tablespoon water to each sheet and cover with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake until vegetables for 15 minutes, then take off the foil. Continue baking until they are tender and slightly browned (be sure to check early so they don’t burn), another 10-15 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Author: Antonella Dewell, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Chef

If you are confused about how to eat to find relief from IBS symptoms, I would love to hear from you!

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I’m a registered dietitian with a passion for helping women with IBS find their way back to eating without fear of painful gut symptoms and without unnecessary diet restrictions.

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