6 Tips for Eating Out on a Low FODMAP Diet
Preparing all your meals at home would be ideal while following a low FODMAP diet. This way, you have more control over what and how much you are eating. Still, it’s hard to avoid eating out completely.
Whether you have a dinner date at a restaurant, are invited to a wedding, or need to travel, here are a few tips on how to navigate restaurants without getting GI symptoms.
Tips for Eating Out on a Low FODMAP Diet
1. Choose your restaurant wisely
This is key when you eat out. You will find blogs on how to choose meals at various ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Indian, Italian). But it will make your life simpler at this point to avoid certain restaurants altogether. For example, Indian dishes almost always include garlic and/or onions and mostly feature high-FODMAP vegetables and legumes.
Chinese and Thai restaurants may be better as most of their dishes are rice-based but they rely a lot on garlic and onions when cooking vegetables or meat/poultry. Even if you find a gluten-free pizza place, the tomato sauce is almost always made with garlic and/or onions, and there usually is way too much cheese.
You will be able to eat in a variety of restaurants after you have learned what your trigger foods are. For now, keep it simple.
2. Keep it simple
Restaurants that will more likely have low FODMAP choices are those where you can order a chicken/meat/fish entree with a choice of side dishes. You can look up the menu for options such as rice and potatoes and a low FODMAP vegetable (kale, carrots, bell peppers, etc.).
Look up the list of vegetables in the Monash FODMAP App for more choices and appropriate serving sizes. If you are a vegetarian you can ask for firm tofu as a substitute for animal protein. Or have a protein-rich snack before your leave the house, and eat the starch and vegetables at the restaurant.
3. Beware of hidden FODMAPs
Stay away from menu items that may have hidden FODMAP ingredients: soups, stews, and risotto (garlic and onion in the broth); marinated meats/fish or hamburgers (may have garlic or onion powder); sauces and salad dressings; creamed-based soups or pasta sauces.
4. Keep the portions small
Keep in mind that most restaurants serve portions that are larger than those most of us prepare at home. Any large meal may trigger symptoms in people with IBS.
Have a low-FODMAP snack before going out so you don’t get too hungry. You can also take home some of the restaurant food to keep your meal size moderate.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask
Do your homework before you head out. Choose the restaurant and peruse the menu to see whether you have a few low FODMAP choices. Call ahead and ask the staff whether they allow substitutions. They may have ingredients they don’t feature on the menu that you can have in place of high-FODMAP items.
Explain you can’t have even a trace of garlic and/or onions. Whereas pretty much everyone today is familiar with the term gluten-free, the waiting staff or even chefs may not know what FODMAPs are, and you will need to ask precise questions.
6. Avoid potential FODMAP overloading
If you plan to eat out ahead of time, make sure you are as strict as you can with your other meals and snacks. When you eat as low FODMAP as possible during the rest of the day, you will avoid the build-up effect of adding too many FODMAPs on the same day.
If you end up eating a high-FODMAP ingredient accidentally, the effect will hopefully not be as bad, as your overall FODMAP load will be lower.
Most of all, don’t obsess about it! If the restaurant does not have the options you were looking for, or your friends insist on a place that is not as accommodating, the most important thing is that you relax and enjoy the meal.
It’s OK to eat a high-FODMAP meal on occasion. If you approach it with anxiety and tell yourself “This is going to make me feel awful tomorrow”, it probably will.
If you instead tell yourself “I am going to enjoy this meal and trust my body to do the best it can with it”, you are more likely to not have symptoms. The mind is powerful! And if you do, you know the next day you get to take extra care of yourself and feel better.