Tips for Choosing a Delicious and Low FODMAP Lunch Away from Home
Don’t let your low FODMAP diet prevent you from eating at your favorite restaurants. Try these tips for enjoying a low FODMAP lunch on the go.
Whether you’re a full-time professional enjoying lunch with coworkers or a parent shuttling your kids from one place to the next, eating lunch on the go is often a necessity for a busy schedule.
If you’ve recently started a low FODMAP diet or are on a diet plan that requires you to eat a low FODMAP diet long-term then you know how challenging finding a low FODMAP lunch on the go can be.
However, I have good news for you! Following a low FODMAP diet doesn’t have to mean missing out on your favorite restaurants. These helpful tips can make it easier for you to find a satisfying low FODMAP lunch in most restaurants.
Do Your Research
Researching the restaurant menu ahead of time can be time-consuming, but it’s usually a one-time thing that you don’t need to do before every visit to the same restaurant. When researching the menu, check to see if the restaurant acknowledges allergies or sensitivities.
A statement like “Please let the server know if you have any food allergies” may indicate that the staff is specially trained to handle food sensitivities or allergies. If that’s the case, you may be more successful in modifying the offerings to fit your needs.
You can also research the restaurant dishes on the menu ahead of time. For example, if you see a dish that you’re not familiar with, it will help to do a quick search to better understand the ingredients traditionally used in the recipe. Once you know more about a recipe, you can be better prepared to talk to the server or chef when discussing possible modifications.
Know what questions to ask
Make a mental note of the questions to ask your server or chef after you’ve familiarized yourself with the restaurant menu.
The following questions may be helpful the next time you are eating a low FODMAP lunch away from home:
What sauces are included in the dish?
Does this meal have garlic, onion, wheat, dairy, etc.? Note: ask about the ingredients you need to limit.
Is it possible to see a food label for that ingredient?
Do you recommend any alternatives that don’t include [insert ingredients here]?
Understand culinary preparations and common ingredients
The most common high FODMAP ingredients found in restaurant meals are onion and garlic.
This can be frustrating considering these two ingredients are used in many different cuisines and dishes. But when you know what questions to ask and are confident navigating the restaurant menu then you can more easily spot which foods have one or more of the high FODMAP ingredients.
In general, simple preparations of meats, veggies, and other sides will be less likely to have hidden high FODMAP ingredients. Grilled, steamed, baked, and broiled proteins and veggies without added sauces will often contain fewer ingredients. However, be sure to double check with the chef or server before making an assumption about the ingredients used.
Be aware that many cuisines and traditional dishes often use high FODMAP ingredients.
For example, traditional Italian recipes may be more likely to use garlic in sauces and Italian restaurants may be limited on gluten-free doughs, breads, and pastas. Indian dishes may have shallots or onions added to curry sauces and Thai dishes may be more likely to include spicy peppers which could cause digestive upset.
In these cases, it’s important to check the restaurant’s menu ahead of time and discuss your options with the server or chef once you arrive.
In some cases, there may be limitations to the number of customizations that can be made to your meal. It helps to understand why a restaurant may not be able to make your requested modifications. A few common reasons why a restaurant may not be able to accommodate your requests are:
Foods are pre-made
This is a frequent occurrence in restaurants where some ingredients or recipes are pre-made and unable to be modified. For example, the chef may prepare a sauce ahead of time and there isn’t enough staff to make a different sauce for your order.
This often occurs with recipes like soups as well since they’re time-consuming and not made to order. Or, sometimes ingredients like tortillas, dressings, breads, chips, baked goods, and others are purchased from a different vendor and the ingredients cannot be modified. In that case, if a high FODMAP ingredient is found in the purchased product then the restaurant will be unable to modify it to meet your needs.
Staff is limited or needs additional training
Often, staff may be limited which means there is not enough employees to make a new recipe from scratch. Other times, the staff may be available, but additional training is required to prepare a meal that’s safe for someone with a food allergy. In either case, the restaurant may not be able to accommodate your needs and it’s important to be prepared for those potential limitations.
What to order at common restaurants
Many fast-food restaurants and large chain restaurants are required to post nutrition and ingredient information online. If that’s the case, check the restaurant’s website for a full list of ingredient information to choose the best options for you. Here are a few common examples of meals to choose in many fast food restaurants:
Beef burgers are often low FODMAP. Skip the bun if gluten-free options aren’t available.
French fries are low FODMAP if they don’t contain wheat or garlic seasoning. Be sure to check the ingredient list.
Salads without onions are low FODMAP if no other ingredients in the salad are high in FODMAPs however you may need to bring your own dressing or ask for oil and vinegar.
Steamed or baked veggie sides are a good choice as many have minimal seasoning which lowers the risk of high FODMAP ingredients.
Opt for proteins and mixed dishes without onions or other high FODMAP ingredients. Try fajitas without onions or tacos made on corn or other gluten-free tortillas.
Skip the salsa and guacamole if it contains onions or garlic.
Choose simply grilled proteins when possible.
Choose gluten-free pasta or pizza when possible.
Check if the restaurant makes a simple tomato sauce without garlic.
Look for simply grilled proteins like chicken, seafood, or beef.
Ask if the proteins are marinated and what ingredients are used. Choose a protein that isn’t marinated using high FODMAP ingredients.
Rice is a low FODMAP option, however you’ll want to skip rice dishes that contain high FODMAP ingredients like mango.
Naan is not low FODMAP if made with wheat and garlic. Ask if gluten-free naan is av
·Sauces like oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and tamarind paste are all low FODMAP choices.
Rice noodles and other rice dishes are low FODMAP choices that can make the base of most meals.
Choose a protein and sauce made without high FODMAP ingredients whenever possible or consider a smaller portion size.
Make it work for you
Dining out on a low FODMAP diet can be a challenge but with some preparation, you can greatly reduce your FODMAP exposure. Try eating low FODMAP meals on days you plan to eat lunch out. This can help with reducing total FODMAP intake throughout the day.
Consider also keeping note of restaurants that were especially accommodating to your requests. Keep a checklist on your phone or on a post-it note at your desk. And remember, the goal is to limit FODMAPs as m
needed for you.
This may change over time as your diet shifts to be more flexible based on your symptoms. Adjust accordingly and enjoy the experience of eating lunch away from home with coworkers or family.
If you’re looking for more tips on dining out while following a low FODMAP diet, check out my comprehensive guide.