The holiday season is upon us, which means you’re more likely to eat out – away from home – than at any other time of year. Restaurants, travel, parties – all can spell trouble if you’re caught off guard. The key is to be prepared for FODMAP disasters before they happen, which is why I’m sharing my top 10 strategies for keeping your FODMAP intake under control when someone else is doing the cooking.
FODMAP Restaurant Tips
If the restaurant has an online menu, check it out before you head out the door. Identify a few low FODMAP options, and consider calling the restaurant to make sure they’re still on the menu.
If the restaurant does not post their menu, you’ll have to call and ask if they serve dishes that accommodate your needs, or that can be easily altered. This is also a good time to ask about specials.
You should feel comfortable requesting simple alterations to existing dishes. For instance, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for sauces and dressing on the side, no croutons on your salad, or substitutions such as rice instead of noodles. It is not OK to demand that a complicated dish be revamped just for you. Nor should you ask for more than two or three changes per meal.
Stand Your Ground
If the server acknowledged your special request but did not honor it, don’t be afraid to send the dish back. There’s no need to be nasty, just say that you recall being very clear about your requirements, and that you cannot eat the dish as prepared.
FODMAP Travel Tips
Pack It Up
Before you leave town, make sure you have an emergency stash of non-perishable low FODMAP foods with you. Some of my favorites are rice cakes and individual packets of peanut butter; low FODMAP nuts and seeds; gluten-free pretzels; and bars, cereals and seasoning mixes such as those from FODY Foods. You can also make FODMAP Everyday’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls. They’re absolutely fabulous.
If you’re traveling abroad, make a list of your personal FODMAP trigger foods, and translate them into the local language. I used this website and learned how to say garlic in Spanish (ajo), French (ail), Italian (aglio), Dutch (knoflook), Polish (czosnek) and Portuguese (alho)!
Find out what’s in some of the most popular local dishes to see if they fit into your overall FODMAP plan. Some may be just fine as is, some may need a little tweaking (see “Special Requests” above), and others may include too many triggers no matter what you do.
FODMAP Party Tips
This tip and the next should be considered universal eating out advice. If you’ve been FODMAPing for a while, you probably know how much is too much when it comes to your personal triggers. Saving up just means eating as few of them as possible earlier in the day so you can indulge a bit more at the party. Learn also about FODMAP stacking here.
Always good advice no matter the setting or time of year because even low FODMAP alcoholic beverages can be irritating to the digestive tract. You can learn more about this in our article on Drinking Alcohol On the Low FODMAP Diet.
If you stick to the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App’s recommended portions for wine, beer, gin, vodka and whiskey, you should be OK, but that may be hard to do at a party. Alcohol has a way of disinhibiting you once you get started, so if you can’t commit to moderation, consider skipping that first sip altogether.
This works especially well for dinner parties. It’s pretty self-explanatory: just ask the host if you can bring a dish to the party so you’ll have something to eat in the event everything else is chock-full of FODMAPs. Be sure to ask what’s being served so your offering is in keeping with the rest of the meal, and try to arrive early enough to help out in the kitchen. You can find a lot of options for party-ready recipes here.
Check out these other helpful travel related articles:
- Best Low FODMAP Snacks: For On The Run
- How to Navigate a Restaurant Menu on the Low FODMAP Diet
- Drinking Alcohol On The Low FODMAP Diet
- The Ultimate Guide to Low FODMAP Condiments
- Finding Low FODMAP Food Options At Airports
- Great Tips for Eating Low FODMAP On Airplanes ✈
- The Global Dietitian’s Travel Tips While Following the Low FODMAP Diet
Keep Calm & Carry On
This last tip has nothing to do with food, and it’s important advice all year round, but perhaps even more so during the holidays. Joyful as it is, this time of year can also be stressful, and most everyone with digestive issues knows that anything that stresses the mind can also stress the gut.
Meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis have all been shown to help soothe the GI tract, but the simplest relaxation technique involves doing something you already do 24/7 – breathe! Believe it or not, there are many types of breathing exercises, but my favorite – Belly Breathing − happens to be the easiest.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Take a slow, deep breath through your nose, letting your belly inflate. Try to keep your chest still.
- Breath out quickly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
- Do this three times to start with, and slowly build up to as many breaths as needed for relaxation.
For More Relaxation Tips you may be interested in our articles on Yoga and IBS, and our video on releasing abdominal tension.
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.