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Tips for Eating Out on the Low FODMAP Diet

Feature, Gut Health & IBS | September 6, 2021

A young girl feeding her father a nutritious homemade sandwich.
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Any kind of dietary modifications or restrictions can be difficult to manage outside your home. Living with irritable bowel syndrome presents its own type of challenge… FODMAPs!

High FODMAP foods are everywhere and navigating the fast-food world can be difficult. There will be times when you’ll decide to eat out, but it can feel SO overwhelming when it comes time to look at a menu! You may feel like enjoying take-out food with friends or you may even run into an emergency situation where you need sustenance. Either way, knowing your options and being prepared can make food decisions a lot less stressful!

You know yourself best. As someone with IBS, you might currently be in the strict elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet or perhaps you are following a modified low version of the diet now that you know your FODMAP triggers.. Knowing which FODMAPs and how much of those FODMAPs your body can tolerate will be super helpful in navigating restaurant menus and scoping for alternative options. If you need more support in learning about your relationship with FODMAPs, expert advice from a registered dietitian is the place to start!

Hamburger fixings including patty, bun, lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese on cutting board

 

Here are some basic pointers that can support you when eating out on a low FODMAP diet:

  • Check out the online menu ahead of time, if available, and note your low FODMAP options.
  • Restaurants with gluten-free and dairy-free items may provide more low FODMAP options.
  • Use your low FODMAP apps, such as the Monash University app and Spoonful app! These can help remind you of ingredients that are safe for you.
  • If you know you will be eating out, aim to have low FODMAP meals for all your other meals.
  • Garlic and onion are used commonly for flavour; look out for these in sauces, dips, soups, salsas and marinades.
  • Request sauces on the side so you can choose how much you eat and ask about what is used to season meats. Ask for simple salt & pepper on chicken or steak instead of blends like steak spice
  • Select more modifiable meals or “build your own” items such as salads, sandwiches, wraps and bowls.
  • Get in the habit of always packing one of your ‘safe food’ snacks with you wherever you go. Let’s not get hangry!

Low FODMAP snack ideas
○ Granola bars (Nature Valley Crunchy PB bar, FODY bars)
○ Home-made trail mix (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, gluten-free pretzels, banana chips, dark chocolate pieces)
○ Rice crackers or gluten-free crackers with a mini peanut butter package to dip

 

Let’s get started with some low FODMAP fast-food hacks!

  • If you’re feeling pizza, many chains now offer a gluten-free crust (which is wheat-free)! BUT always ask about what they use as an alternative – if their gluten-free crust is cauliflower crust, this isn’t a low FODMAP option. Also, avoid pizza sauces which likely contain onions & garlic, request hard cheeses (ex. cheddar) and select low FODMAP toppings (bell peppers, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, bacon, ham).
    ○ Examples: Pizza Hut, Pizza Nova, Pizza Pizza
  • Hand-helds such as a sandwich or burger are doable! Bring your own gluten-free bread or bun and request your meal without the bread. Some chains accommodate a lettuce bun! Select toppings free from onions and garlic. Simple salted french fries are always a safe bet when it comes to FODMAPs. Request a side salad if fries have FODMAP-containing seasoning.

Examples:
○ McDonalds: 100% beef patty with no bun and no sauces except mayo
○ A&W: offers a lettuce wrap
○ Burger King: 100% beef patty
○ In-&-Out Burger: offers a lettuce wrap
○ Wendy’s:100% beef patty; baked potato with cheddar cheese makes a great side!
○ Subway: gluten-free bread, turkey breast, select vegetable toppings (tomato, cucumber, lettuce), mayo

Build your own meal! Whether you are in the mood for Asian cuisine or Mexican flavours, stick with the basics. Sauces may contain onion, garlic or artificial sweeteners, so it’s important to ask!

Here are some examples of build-it-yourself meals from various types of restaurants:

  1. Grilled tofu, beef, chicken, or seafood, with steamed rice or baked potato and low FODMAP steamed veggies (green beans, cooked carrots, broccoli florets)
  2. Pad Thai with chicken (rice noodles)
  3. Sushi or sashimi with soy sauce (small amounts of wheat in soy sauce is okay for low FODMAP). Many places do offer gluten-free soy sauce or tamari if you ask!
  4. Rice vermicelli bowl without onion, and fish sauce served on the side
  5. Corn tortillas with ground beef or chicken and sliced avocado on the side – choose fresh avocado in small amounts rather than guacamole, which contains garlic.
  6. Corn-based quesadilla without beans, and instead add chicken. Ask for plain tomatoes and cilantro on the side instead of salsa

You’re not in Canada if there is no Tim’s around!

Here are some ideas if you need to make a Tim Horton’s run

  1. Request breakfast wraps or sandwiches without the bread
  2. Bacon, pork sausage, hash browns, plain oatmeal, maple brown sugar oatmeal, and cheddar cheese are low FODMAP
  3. Garden salad without dressing
  4. Grilled Farmer’s breakfast wrap with pork sausage, regular mayo (instead of spicy), cheddar cheese, hash brown, no tortilla, no egg omelette
  5. Sandwiches with no bread
    ● BLT
    ● Ham & swiss sandwich, regular mayo vs ranch
    ● Turkey sandwich, regular mayo vs chipotle
    ● Turkey bacon club sandwich, regular mayo vs honey mustard
    – Try asking for some extra hashbrowns to make a “hash bowl” with the ingredients from the no-bread sandwiches!

Remember, not all IBS symptoms are caused by FODMAPs. Consider non-FODMAP triggers, such as spicy foods, high fat foods and alcohol when eating out. If you need help better understanding your IBS triggers and the low FODMAP diet, it is highly recommended to work with a registered dietitian if you aren’t already!

Hamburger fixings including patty, bun, lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese on cutting board

 

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References

  1. https://biorganic.blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Tim-Horton-Ingredient-Canada-2018.pdf - tims ingredients (2018)

  2. https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/dining-out-asian/

  3. https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/eating-out-on-low-fodmap-diet-italian/

  4. https://www.fodyfoods.com/blogs/news/blog-1

  5. https://www.fodmapeveryday.com/how-to-navigate-a-restaurant-menu-on-the-low-fodmap-diet/

  6. https://www.fodmapeveryday.com/finding-low-fodmap-food-options-at-airports/
    https://www.rachelpaulsfood.com/low-fodmap-fast-food-options-low-doesnt-mean-no/

  7. Source: IBS guide -Ignite nutrition