If you’ve been following a low FODMAP diet for a while, you have probably come across the phrase, “FODMAP stacking.” Defined by Monash University researchers, “FODMAP stacking refers to how FODMAPs can ‘add up’ in our gut”. In other words, you might ingest a small amount of FODMAPs and not experience any IBS symptoms, but if you eat more of the exact same food(s), and therefore ingest a greater amount of FODMAPs, you might very well develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.
The amount of food we eat, and also the time frame within which we eat those foods, have a great affect on whether we have stacked FODMAPs or not. During the holidays, when there is very often a plethora of food choices, and we often graze throughout the day, stacking can become even more of an issue.
Basic Stacking Review
Please do read our main article on the subject, What Is FODMAP Stacking? It will give you the basics that you can then apply to food-heavy holidays.
In brief, there are two ways to look at stacking. There is stacking the same FODMAP (such as eating too many fructan-rich foods at once), and then there is the general high load of FODMAPs consumed, across the various FODMAPs.
According to Monash, the collective reduction of all FODMAPs has a greater, positive affect than focusing on reducing one FODMAP.
Now would also be a great time to review what the individual FODMAPs are. The acronyms stands for: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPs are a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are indigestible or poorly absorbed by certain people and can trigger IBS symptoms.
This article is specifically about how to handle holiday meals when many food options are present, many dishes are typically consumed, and stacking is inevitable.
Tools For Assessing FODMAPs
Monash University presents the traffic light system on their smartphone app: Green for Low FODMAP; Yellow for Moderate; Red for High FODMAP. These colored lights are next to each food listed and most of the time the entry calls out which individual FODMAP is involved. FODMAP Friendly has a system on their app which always lists each type of FODMAP, as well as percentages of those FODMAPs, which can be used to assess stacking on a more micro level.
While some Green Light items shown on the Monash app contain only trace amounts of FODMAPs, or none at all in their tested amounts and can be eaten freely, others need to be portion-controlled in order to keep their FODMAP content in check.
Even if you maintain the recommended serving size of such foods, eating too many in one meal, or within a certain time frame, i.e., stacking them, can lead to symptoms.
Our main stacking article will help you understand how to use these apps to your advantage, as will our articles, How To Use The Monash University Smartphone App and How To Use The FODMAP Friendly Smartphone App.
The Unstacked Meal
Once you understand FODMAP stacking, it’s time to actually apply the concept. Thanksgiving and Christmas are often the biggest meals of the year, so they make perfect focal points for our examples, but the following information applies to any party, buffet or event where you will be faced with many food choices.
These holiday meals are typically comprised of several courses and many offerings, so you’ll probably feel better if you eat only a couple of portion controlled low FODMAP foods per course. Depending on your tolerance level, you may be able to indulge in small amounts of high FODMAP items as well.
And of course, whenever you can, opt for things that contain either trace amounts of FODMAPs or none at all (per serving size). That way, you can save your FODMAP quota for things you really love, like maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream with your low FODMAP chiffon pumpkin pie!
Remember that the time frame within which you eat your various foods has an impact on FODMAP stacking. There is a tendency to snack all day long during the holidays; giving yourself a 3-hour breather in between feedings may really help ease symptoms.
You might also ask your dietitian if an enzyme product, such as FODZYME, might be applicable to you at this point in your FODMAP diet trajectory. It is meant for those in their last, third Integration Phase, when your triggers have been determined. You can read more in our article with the product developers.
The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals is the turkey. Like all animal foods except milk, fresh turkey is FODMAP-free, so go ahead and fill your plate with a generous serving, as long as it is prepared as a low FODMAP recipe. Ditto for that rib-roast or ham on the Christmas table – again, as long as they are prepared with low FODMAP seasonings.
We have several turkey recipes for you, such as our Beer & Brown Sugar Brined Turkey, Braised TurkeyWings with White Wine, and our Fastest, Easiest Roast Turkey Ever, even a Slow Cooker Turkey among others.
Not a turkey lover? Or need another main dish? How about our Brown Sugar Baked Ham, Ridiculously Easy Roast Beef, 3-Ingredient Standing Rib Roast, Crown Roast of Pork, or Garlic & Herb Leg of Lamb? We also know some of you want a hearty pasta, and we love our Super Deluxe Baked Ziti or Low FODMAP Roasted Pumpkin Baked Pasta with Sage.
And you’ve got to have gravy! Check out our Make Ahead Turkey Gravy and our Low FODMAP Oyster Mushroom Gravy (you CAN have generous amounts of oyster mushrooms).
Don’t forget cranberry sauce. Fresh cranberries can be incorporated into a low FODMAP as well. We have both sweet and savory cranberry sauces for you to choose from.
Side dishes can be FODMAP landmines, particularly as it is all too easy to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that and the next thing you know, the cumulative totals create FODMAP Stacking. Also, make sure that the stuffing and side dishes do not contain high FODMAP ingredients that are problematic for you.
Garlic, onion and wheat bread are typical “offenders” here. If you are dining outside of your own home, ask questions or simply go without. No one ever starves during big holiday meals, and you will feel better tomorrow if you don’t veer into high FODMAP territory.
We have dozens of low FODMAP side dishes for you to choose. Here is just a taste:
Pan Roasted Green Beans & Almonds
Cornbread Bacon Stuffing with Leeks, Pecans and Pomegranate
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Candied Pecans (seen below)
Fennel, Kale & Parsley Salad with Clementines & Olives
…and dozens more.
What Thanksgiving would be complete without pumpkin pie? One of our versions of this classic is sweetened with maple syrup and includes lemon zest and tummy-taming ginger for added zing – our Maple Pumpkin Pie with Fresh Lemon & Ginger.
But we know holiday desserts go way beyond pumpkin! We also have cheesecake pies, Browned Butter Salted Caramel Pecan Pie in a Chocolate Flecked Pastry Crust, Cranberry Almond Buttermilk Bundt Cake, Walnut Pecan Sponge, Cranberry Snowdrift Pie, Lemon Tart, Cinnamon Pecan Chocolate Truffle Tart, and of course tutorials on working with low FODMAP gluten-free pie dough.
Holidays and other festivities often include wine, beer or other alcoholic beverages, and yours can too! Just keep in mind that alcohol is very easy to “stack,” and can be a gut irritant regardless of its FODMAP content.
So if you choose to imbibe, please be aware of your personal limits, and do your best to maintain the recommended serving sizes:
- Beer: 12.7 ounces (375 ml); this a little more than the typical bottle or can
- Wine (red, white, sparkling): 5 oz (150 ml)
- Gin, Vodka, Brandy, Tequila, Whiskey: 1 oz (30 ml)
For even more info, read our article on Cocktails & Mocktails. We haven’t forgotten those who do not drink alcohol.
Easy To Find Holiday Recipes
Our roundup articles make it easy for you to find the holiday recipes you need:
- Thanksgiving & Christmas Low FODMAP Appetizers
- Thanksgiving & Christmas Low FODMAP Main Dishes
- Thanksgiving & Christmas Low FODMAP Side Dishes
- Thanksgiving & Christmas Low FODMAP Drinks
- Thanksgiving & Christmas Low FODMAP Desserts
- Low FODMAP & Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies
- And we have roundups for , Hanukkah, and Valentine’s Day, in addition to a Summer Roundup among others. Just put these words in our search bar to see the hundreds of low FODMAP recipes we have waiting for you!
Why We Do Not Make Exact Recommendations
You will notice that we are not making any exact recommendations for amounts of individual recipes that you should eat. This is for two main reasons:
- First of all everyone’s holiday table will present a unique array of dishes, so it is not possible for us to make definitive statements.
- And most important of all, how you react to individual FODMAPs and stacked FODMAPs will be unique to you and you alone. We encourage you to work with a Registered Dietitian to help guide you through the low FODMAP diet. During a well structured Challenge Phase you will learn what YOU can tolerate, and this will help you navigate large holiday meals.
The Takeaway: Focus Where It Matters Most
Finally, as you prepare for your holiday meal, please remember that the most important “ingredients” are really the people with whom you surround yourself.
By focusing on your friends and family instead of what’s on your plate, you may find that you don’t need to be as hyper-vigilant about FODMAPs because you’ll be talking more than eating! This will not only help prevent FODMAP overload, it’ll also lead to less food intake overall, thus reducing the “normal” bloating and indigestion that is a hallmark of this holiday.
We know stress can creep in this time of year. Making sure you are getting enough sleep and adding stress-reducing activities to your day, like exercise or guided hypnotherapy can be of great help.
At FODMAP Everyday® we are committed to helping you thrive on the low FODMAP diet.
Stacking FODMAPs can happen any day of the year, but we know that large celebratory meals can be a particular challenge and we are here to help you enjoy your friends, family, and food as much as possible.