If you’re following a low FODMAP diet to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you might think eating out is a minefield.
But before you say no to that office lunch or birthday dinner, try some of our tips to help you steer clear of foods you can’t eat and enjoy yourself without any worries.
1. Choose the right type of restaurant
Pick a rice-based cuisine such as Japanese, because they use minimal wheat. Just beware of anything which uses wheat, such as battered tempura, or meals containing avocado. Otherwise, you’re pretty much good to go.
If you fancy something else, then don’t worry. Other restaurants may be suitable with a little more effort – look for statements like ‘please notify your waiter if you have dietary requirements’ as this is a good indication of how willing they are to cater to your needs.
Once you arrive at the restaurant, don’t be afraid to make requests. It’s perfectly ok to ask for sauce on the side or no croutons on your salad.
Steakhouses can be a reasonable option as their meals are easily customisable. Just watch those gravies, marinades and seasonings.
2. Get organised
Before you go, research the menu to see what’s available that you can eat, or what you might be able to customise to make it FODMAP friendly.
Consider calling the restaurant beforehand to clarify if their meals are OK for you to eat or whether they can be altered to suit your needs. You may even be able to organise this over the phone before you go. Don’t be shy – the restaurant will appreciate the heads up.
Getting organised is also a great way to manage stress. Many people find that stress exacerbates IBS symptoms, so by ensuring you will be well looked after, you will reduce your chances of having a bad reaction. Plus, it means you can relax and enjoy the time with your family or friends.
3. Know your safe meal options
Having a few safe meal options up your sleeve is a great strategy.
For example, remember to choose rice-based dishes over noodles or dumpling wrappers as these may contain wheat.
Meanwhile, meat, chicken or fish with potato, carrots, green beans or broccoli heads is generally safe.
4. Watch out for sneaky FODMAPs
Watch out for any sauces, dishes containing commercial stocks and marinades as they are most likely to be FODMAP heavy. You may need to swap out sauces entirely or have a smaller portion on the side. Remember – this is a LOW FODMAP diet, not a NO FODMAP diet!
Garnishes such as spring onion are often used in Chinese style cooking. Ask for just the green part to be used or remove it altogether.
When you talk to the waitstaff, make sure you let them know you have a medical condition, as they will be more sympathetic than if they think you are just fussy. Tell them you need to avoid sweeteners, garlic, onion and wheat – they should be able to check with the kitchen if you are concerned about any of the meal options.
6. Be vigilant beforehand
If you are planning to go out to dinner, be extra vigilant in the lead-up.
This way, you can minimise FODMAPs during the day to allow yourself some more leeway for FODMAPs during your restaurant meal.
If you follow these few tips, then your next meal out should be both fun and FODMAP friendly.