One of the biggest challenges of a low fodmap diet is eating out. The mere thought of eating out brings about anxiety and stress for many low fodmappers. What if there isn’t something low fodmap on the menu? What if I burden the wait staff by querying what items don’t contain garlic/onion? How can I manage any symptom flare-ups if something doesn’t agree with me? The list goes on…
Whilst eating out on a low fodmap diet will always be a bit more challenging, there some tips you can follow to make overcoming this hurdle a bit easier.
1.Looking at the menu online ahead of time to scope out possible low fodmap options
Fortunately, many venues now have their menu available online (thank goodness for technology!). This can make eating out low fodmap a lot easier, as it allows you to scope out the menu online first. Looking at the menu beforehand will allow you to decide whether anything on the menu is appropriate, and/or determine whether any particular items could be modified to become low fodmap. For our recommendations on what meals to order at particular cuisines, check out our article here.
2.Calling/emailing the venue ahead of time to establish flexibility in catering for dietary requirements
If you have followed tip 1 above and noticed a dish on the menu which could be modified to become low fodmap, then you could ask if they could accommodate. An example could be a chicken stir-fry but made low fodmap by having no onion/garlic. It also pays to ask if they offer a specials menu for that day, as there could also be something which is suitable such as a grilled fish of the day.
3.Having the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App on hand
It is great idea to take your phone when eating out. This allows you access to the Monash FODMAP App (plus getting a great food pic for instagram!). Even if you have looked at a menu, there might be different menu items which weren’t available online or menu specials that day. Its hard to memorise exactly what is and is not low fodmap. It can also be tricky remembering what the low fodmap serving sizes are. Having the Monash app handy will allow you to quickly check whether certain items are low fodmap/high fodmap and in what quantities. This is particularly useful when you come across an unfamiliar food.
4.Don’t be afraid to ask questions! (you aren’t being a burden)
When eating out, I like to advise others to ask as many questions as needed in order to determine whether a meal is suitable. Yes, you may sometimes feel a bit reluctant to do so/feel like a burden querying menu items. No, you are not being a burden in doing this and as a customer have every right to know what meal items you can/cannot eat. With food intolerances/allergies becoming more and more common, a lot of venues are now very accommodating with catering for dietary requirements.
Also don’t be afraid to ask about possible item substitutes. For example, if you find out a dish comes with potato gratin (full of cream), ask if this can be swapped for the gluten-free chips or baked potato.
5.Eating low fodmap the day leading up to eating out
Sometimes, even with meal modifications, your meal will still end up as moderate-high fodmap. This could be due to the venue being unable to accommodate your dietary request (e.g pre-made dish already containing a marinade/batter), or unintentionally (e.g something ends up being cooked with garlic). It could also simply be because you ended up eating something which isn’t low fodmap, because you’re human and don’t always have perfect willpower!
Generally, when eating out meals will be cooked in more fat/oil than they would be at home. This means while the meal itself may be low fodmap, it may still be high fat and cause problems. This is because fat can trigger IBS symptoms in some individuals. Eating out often involves alcohol, which can also trigger IBS symptoms.
Because of this, it is always a good idea to eat strictly low fodmap the day or two leading up to eating out. This way, if you do eat something out which triggers your symptoms, the repercussions won’t be as bad. In addition to this, having a contingency plan in place following a potential symptom flare-up is also a good idea. For more information on this, see our article on managing symptoms following high fodmap foods.
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Start feeling better now! By signing up to The FODMAP Challenge you will receive meal plans, recipe ideas, and regular support with other resources, such as a private Facebook group, to make this as easy for you as possible.