If you’ve been following a low FODMAP diet for a while, you have probably come across the phrase, “FODMAP stacking.” Simply put, it refers to eating multiple portions of foods that contain the same FODMAPs in amounts low enough to qualify them as low FODMAP by Monash University and/or FODMAP Friendly (and presented in their apps), but when eaten within a certain time, the FODMAPs are “stacked”.
Two Systems To Help You
Monash University presents the traffic light system (Green for Low FODMAP; Yellow for Moderate; Red for High FODMAP) and much of the time will call out which individual FODMAP is involved. FODMAP Friendly has a system 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.
Stacked FODMAPs can trigger IBS symptoms. This article is specifically about how to handle holiday meals when many options are present, many dishes are typically consumed, and stacking is inevitable.
While some Green Light items 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.
Please refer to our main article on this topic, called What Is FODMAP Stacking? for general, as well as more specific, information and refer to this article when you know you will be faced with a large array of food, such as a holiday, party or buffet.
The Unstacked Meal
Once you understand FODMAP stacking, it’s time to actually apply the concept. Thanksgiving is often the biggest meal of the year, so it makes a perfect focal point for our examples, but the following information applies to any party, buffet or event where you will be faced with many choices.
This meal is typically comprised of several courses and many choices, 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!
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.
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:
…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.
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, Whiskey: 1 oz (30 ml)
Check out our Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup as an example for a huge selection of holiday recipes. FYI we have roundups for Christmas, 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 Thanksgiving 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.
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.