Lifestyle | Health & Wellness

Low FODMAP Travel and Food In Hawaii

Editor’s Note: Success Team member Vanessa Cobarrubia RDN LDN regularly travels to Hawaii, and has successfully kept her IBS in check. Consider this article “Low FODMAP Travel and Food in Hawaii” a personal tour-guide to Hawaiian food by a Monash trained Registered Dietitian. It doesn’t get any better than that! We are always interested in helping you THRIVE while following the low FODMAP diet and a little R&R in Hawaii, with the right tips and tricks to keep your IBS symptoms at bay sounds pretty good.

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Let’s Eat  FODMAP Hawaiian Style or Aloha FODMAP!

Over the past ten years my family has had the good fortune to visit Hawaii many times. I have been following an adapted Low FODMAP diet for multiple visits giving me ample opportunities to discover Hawaiian Low FODMAP foods for fellow FODMAPers and myself to enjoy without gut distress while on holiday.

Cook For Yourself

All of my Hawaiian vacations included a condo style dwelling – a small kitchen is a must in my opinion. Traveling with a family of four can be costly when dining out three times per day. Making your own meals not only saves money but will also reduce your stress by giving you control of your meals.

Big box stores such as Costco and Safeway are often located near Hawaiian airports – I highly encourage making a quick stop before you make the trek to your place of stay. My favorite staples include salad mix, oats, lactose-free milk, strained Greek yogurt, papaya, Maui Gold pineapple, bananas, and nut butter – macadamia nut butter is yummy!

Natural food shops are common in larger towns and invariably will have specialty Hawaiian items, and killer salad/food bars.  My favorite items include salad rolls, tofu salads, taro chips, and local dips – ingredients are often listed and contain local ingredients.

And, you might be lucky enough to come across roadside stands where you can find incredibly fresh low FODMAP fruits and veggies. Shop like the locals!

What I Pack

It may behoove you to bring some favorite specialty items such as Low FODMAP bread, NuCo or Thrive coconut wraps (my favorite bread alternative), spice mix (for fish), salad dressings, granola bars, crackers, sweeteners, and nuts since these items can be quite spendy and hard to locate on the island.

Popular Hawaiian Low FODMAP Foods

  • FISH: Fish is a Hawaiian staple and there are so many different varieties that taste delicious with minimal seasoning. Fish is often served grilled with salt and pepper or this cooking method can be requested when placing your order. I love to buy my own fish at the local fish stores and grill at my own place.
  • POKE: My husband cannot get enough poke. Some poke bars allow you to custom order so it is easy to choose only low FODMAP ingredient. Ask about the marinades that they use because there might be some onion and garlic used. A less expensive option is to purchase poke at the grocery stores and you can typically find one without onions. I have even seen tofu poke if you are looking for a vegetarian option. Poke is best paired with steamed rice and edamame. Check out our Tuna Poke bowl recipe for inspiration.
  • TROPICAL SALADS: Tropical salads containing pineapple and papaya plus your choices of protein – chicken, tofu, fish are popular menu items. From my experience the proteins are not seasoned, but it is always a good idea to inquire. Many salad dressings are homemade and the restaurant staff can direct you to one without garlic and onion upon inquiry, or bring your own to play it safe.
rambutan at Hawaiian road side stand
Rambutan are low FODMAP in portions of 3 fruit (48 g)
  • FRUIT: Hawaiian fruit is everywhere and really the most affordable fruit option, but shop carefully. Mainland fruit is rather overpriced, my husband recently paid $4 for a single Washington state apple and our cantaloupe was $11 while visiting Hawaii.  I returned my honeydew after realizing the steep price. Many resorts and fruit stands sell local fruits such as halves of papaya and small cups of pineapple making for a small serving of a healthy, low FODMAP snack. Maui Gold pineappleis absolutely delicious!!  Another Low FODMAP Hawaiian fruit is passion fruit, also called lilikoi. Lilikoi butter and syrups are often available for purchase at farmers markets and local markets.
A young woman holding a small fruit while standing in front of a Hawaiian mountain.
Vanessa in Hawaii!
  • TARO ROOT: Taro root, often seen in chips and poi, is a common Hawaiian food. Poi is made by pounding the taro root into a purplish pudding-like food. Poi has a tangy taste due to the fermentation; many state this is an acquired taste. Poi often available as a side dish in place of rice at local restaurants. FYI taro gets a Green Light low FODMAP serving by Monash at ½ cup diced (75 g).
  • PORK: Kahlua pork is commonly flavored with liquid smoke and Hawaiian sea salt – pretty simple and low FODMAP.
mangosteen at a Hawaiian roadside stand
You can have 2 medium sized mangosteens and still stay low FODMAP (about 50 g)
  • LAU LAU KAHLUA PORK: Lau Lau kahlua pork wrapped in a taro leaf. Recipes often include soy sauce, salt, pork, and taro leaf. Taro leaf has not been tested by Monash, I would put money on one to two taro leaves being low FODMAP if I had to gamble.
  • SPAM: Spam musubi is grilled Spam on top of rice, and sort of looks like nigiri sushi. The majority of the ones spotted at the grocery stores were low FODMAP. Did you know that Spam was low FODMAP?
  • HAWAIIAN HAUPIAIS: Hawaiian Haupiais a chilled coconut custard that is common at luaus.
  • MACADAMIA NUTS: One yummy treat Hawaii has plenty of are macadamia nuts and 20 nuts (40 g) are low FODMAP.  These are fun to sample and often come in a variety of flavors – I always stock up on these and freeze when I get back home to keep fresh.

Watch Out For These Popular Hawaiian Foods

  • SHAVED ICE: shaved ice stands may use syrups containing high fructose corn syrup, which is high FODMAP. Spend some time researching a shave iced stand that uses “natural” fruit juices, not only do these taste better, but they are probably lower FODMAP. (I found one in Kauai and ordered the lava flow, which was made with low FODMAP fruit juice/purees and coconut cream.

shaved ice sign in Hawaii

  • FRUIT JUICE: I know many of these tropical fruit juices have not been tested by Monash, so I limited my portion and shared with my family. Here is my lava flow below – yummy, right? If you want to play it safe, Dole pineapple soft serve was spotted a few times and this is a lactose-free frozen desert that is low FODMAP in a small serving!)
lava flow low FODMAP shaved ice dessert
Our RDN Vanessa Cobarrubia enjoyed this shaved ice “Lava Flow” while in Hawaii – with no IBS repercussions!
  • ACAI BOWLS: Acai bowls are a bit of a gamble, these can range greatly and often available at coffee shops, food trucks, and restaurants. From experiences these are often huge and easy to exceed safe servings of fruit. Acai powder has now been tested low, but again portions can get a bit crazy! These are often served with honey and granola – possibly making it high FODMAP. I have tried these a few times, but shared with my family and tolerated pretty well. Experiment at your own risk with this one and definitely order the smaller one.
  • LOCO MOCO: Best to steer clear of the Loco Moco; onions and mushrooms are often used in this recipe. Loco Moco is a traditional Hawaiian plate consisting of white steamed rice, topped with a beef patty, brown gravy, and a fried egg.
  • RUM BASED DRINKS: Watch out for pina coladas and mai tais since these are rum based drinks, which is excessive in fructose and high fructose corn syrup is often used in the mixers.

A Few Restaurant Tips

  • Breakfast is an easy meal to eat low FODMAP, eggs, sourdough bread, gluten-free bread, and low FODMAP fruits are common options. All of the tropical sounding pancakes contain wheat flour – watch portions and consider this as a side only!
  • Rice is always a side option and easy to request as an alternative starch.
  • Edamame is a pretty common appetizer at most nice restaurants. Low FODMAP portions are about 1/2 cup (90 g), of the beans themselves.

It would be worth a trip to a farmers market if you can find one. I found many exotic low FODMAP fruits such as rambutan and lychees. Definitely, reference your Monash app to help identify these fruits and safe portions. And make sure that you have the most updated version of the app before you travel.

Snorkel trips are popular excursions and great ways to see up close all the colorful fish that reside in the Hawaiian Islands. Whale watching tours are fabulous but can be season dependent. These excursions almost always offer fresh fruit, however it may be a good idea to call ahead and inquire about their food options since these trips can last hours. You can always bring your own snacks and sack lunch.

I hope this article provides you with some low FODMAP Hawaiian tips and tricks.

Have you traveled to Hawaii? Do you have some favorite low FODMAP foods you can share with us and our readers? Any favorite restaurants or cafe’s that have low FODMAP options on the menu? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

ALOHA! and safe travels.

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