Eating Out on a Low FODMAP Diet: Hack the Menu
Eating out on a Low FODMAP diet can feel like you're navigating an invisible maze. FODMAP-containing foods are those which are made up of molecules of saccharides, a type of sugar, and are in many of the foods we eat. These sugars can be poorly digested and can contribute to symptoms of IBS. If you have a lactose intolerance or find yourself bloated and uncomfortable after you eat stone fruit, you may have trouble with FODMAPS.
You may not be able to control that onion was used in the tomato sauce or that somehow every item on the menu contains cheese, but with a little detective prowess and some ingenuity, you can still go out for a meal and feel good in your gut.
Types of cuisine that will be easiest to navigate
Vegetarian, Greek, Mediterranean, Ethiopian, Japanese, burger joints
Ask, ask, ask
Perhaps more than any other dietary requirement, you’re likely to run into issues with restaurants when it comes to fructans hiding in your meal: garlic, leeks, onion, onion powder, scallions, shallots and wheat flour form the basis of many dishes, so it’s key to ask if your food was cooked with or in any of these. Sauces with a roux base will likely be off the table, as will anything cooked in commercial broth containing garlic and onion powder; however, the kitchen may have a supply of plain, low FODMAP sauces and dressings available if you ask. (Some of these may be featured on the menu near foods like wings or spring rolls. Ask if these are okay for your needs.)
Ask for omissions
If you’ve tried PlateJoy’s low FODMAP plan and reintroduced some foods, you probably know what FODMAPs are your worst offenders; chances are, there are one or two groups that cause the biggest reaction). If you know your problem FODMAPS include high-fructose fruits and dairy, ask if a salad can be prepared without the sliced apple, or if a grain bowl could come without the feta cheese.
Look at the snack options
Many bar menus will have a selection of olives and pickles. These are great low-FODMAP options and, worst case scenario, you can nosh on these and pair with a salad for a mostly balanced meal.
Suss out the sauce
Many commercially prepared sauces and condiments contain high amounts of sugar or even high fructose corn syrup. Skip menu items containing barbecue sauce, jam, honey or agave (or ask for these to be left out). You can also request that the your meal be prepared without sauce at all, or request it on the side.
In place of things like gravy, ketchup or dairy-based sauces like ranch, ask for swaps like tamari, Worcestershire sauce, wasabi, shrimp paste, mustard, miso or rice wine vinegar.
Seek out a gluten-free option
Many restaurants will offer gluten-free bread or wrap in place of wheat, or they may be willing to make a sandwich as a lettuce wrap or salad. Most gluten-free grains are okay for a low-FODMAP plan: ensure that your meal is gluten-free by inquiring about whether wheat, farro, triticale, barley (including malts) or rye are included in a dish. Rice, teff and buckwheat are easier to digest and may be possible to swap in.
When it comes to appetizer trays or dippables, ask for low FODMAP veggies like peppers or cucumber in place of crackers or crostini.
Look for smart carbs
Seek out slightly starchier veggies, which can prove to be even more flavorful options than some grains, like sweet potato or squash. Up to half a cup might be okay for your system.
Many naturally sweetened desserts are a go
Yes, that’s right: desserts sweetened with maple syrup or brown rice syrup, and those which do not contain honey, dried fruit, apples or pears may be a good option (and a great way to feel like you’re not missing out). Especially if the dessert is made with dairy-free milk and dark chocolate, consider it a pretty safe bet, but do ask what it’s entirely made of before committing.
Tropical fruits, including bananas, are actually safe for a low FODMAP diet, so if the menu features these as a component of a cheese tray or other dessert, ask if the kitchen will serve these separately. (They can also make a great addition to a salad!)
Don’t be afraid to pull out your phone (at least for this purpose)
Not sure if a food is low FODMAP or not? Download an app that can help identify compliant foods in a snap.