Give yourself a pat on the back! You've followed all the rules and have been observing a strict low FODMAP diet. Your IBS symptoms are now under control and you're discovering your trigger foods.
But what about figuring out places to eat out at while you're avoiding FODMAPs? Every once in a while it's nice to get out of the house and let someone else cook for you. Finding a quality restaurant that aligns with your low FODMAP diet isn't impossible!
Besides, if you're going to continue good eating habits you can't solely eat your own cooking forever. Eating out is a great way to catch up with friends, celebrate birthdays, and take the night off from cooking & cleaning the dishes. As with most things in life, finding food friendly restaurants on the low FODMAP diet is all in preparation.
Of course, you'll have to avoid the common ingredients that grace so many restaurant entrees like onion, garlic, dairy, and flour. Yet with more people becoming conscious of healthier food choices, there are more options for FODMAPers.
Popular dietary choices like gluten-free and vegan dining restaurants are great places to start. Chefs and serving staff at these restaurants are more than receptive to dietary preferences and restrictions.
Don't be confined to one style of a restaurant! You can appease your gut health and your taste buds at the same time! Read on for tips, suggestions, and everything else you'll need to know about restaurants on the low FODMAP diet!
The Safe Bet: Popular Types of Restaurants for a Low FODMAP Diet
Finding restaurants with gluten-free options wipes out worrying about wheat! Gluten isn't going to twist your stomach up, but wheat can have a nasty effect as a source of oligosaccharides.
Vegan restaurants are awesome while you're adhering to your low FODMAP diet! Proteins like tempeh and tofu are fine while many vegan restaurants have plenty of vegetables that don't make the list alongside gluten-free options like quinoa or brown rice.
Salads can be your best friend if you eat out. You can have chefs use lemon juice or olive oil for dressing or you can even bring a dressing from home!
Meat and potatoes, which are free of marinades and other seasonings, can be prepared at a restaurant with low FODMAP cooking in mind.
Japanese, Chinese, and Thai have stir-fry options where you can request to forego onions and garlic with substitutions of ginger, brown rice, and steamed vegetables.
Sushi. The great thing about sushi rolls is there's a lot of flavor with only a few ingredients to keep track of in each roll. The small amount of wheat in the soy sauce is a low FODMAP option. Along with rice and seaweed, which are also wise choices, sushi offers expansive choices on a menu. Just watch out for fried tempura in some rolls.
Italian. With more gluten-free options in pasta, Italian restaurants are making the cut in low FODMAP options. You can skip the sauce, get a plain tomato-based sauce, or white sauce for a pizza. Then, order a low FODMAP cheese with a salad, you can still 'Bon Appetit!'
Don't beware. Be Aware!
Not only should you be cognizant of informing restaurant staff that you need to avoid onion, garlic, and artificial sweeteners but you need to avoid cross-contamination. If your plain steak is cooked on a grill that moments ago had garlic butter splashed over it, then you could be at serious risk of having an IBS episode. (We'll address how to handle this a little later).
Sauces, Salad Dressing, & Marinades
As you order, make sure you're not accidentally ordering a dairy-based sauce. Or, a sauce that is thickened or seasoned with high FODMAP ingredients. Some meats are marinated with similar risky ingredients so be wary of this too!
Fresh minced burger meat is often mixed with onions, garlic, and flour. So, see if a restaurant can set aside some non-marinated protein choices for you.
Peruse the Menu. Go online and check out the menu before you visit the restaurant. If the menu has customizable options this is a good sign that they can accommodate your low FODMAP diet! Restaurants with limited options or traditional cooking techniques might not be as amenable.
Always Call Ahead. If you call ahead, this gives the cooking staff more time to set aside low FODMAP ingredients that will go into your meal. This also helps the chef. If they know you're coming, they won't be blindsided but what may seem like unusual requests to them.
Inform the Staff. Let your service staff know you have a serious medical condition and that you're not just being picky. This sets a precedent for the implications of accidentally getting cross contaminated food and the message will be relayed to the cooks.
Bring a List. Bring a list of low FODMAP options that you can and cannot eat. The chef may have never heard of FODMAPs before and wouldn't otherwise realize you can't eat flour. On the other side, the chef might be able to bring some more flavor to the dish if they know what you can eat with a list.
Try to Dine When it's Not Busy. For a restaurant to give you the highest quality service, fully accommodate your FODMAP diet, and inform you of every ingredient--it's best to visit when it's slow. This will ensure you have the servers’ full attention and you can even speak to the chef in person!
Be Firm but Polite. If your food arrives with high FODMAP ingredients don't be afraid to send it back. Eating onions for the sake of being cordial will not only end up sending you to the bathroom, it can interfere with re-introduction phase of the FODMAP diet. Always be polite to the wait staff. They're your liaison to the chef and once they're aware of your dietary restrictions they'll be more than helpful.
Eat Light. Dining with IBS is a matter of cautionary practices. The more you eat, the more likely you'll have a volatile bathroom situation on your hands. If you're just trying out a restaurant, eat half your meal and bring home leftovers. This protects your gut from any surprises.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry for Tomorrow, we FODMAP!
Don't be discouraged by the tedium of being on a low FODMAP diet. A study from Monash University states that between 10 to 15% of the population suffers from IBS and other food sensitivities. You are not alone in this journey! Also, there are tons of resources out there like the Gut Program that can help make this journey as smooth as possible—both in the bathroom, in the kitchen, and finally—in the restaurant!