Low FODMAP fast food exists! It can be a quick and convenient food choice. This is not always the case if you have IBS, as common fast food ingredients may trigger your symptoms.
In this article, we will discuss how fast food can trigger IBS symptoms and how to prevent this.
We will also share low FODMAP meals in international fast food restaurant chains like McDonald’s.
Moreover, we will give you some delicious recipes you can prepare at home.
Can you eat fast food if you have IBS?
Although you might have had bad experiences with fast food and IBS in the past, the answer is yes, you can eat fast food.
In the following sections, we will explain how fast food triggers IBS symptoms and provide instructions on avoiding the flares.
Also, you can eat fast food as part of a balanced diet. Focus that most of your meals present diverse plant-based meals; when it comes to fast food, enjoy!
Why might fast food trigger your IBS symptoms?
There are two main reasons why fast food might trigger IBS symptoms.
#1 Fat content
Consuming a meal rich in fats can also activate the gastrocolic reflex, prompting the bowels to open.
The fat content of some typical fast food items:
- ‘Big King’ from Burger King: 30g
- ‘Pizza Margherita’ from Pizza Hut (whole, medium size): 48g
- ‘Chicken Sandwich’ from Burger King: 39g
#2 FODMAP content
Fast food might trigger IBS symptoms also due to the FODMAP content (4).
Sometimes, FODMAPs are hidden in so-called “natural flavors,” which contain high FODMAP ingredients, such as garlic.
Read more about natural flavorings here: Are natural flavorings high FODMAP?
Common high FODMAP ingredients in fast food:
- Onion/onion powder
- Garlic/garlic powder
- High fructose corn syrup
Tips on how to find IBS-friendly fast food
Finding IBS-friendly fast food can be challenging, but it is not impossible.
You can also check our in-depth article, Tips for eating out on the low FODMAP diet, to get low FODMAP ideas by cuisine, and much more.
In this section, we will share some valuable tips to follow so you can enjoy fast food with fewer or no IBS symptoms.
How to check the ingredient list
Menu ingredient lists can be complicated to study in a busy fast-food restaurant as they might not be readily available.
We suggest visiting the restaurant’s website in advance. You can then check the menu and search for the ingredients list to detect FODMAPs.
Checking the ingredients of seasoning is equally important. For example, french fries are made from potatoes fried in oil, so the dish is low FODMAP.
However, commonly added ingredients include onion and garlic for seasoning.
Check your condiments
When ordering your meal, pay attention to the condiments as well. As always, check the ingredient list to see if any high FODMAP ingredient (e.g., garlic) has been added.
Suitable low FODMAP options that have been tested (5):
IBS suitable drink choices at fast food restaurants
Fizzy drinks such as cola or lemonade may trigger symptoms due to carbon dioxide and high fructose corn syrup.
In IBS, drinking fizzy drinks can result in a buildup of gas in the gut, which can result in bloating or pain if you are sensitive.
If this is the case for you, try choosing low FODMAP fruit juice or water.
When drinking juice, limit its intake to 150 ml a day, which is a general recommendation for a healthy diet (6).
Is McDonald’s low FODMAP?
The only low FODMAP option in McDonald’s is fries and a 100% beef patty with a slice of American cheese (a burger without the bun and onion).
In some countries, such as Holland, McDonald’s offers a gluten-free bun, which would also be suitable, but this is not widely available worldwide.
100% beef patty is seasoned with salt and pepper, making it FODMAP-friendly. If you like burgers, bring a low FODMAP bun from home and make one.
Is Sonic low FODMAP?
The absence of a publicly available ingredient list on their website makes it difficult to ascertain whether the Sonic menu items align with a low FODMAP diet.
Without clear information, we are left in the dark about the specific ingredients in Sonic’s offerings.
Low FODMAP Taco Bell options
When navigating Taco Bell’s menu on a low FODMAP diet, it is crucial to know that most dishes incorporate onion or garlic, both high in FODMAPs.
For a safe and flavorful experience, focus on specific low FODMAP options like jalapeños, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.
These ingredients provide a flavorful assortment without triggering IBS symptoms.
Low FODMAP Chick-fil-A options
FODMAP-friendly options on the menu include small hash browns and waffle potato fries.
Unfortunately, most of Chick-fil-A’s offerings feature ingredients like:
- High-lactose dairy
Low FODMAP Burger King options
At Burger King, the limited safe foods for people with IBS include a hamburger without the bun, the garden side salad, and an ‘enormous omelet sandwich with ham’ (stripped of its bun).
Most dishes contain one or more high FODMAP ingredients, which can also be hidden behind “natural flavors.”
Low FODMAP restaurants
We have touched on a few general tips for making suitable choices and given some examples of low FODMAP fast food dishes.
To delve deeper into a comprehensive list of chain restaurants with low FODMAP meal ideas, check out our article: 36 Chain Restaurants with Low FODMAP Meal Ideas.
10 low FODMAP fast food recipes
Research shows that patients with IBS often avoid eating with others outside the family (7). The above tips will hopefully help you to choose fast food options in restaurants.
However, we know that the comfort of your own home can help reduce anxieties. We searched for a few low FODMAP fast food-style recipes that you can cook at home:
- Low FODMAP Pizza
- Polenta Pizza Bites
- KFC Style Chicken
- Chicken Tenders
- California Burger
- Low FODMAP Burgers
- Baked French Fries
- Teriyaki Chicken Fried Rice
- Hummus Wrap
- Low FODMAP Tacos
People with IBS can enjoy fast food.
However, you should be aware of the fat and FODMAP content and your personal tolerance levels.
Use our tips to learn how to choose IBS and FODMAP-friendly food and drinks at your favorite fast food restaurants.
Or, you can try the low FODMAP fast food recipes we linked in this post.
Written by Barbara Lešnik, Student Dietitian, reviewed by Kirsten Jackson, Consultant Dietitian BSc Hons, RD, PG Cert
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.
Last updated on February 4th, 2024 at 05:16 pm