The holiday season is filled with joy, gathering with family and friends, and seasonal foods to celebrate. However, for those with IBS, the same holiday foods that fill the buffet can be a source of stress. This is especially true for anyone following a low FODMAP diet. Navigate the holiday buffet with confidence by remembering these five tips to build an IBS-friendly plate.
Avoid Skipping Meals
It’s tempting to “save up” calories for a big holiday meal but skipping a meal or two in anticipation of the celebratory holiday meal is one of the last things you should do when managing IBS. This is for a few reasons:
When you skip a meal, you miss out on an opportunity to add beneficial nutrients to your diet. Low fodmap diets can and should be balanced to meet your needs, but because they are limited on the types of foods you can eat, it’s important that you don’t restrict your intake further by missing out on a meal.
Skipping meals may lead to overeating at the next meal. This can exacerbate IBS symptoms, especially if the foods chosen to eat are ones that lead to worsening of IBS symptoms in large portions.
Balance Your Plate
A balanced plate for IBS can help with reducing symptoms while also working toward building a filling and nutrient-dense meal. Aim to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with starchy vegetables and/or grains, and the other quarter with a healthy protein. This balance will help to fill you up and keep you full. It’s also more satisfying to eat a variety of foods in a single meal, especially one that pairs the three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
Choose a Healthy Protein
Animal sources of protein are generally well-tolerated by people on the low FODMAP diet. This includes turkey, ham, beef, and fish. Proteins are also an important part of a satisfying meal as they help to fill you up. If you’re choosing to build a plant-based plate or if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, opt for plant sources of protein like beans and lentils. Limit to a quarter cup serving to prevent gas and bloating if you’re sensitive to oligosaccharides. Add nuts like almonds or hazelnuts for some added fat, a protein, and fiber.
Add Filling Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are found in a variety of plant foods including starchy vegetables, fruits, and grains. They’re an important part of a filling and satisfying meal, so don’t be afraid to add them to your plate. If potatoes are on the buffet, opt for white potatoes or add a half cup serving of sweet potatoes. Alternatively, starchy winter squash like butternut squash or acorn squash (in half cup portions for low FODMAP diets) make for a delicious, seasonal addition to the plate. Other grain-based items that are popular on holiday buffets can also be added to your plate, but many are high in fructans which should be limited on a low FODMAP diet. Be mindful of serving sizes of fructan-containing grains like stuffing, breads, and rolls. Limit to one serving such as one roll or look for lower FODMAP options such as stuffing made with sourdough bread.
Load Up on Color
Vegetables are an important part of a balanced plate. Fortunately, low FODMAP vegetables are bountiful this time of year. Carrots, green beans, broccoli florets, parsnips, and dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, spring mix, collard greens, and romaine are all low in FODMAPs. Look for traditional favorites like roasted carrots or a hearty green salad to add to your plate. If choosing a vegetable-based casserole, be mindful of high FOMAP ingredients such as dairy if sensitive to lactose or onion and garlic if sensitive to fructans.
Don’t let your low FODMAP diet keep you from enjoying the holiday buffet. It may take a little extra time to survey what’s available, but with some flexibility and a little education, you should be able to enjoy the holiday buffet without a fear of causing your IBS to flare. And as always, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.