Getting an invitation to dinner is usually a pleasant occasion, right? You get to enjoy an evening of delicious food, and good conversation with family/friends/colleagues, and as a bonus, you don’t need to clean up!
This might sound all fine and dandy, but for those following a low FODMAP diet, a dinner invitation can cause stress:
- 'Like great, where the heck is going to have a low FODMAP option on the menu? '
- 'How am I going to be able to figure out which menu item is the most suitable? '
- 'Maybe I just shouldn’t go? Or maybe I can eat beforehand and then admire everyone else’s meals whilst enjoying some nice low FODMAP water?'
- 'I guess I could always just eat whatever I want and then pay the awful price tomorrow morning…'
Do these thoughts sound familiar? Whilst eating out on a low FODMAP diet can be difficult, you shouldn’t need to miss out! Here are some tips based on some popular cuisines/restaurant types.
Pub food is one of the easier options for eating out on a low FODMAP diet. The food is often quite simple, so you don’t have to worry about a million ingredients (like in some Asian dishes). Here are a few tips when dining at your local:
Steak is a pub classic and is a great low FODMAP option. Go for a side of steamed veg or salad with dressing on the side.
Check what veg they use and if some are high FODMAP, such as cauliflower, ask for just the low FODMAP options like green beans.
Check that the steak doesn’t contain a marinade/sauce with garlic, and request plain if need be.
Usually found in the pub form of either mash, chips (fries), or boiled/steamed. Chips or plain potato are the better options, as mash contains milk and/or cream.
Check whether the chips are gluten-free, as some frozen varieties contain wheat.
Check whether the potato has any seasoning such as garlic. Remember up to ¼ clove should be tolerated, so if it contains trace amounts it should be OK.
Usually, pubs have some sort of fish on the menu which is a great low FODMAP option. Select the grilled or steamed fish, not battered, and check if they use a marinade of any sort.
Ask staff to have the fish plain with some fresh lemon wedges if the marinade is unsuitable. Go for low FODMAP sides (see above) such as steamed vegetables and new potatoes.
Plain prawns, natural oysters and seared scallops are some other great seafood options.
Any plain meat option, such as roast or grilled, is low FODMAP. The trick is to check what it comes with/if the chef uses a marinade. Many marinades contain garlic and other high FODMAP ingredients such as honey, so request for the meat to be plain if this is the case.
If the pub offers a roast option, this can be made low FODMAP by ordering without gravy and opting for low FODMAP vegetables as a side dish.
Asian can be difficult on a low FODMAP diet, as many of the sauces and ingredients are high in FODMAPs. Here are some better low FODMAP Asian options.
An excellent low FODMAP choice, providing you are careful with the type of sushi chosen. Avoid tempura (fried) sushi, and go for the more plain options instead such as salmon, vegetarian, or tuna.
Rice paper rolls
Rice paper rolls are usually low FODMAP. Be careful of the condiment you have them with, and whether the meat/tofu has been marinated. Hoisin is often served as a sauce but is not low FODMAP. Request soy sauce or wasabi instead.
Stir-fry can be tricky, as it often contains onion and/or garlic. Some dishes could be made low FODMAP, such as chilli-basil chicken/beef/pork/tofu, and request to be cooked without garlic or onion.
Contact the restaurant prior to going, as you will be surprised how accommodating many places are these days. Another great option is to request some stir-fried meat/tofu/prawns, vegetables and rice-noodles/rice – either plain or with some chilli, lemongrass and/or basil for flavour.
Ask for a side of soy sauce to add some extra flavour.
Korean BBQ and teppanyaki
This can be a good low FODMAP option, just ask for the meat to be plain rather than in a marinade. If you go to a place where you can cook it yourself, you can control what you add to the hot plate!
The good thing about most Asian curries is they use coconut milk or coconut cream, which is low FODMAP.
Unfortunately, most will add garlic/onion or use garlic in the curry paste. If the curry is able to be done without the addition of garlic/onion, then it would be a reasonable low FODMAP dish.
If you can’t avoid a bit of garlic in the paste, try to take it easy on the sauce, and stick to eating the meat/tofu and vegetables with plain rice.
Italian cuisine is well known for being rich and full of flavour. There are some ways to get a reasonably low FODMAP Italian meal.
Most Italian restaurants now offer a gluten-free pizza option. This makes things slightly easier. However, you still need to proceed with caution for what goes on top of that pizza. Since cheese used on pizza is low FODMAP, like mozzarella and parmesan, the cheese should be fine.
Unfortunately, the pasta sauce used on the base will contain onion and/or garlic. This is usually only a thin amount, so it may be relatively low FODMAP per serve.
If however, you want to be extra cautious, request to have just tomato paste or plain passata on your pizza base. Request no onion or garlic, and choose low FODMAP toppings such as meat, capsicum, tomato, pumpkin, olives and feta.
Like with pizza, most restaurants will offer a gluten-free pasta option (check before you go). The sauces used in pasta dishes can be problematic as they will almost always contain either onion, garlic or cream (or all 3).
If there are no suitable pasta sauce options available, see if the chef would be able to do one without onion or garlic. An idea could be tossing the meat/veg/pasta in olive oil, chilli, and fresh herbs and top it with parmesan cheese and cracked pepper.
Most Italian restaurants will offer a caprese and/or rocket salad on the menu. Both of these are usually low FODMAP (just ensure no garlic). Caprese is a basic salad of fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil. Rocket salad is usually just rocket leaves with parmesan and olive oil – a great topping for pizza and pasta!
Some Greek food options would be low FODMAP without the addition of onion and/or garlic. Many ingredients used are low FODMAP such as lemon, herbs, olives, tomato, and eggplant.
Most places will offer souvlaki-style meat or roast lamb – ask if this contains garlic/onion and if it would be possible to have without. Then enjoy with some salad and fresh lemon.
Food court or takeaway
Often eating out is done on the run, so food court or take-away is the go-to option.
- Sushi: a popular takeaway option and usually low FODMAP (see Asian section above). Rice paper rolls are also a great, easy option.
- Salad: there are a lot of great salad bars around, much of which offer salads made fresh to order. If there are no salads on display that appear low FODMAP (e.g loaded with onion, beetroot, chickpeas etc) then create your own.
Go for meat or tofu with your favourite low FODMAP salad veg they have available such as baby spinach, rocket, carrot, capsicum, and tomato. Then add in some brown rice or quinoa + balsamic vinegar (up to 1 tablespoon) and perhaps some walnuts and feta – yum!
- Subway: whilst they don’t do gluten-free bread/wraps, you can make any sub as a salad bowl at subway. Choose chicken breast strips, roast beef, turkey, or ham, then add your favourite low FODMAP salads and some red-wine vinegar.
- Fresh burgers: there are a lot of ‘healthier’ burger joints that make fresh burgers to order, and have gluten-free buns available. Whilst the mince patties will not be suitable (as contain garlic, onion and often bread crumbs), most will offer a grilled chicken breast burger.
Choose plain grilled chicken breast, with some suitable veg, cheese and a bit of tomato sauce on a gluten-free bun.
- BBQ chicken/grilled fish and salad: available from some fast-food joints and most takeaway shops, a simple ¼ BBQ chicken (no skin) or plain grilled fish + lemon with some salad is a great low FODMAP option for an easy lunch or dinner.
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If you are experiencing gut symptoms and have not been recommended a low FODMAP diet by a health professional, get started with the manage your gut symptoms program.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board March 2022