Low FODMAP food might seem impossible to find at a restaurant. And you are not alone if you have IBS and eating out causes stress or anxiety. A recent study found that 85.2% of participants with IBS struggled to eat out (1).
But eating out can be one of life’s pleasures, a way to socialise with friends or family, or simply have a break from the kitchen. So you should not have to miss out.
This post will cover how to choose low FODMAP food in restaurants and which cuisines give you the most options.
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Why is it challenging to find low FODMAP food in restaurants?
There are many reasons why people may struggle to eat out on the low FODMAP diet.
The low FODMAP diet can be challenging to get your head around. It is not cutting out a whole food group, so each ingredient needs to be considered. This includes sauces and seasoning.
Menus do not specifically highlight which meals are low FODMAP in the same way they might for other dietary requirements such as gluten-free or vegetarian. So you need to check the ingredients list.
Common high FODMAP ingredients include:
It might be helpful to have your Monash University app on hand to check any ingredients you are unsure of.
Tips on choosing a restaurant on the low FODMAP diet
View the menu online
Check the restaurant’s menu and ingredients list online beforehand to give you time to prepare. This way, you can check for any FODMAPS in advance using the Monash University app.
Phoning ahead will let you see how accommodating the restaurant is to helping you choose low FODMAP food. Having an open conversation with the restaurant about your requirements and understanding their flexibility may give you more options for ordering.
For example, they may be able to make a sauce without onion and garlic, serve sauces on the side, or swap side dishes for a low FODMAP alternative.
The following questions may help you:
- Do you have an ingredients menu that I can see?
- What marinade or seasoning is used on this dish?
- Is it possible to have sauce on the side rather than on the main dish?
- Can I swap a high FODMAP side for a low FODMAP alternative? For example, cauliflower for carrots?
Choose gluten-free options
Although gluten is not a FODMAP, wheat-based foods are usually high in fructans. This means that choosing a gluten-free option will usually lower the meal’s FODMAP content.
Low FODMAP options by cuisine
British pub food
Pub food is often simple as the dishes use fewer ingredients. Fewer ingredients mean it can be easier to work out if the meals are low FODMAP.
For example, a steak and chips with a side of steamed vegetables or a roast dinner would be a great low FODMAP option.
Asian cuisines use sauces and seasoning that can make many of their meals high FODMAP. The most common include:
- Coconut cream or milk
Low FODMAP options, dependent on added ingredients, may include:
- Grilled chicken, firm tofu or fish
- Stir-fries (no onion or garlic)
- Rice noodle salad
- Pho/ramen (if no onion or garlic is used in the broth)
Italian food can be high in FODMAPs. This is because they are usually based on wheat-based carbohydrates, which are high in fructans.
Easy swaps to enjoy your Italian meal out may include:
- Gluten-free pasta
- “Create your own” pizza with low FODMAP toppings (but ensure to ask if their pizza sauce contains garlic)
It is also worth checking with the restaurant the ingredients used for the sauces.
Greek and Turkish cuisines use a lot of onion or garlic in their meals. However, restaurants often prepare food to order, so it is usually possible to ask for dishes without these.
Low FODMAP options from this cuisine might include (3):
- Salads (no onion)
- Grilled meats or fish.
You can enjoy eating out while on a low FODMAP diet with some planning ahead.
Be open with the restaurants you want to eat in about your dietary needs, and get familiar with the menu ahead of time to look out for FODMAP ingredients. You can also consider cuisines that are more suited to low FODMAP options.
Article written by Annabelle Green Student Dietitian and reviewed by Beth Willson Specialist Dietitian BSc Hons
Beth is UK HCPC Registered Dietitian who specialises in gastrointestinal surgery. Beth graduated from University of Surrey in 2020 with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.