I got asked several times if I had tips for eating out on the low FODMAP diet. Can you still eat out when you follow the low FODMAP diet? How do you deal with eating out and how do you keep your symptoms under control?
First and foremost: I find that the low FODMAP diet shouldn’t limit you in doing social activities. Yes, eating out is more difficult when you follow a low FODMAP diet, but it is possible! And I really hope that everybody who is following the low FODMAP diet will keep doing these kind of things.
I am a real foodie myself and when I am with friends or when I am out visiting a new place, you can’t make me happier with eating cake in a cute coffee place or having dinner or lunch in a nice restaurant. Therefore, I find it very important to keep doing this. I would be very unhappy if I wouldn’t go out to eat anymore. In this blog, I share the things that I do to make eating out on the low FODMAP diet as comfortable as possible.
1. We follow the low FODMAP diet, not the no FODMAP diet
The low FODMAP diet is about limiting the amount of FODMAPs that you eat, not about excluding them in total. Therefore, it is not a disaster if you have some more FODMAPs once in a while. To keep your symptoms under control, it is important not to cross your limits too much. When I eat out, I always prepare for having a bit more symptoms than usual. I try to limit the FODMAPs that I eat as much as possible, but it is not a drama if I eat something that has a little more FODMAPs than usual. Yes, I might be more bloated and a bit uncomfortable later on the evening and the next morning. But as long as it is only that, I can live with it.
What we tend to forget is that people who don’t have IBS, are also bloated sometimes when they eat things they usually don’t eat or when they eat out. So being a bit bloated after eating out isn’t a drama. What you want to avoid is that you eat so many FODMAPs that you will be in pain for days.
I once made the mistake to eat everything that I wanted in a Turkish restaurant. I love Turkish food só much and I really wanted to eat my favourite dishes again. After that dinner, I was in pain for 4 days and my stomach was totally upset. That was horrible and I wouldn’t advise anybody to do that.
Sometimes, when I really like something, I find it worth eating it, despite getting IBS complaints. Sometimes I have a slice of cheesecake (with a lactase pill) that has a crust that is not low FODMAP. This gives me a slightly upset stomach, but it is usually gone within a few hours. In that case, I find the cheesecake worth the trouble. But 4 days of having a very very very upset stomach, is not worth it for me.
Eating too many FODMAPs is not harmful to our gut. It just gives you more symptoms. It is very important to decide for yourself what amount of symptoms you find tolerable after eating out and you can base what you eat on that. I always feel my stomach a bit after eating out. Often that is because I ate more than I normally do. The next morning I usually feel totally fine and then that’s alright for me.
If you are still in the elimination phase or in the re-introduction phase, it is smart to be a bit more careful. Below I share the things that I do to limit my complaints to a minimum.
2. Check the menu beforehand
It is quite difficult for fodmappers to pick a restaurant on the spot. Therefore it is smart to check the menus of some restaurants before you go and decide where to go based on the menu. It is very upsetting to end up in a restaurant and find out that there is nothing you can eat. Some kinds of restaurants, such as tapas restaurants or Italian restaurants (without gluten-free options) have little or no low FODMAP options and you want to avoid going to such a restaurant.
3. Inform the restaurant about your intolerances
When you have picked a restaurant, it is smart to inform them about your intolerances beforehand. There are people who send lists with low FODMAP foods to the restaurant. If the restaurant is willing to adapt meals for you according to the list, that’s amazing. I don’t do this myself because I don’t feel so comfortable going through all this trouble. But this is a choice that you can make for yourself. I choose to tell the restaurant about the things that I react the most to. For me that is: onion, garlic, apple and wheat (I usually tell the restaurant gluten because they know better how to deal with gluten in most places).
4. Choose the safest dishes and make some adaptations if necessary
When you are in the restaurant and the restaurant knows about the intolerances that you told them, it is time to pick a dish. Next to the things that I tell the restaurant, there are many more high FODMAP ingredients that I can better avoid. I usually check for these ingredients on the menu. If possible I pick a dish that has no high FODMAP ingredients. If that is not possible, I ask if they can replace the ingredient with something else or leave it out.
Sauces and dressings, for example, are often a problem. When I have a salad, I ask if they can replace the dressing with some olive oil. Like this, you can create a low FODMAP dish yourself. I find that simple dishes, such as meat or fish with fries or potatoes and some grilled veggies are often safe low FODMAP choices.
5. Watch your serving size, fat and sugar
Next to FODMAPs, it is also important to watch your serving size and the amounts of fat and sugar that you eat. Fat and sugar are also IBS triggers and too much fat or sugar can cause problems. Also when you eat too much, this can get you into trouble, so try to limit your portion size (I know how hard this is!).
I once had a burger with fries in a restaurant. I had a gluten-free bun and I left all ingredients that were high in FODMAPs out, but I still got very bloated. Probably a combination of eating too much and too much fat. This doesn’t mean that I never eat a burger with fries. The bloating that I get is usually only for one evening and the next morning everything is back to normal. For me, that is worth the nice dinner.
6. An upset stomach anyway, now what?
It can always happen that something goes wrong when you eat out and that you are in a lot of pain. This is very upsetting, but it does happen now and then. What I do when this happens, is going back to the basis in the next days. I go back to the strict low FODMAP diet, like in the elimination phase.
I choose meals that I know I tolerate well and I don’t eat any tricky foods that could cause problems. In that way, I try to calm down my stomach again. Sometimes that takes one day, sometimes that takes four days.
Try to be extra nice to yourself during moments like these. It is very easy to get mad on yourself because you ate something wrong in a restaurant and beat yourself up, but sometimes you cannot help it. The restaurant might have made a mistake, you might have made a mistake in thinking that something was low FODMAP while it wasn’t. Or you just didn’t feel like paying attention and deliberately ate something high in FODMAPs.
It doesn’t matter! Being extra careful for a few days will calm your stomach down again and you can continue your FODMAP journey!
Those were my most important tips for eating out on the low FODMAP diet! I am very curious if you have things that you do to keep your symptoms under control when eating out!
Together we go for a calm belly!
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