Eating out at a restaurant while on a low-FODMAP diet can feel like a nightmare! However, we all deserve to enjoy a meal with friends and family, and a night off cooking. Here are a few tips to help you choose a restaurant and select a safe meal.
Choosing the restaurant carefully
Select a restaurant that has a good range of gluten free options. While gluten isn’t the problem on a low-FODMAP diet, choosing gluten free will eliminate wheat, which is a major source of oligosaccharides.
Thai restaurants often give you the option of selecting a low-FODMAP stir-fry or steamed veges, and ask for onion and garlic-free sauces.
Japanese and Chinese restaurants are good as they offer rice-based cuisine.
Steak houses offer meat, potato and salad dishes that are often easy to adapt.
Safe low-FODMAP meal options
Salads can be tailored and made tasty with lemon juice and olive oil. Just check for dried fruit, bread (croutons), onions, mushrooms, apples and cashews, and limit the serving of avocado and chickpeas. Why not take your fave homemade salad dressing with you when you eat out?!
Sushi can be a safe option. The small amount of gluten found in soy sauce is not usually a problem on a low-FODMAP diet. If your sushi rolls contain avocado, you will need to limit your serving size. Tempura is made from wheat, so if you are in the elimination phase you may want to avoid tempura rolls or limit your serving size to one. Seaweed and rice are naturally low FODMAP.
Steak with a side of veges can often be low FODMAP. You just need to check and see if the steak has been marinated in high-FODMAP ingredients.
Grilled or roasted chicken, beef or fish are safe options, just check what seasonings have been added to the meat.
Choose an omelette with low-FODMAP ingredients – make sure they don’t add high-FODMAP ingredients like milk, onion or garlic.
Ask for gluten-free pasta with olive oil, low-FODMAP cheese, and your choice of meat and low-FODMAP veges.
French fries or potato wedges. Check that they haven’t been seasoned with onion or garlic (small amounts of wheat shouldn’t be a problem). Avoid using dipping sauces or ketchup as these often have hidden FODMAPs.
If ordering a pizza, chose a gluten-free pizza base with plain tomato paste (add oregano, thyme and basil) then flavour with low-FODMAP ingredients and cheese. Confirm that there’s no onion, garlic or additional sauces added.
Meals with sneaky FODMAPs
Sauces and salad dressings often contain hidden FODMAPs, so ask what’s been used to season, sweeten and thicken!
Risottos and broth-based dishes like soups and stews may need to be avoided as they often contain hidden onion and garlic.
Hamburgers can be problematic as minced meat often has high-FODMAP ingredients such as garlic and onion added into the patties.
Avoid meals that contain cream-based sauces or sour cream as these will contain moderate to high levels of FODMAPs.
If the restaurant staff can’t tell you exactly what is in the meal, simply ask to talk to the chef or choose a different meal.
Check online to find a meal from a restaurant menu that you can adapt.
Once you’ve selected a meal, give the restaurant a call. Restaurant staff and chefs appreciate a heads up when it comes to special dietary requirements.
Explain to the host or waitress that you have dietary requirements and give her a list of your definite no-go foods. I normally start by saying that I am dairy, gluten, onion and garlic free.
Pre-warning also gives a restaurant the chance to reserve you a piece of un-marinated meat or create a sauce that doesn’t have high-FODMAP ingredients.
Between you and the waitress you should be able to sort a meal by phone. If you can’t do this in advance, have a chat once you arrive at the restaurant.
Dine at off-peak times to allow the chef more time to prepare your meal.
On the day
Make sure you stick strictly to a low-FODMAP diet so that if you come into contact with FODMAPs during the meal, hopefully the reaction won’t be quite as bad as you will have had a lower FODMAP load during the day.
Eat a safe low-FODMAP snack just before you leave, to settle your stomach.
Take a written list of low and high-FODMAP foods with you that you can give to the restaurant staff (it makes it easier on you and on them).
Even if a meal doesn’t look like it contains any high-FODMAP ingredients, you still need to check that nothing else is added before serving.
Stay polite and friendly and let staff know that you have a serious medical condition (this way they know you aren’t just being fussy). People are normally happy to help but if you have problems, just speak to the manager.
If your order comes out wrong, ie. with added onions, just say it makes you sick and ask for it to be completely remade (not just the onions taken off).
If you follow these steps, you’ve done everything in your power to ensure you have a safe low-FODMAP meal. So try and relax and enjoy being with your friends and family. Good luck and happy eating!