Navigating The Airport for Low FODMAP Food
Generally, travelling with food intolerances can be a difficult topic. But let me get this straight right away: it’s doable. And it’s fun! Like every other thing it just needs a bit of planning at first. Let me show you how to find the best low FODMAP food options at airports!
My Hard-Earned Air Miles = Low FODMAP Strategies!
The past couple of years I’ve been travelling extensively. All so that now I can give you a few tips on how to navigate around your eating habits. No matter where you are.
If you want to explore something other than just your beautiful surroundings, air travel is often involved. It gets you to where you want to go quickly and easy. That’s why our society is getting more used to travelling by plane every day. And the same applies for people flying with their food intolerances or IBS. You’ll also get adapted more each time.
Now let me show you how you can easily navigate around food options at airports.
As usual a little bit of planning is inevitable. That means:
Check Out Where You’re Going
If you’ve never been there before, look up online what’s available at the specific airport you’re going to. Usually on the airport’s website there’s a map of which shops and restaurants you’ll find, even past security. I’m pretty sure out of the million of fast food chains out there, there will be somewhere that you’re going to find food. Even if it’s just fries at Burger King. And knowing that already makes things easier to start with.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that fries at Burger King need to be your first choice. Look at it more like a safety net. At least you won’t be left hungry if any of the following possibilities fall through:
Finding Low FODMAP Snacks Wherever You Go
This one is easier than you may think. Travelling for so long, I can confirm that you can find some snacks pretty much everywhere you are, as long as there’s a shop around. I’ve been to some pretty rural places in Asia and Australia last year and even there I was able to find myself some of these:
- Chips or Popcorn: This might not be the healthiest choice, but they’re widely available which makes them a good option for me. Check the ingredients: Go for salt, with no added flavours.
- Crackers: Gluten-free crackers can be found in many stores by now. Alternatively you can get some rice cakes or corn tins. Just watch out for FODMAPs like onion, garlic or honey. Rule of thumb: the simpler the ingredients, the easier for your tummy to digest them.
- Nuts: I probably don’t have to tell you about the health benefits of nuts. And the best thing is, you only need a little to keep you fueled for a long time. Therefore make sure to stay within the low FODMAP portion sizes (generally speaking about 10 mixed nuts, but consult your Monash app). And whenever possible, choose natural, unsalted ones.
- Protein Cup: This is something I started finding at lots of supermarkets in their take away section. It’s basically just a couple of boiled eggs and some fresh spinach. Nothing else is hidden in there, which makes it a perfect protein rich and low FODMAP snack.
- Fruit: Environmentally speaking I’m not a big fan of pre-cut and packaged fruit, but it’s a convenient option, if you can’t bring your own. Some low FODMAP fruits involve pineapple, cantaloupe melon and grapes.
- Chocolate: If you’re craving something sweet a little piece of chocolate can do wonders. Generally speaking, dark chocolate has less sugar and more benefits, so stick to that one if you can.
Finding Actual Low FODMAP Meals at the Airport
Snacks are great and have saved my life countless times. Still, sometimes you want something “proper” to eat. Time is often limited, therefore airports generally focus on a more fast food type of cuisine. Besides the usual suspects like McDonald’s or Burger King (more on those later), there are hopefully a few other options too. Either way, you’ll definitely find something to eat, don’t you worry!
(very flattering pic of myself eating a burger 😉 – Photo by Angela Ruoss)
Please note that this information has been compiled from information available online for US versions of menus as of the writing of this article and the foods have not been formally lab tested. Always ask for ingredients from the restaurant you are eating from.
What to Eat at an Airport Fast Food Restaurant
No matter what type of restaurant I’m at, my first rule when it comes to eating out: Simple is king. Meaning, the simpler the food is, the less chance of it containing hidden FODMAPs. This is just something I learned over the years and it has made eating out a whole lot easier for me. I usually try to stick to meals where I can actually see the ingredients. Here are some examples, what you can find at the airport:
- Eggs for breakfast: Or all-day long really. Fried eggs with cheese (matured hard cheeses are usually lactose-free) and bacon or safe veggies, like spinach, is a protein-rich and healthy option anytime of the day. Just skip the bread, unless they have a low FODMAP one.
- Salad: Almost every place will sell some kind of salad. Order it without the dressing, because that often contains FODMAPs – my tip is actually to avoid sauces in general. Ask what’s available to season your salad. The best would be some olive oil and if they have, lemon juice. Otherwise you can use a tiny bit of vinegar. Plus salt and pepper.
- Meat & Fish: Often you can find a pub at the airport where you can get some Fish & Chips or a steak. Both are good options. The Fish is usually battered with wheat flour, but it’s still okay to eat a little wheat on a Low FODMAP diet if your tolerances allow. And as for the meat, just make sure it’s not seasoned other than with salt and pepper or fresh herbs.
- Burger / Sandwiches: Let’s talk about the ingredients first: Same with the meat, check for possible seasonings. Alternatively go for something vegetarian with salad, roasted veggies or cheese for example. And as far as the sauce goes, just plain mayo is the way to go, about 2 tablespoons should be fine.
Now to the bread: depending on your tolerance levels, even one slice of white wheat bread can be too much. Sourdough or spelt are usually better. But the best option would probably be a gluten-free bread, if available. Otherwise: naked – have it without bread.
- Fries: Chips or fries, however you like to call them, are great. Of course that’s not the healthiest meal choice but they’re my go-to food when I’m not sure what else to have. Ask to make sure they are not seasoned or dipped in flour as a coating.They keep me full and don’t trigger my food intolerances or IBS.
Common Restaurant Chains Found at Airports
As mentioned before, you’ll most likely find one or more of fast food places at the airport. When eating at them, many of the ingredients can cause digestive distress. To make your life a bit easier, here are a few tips for some of the fast food chains:
The quarter pound 100% beef patties apparently contain no onion or garlic. To make sure, always double check. And order it plain without any sauces or bread. Be careful with the fries, as the beef flavour may contain FODMAP ingredients. I personally have no problems with them, but better test in small quantities to see if you react or not.
You’re more safe here when it comes to fries. They should be alright, no extravagant flavouring. You could even have a go at the hash browns. They contain a little wheat and some flavouring though, but again you can test your sensitivity in small quantities. The beef patties are 100% beef.
The beef patties are 100% beef here too, but they can come in contact with milk or soy as they’re cooked on the same grill. The fries should be fairly safe to eat. Or you can try the baked potato plain or with cheddar (that’s Dédé’s choice!).
The fries here are even gluten-free. So enjoy! And try a lettuce wrap instead of a bun if you want something else.
Choose a corn-based option, like the taco shell, tostada shell or nacho chips. For protein stick to bacon, cheese and egg. Keep toppings fresh and simple: lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, fresh cilantro, cheese and hash browns (not the potato bites) are safest to eat. Say no to any sauces. Tabasco is fine, but be careful, it’s hot!
Same here with the sauces. None of them are low FODMAP unfortunately. But you can go for a salad bowl without the dressing, with lettuce, cheese and brown or white rice.
The chicken marinade is made with garlic. You can try and ask if it’s possible to get some grilled chicken without the marinade. With a side of the waffle fries. The side salad and the superfood side should also be fairly safe. Same rule as with every salad applies here: better no dressing.
Create your own salad with safe choices like lettuce, arugula, kale, radicchio, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, peppers and carrots. You can even add some fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges or pineapple. And top it off with olives, feta cheese and nuts. For protein, choose hard boiled egg or bacon. Stay away from the chicken as it’s marinated.
You can build your own salad here as well. Bacon and turkey slices should be okay. Be careful with the tuna, because they mayonnaise in it may contain onion and garlic. I’ve had some plain mayonnaise for the dressing at Subway before and was fine, so maybe test your own sensitivity.
Gluten-free pizza sounds tempting and you can totally give in here. The gluten-free crust they’re using at Pizza Hut is FODMAP-safe (apparently they’re using Udi’s brand). Order it without the tomato sauce as that may contain garlic. Add some cheese, sliced tomato, peppers or other vegetables you can tolerate.
For a more in-depth look at the menus of some fast food restaurants our friends over at Casa De Sante have some great articles!
See, that wasn’t too bad, was it? Actually quite a few options to go with.
These above are general tips that work for most airports. Or anywhere you are really. Just keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for the ingredients before ordering. Don’t expect any miracles but if you explain that you have certain food intolerances, people are usually willing to help you and find the best option for you. (Download the card below and print out and carry in your wallet – it will make explaining to restaurant staff about your food preferences easier.)
Read this article in conjunction with my article on Eating Low FODMAP On Airplanes in addition to our articles on Reading Labels with Confidence and How to Navigate a Restaurant Menu. And more great travel tips from our very own Global Dietitian, Diana Reid right here in this article – Travel Tips While Following The Low FODMAP Diet.
Now, have fun exploring the world! If you come across any other tips for at the airport or anywhere else, leave a comment below – I’m a little travel addict and love hearing all sorts of stories. Can’t wait to connect with you!
Be sure to read all of our travel articles!
Handy Card for Waiters and Kitchen Staff
To help make it a bit easier to communicate to your waiter and the restaurant kitchen staff about your dietary restrictions you can download and print out this card – using both or just the AVOID side of the card. We suggest either making a few you can give out as you dine out – or one you laminate and keep in your wallet or purse and hand to the waiter as they ensure your meal is safe to eat. These cards are 3″ x 4″. The size of a standard index card. We suggest printing to card stock.
Just click on the image to download the PDF to your computer for printing.