Low FODMAP-ing in a Pandemic

2020 has definitely been THE YEAR for all the weird stuff to happen – last year’s concussion bonanza wasn’t nearly as bad in retrospect. Grocery shopping already was a weird time, and I was recently diagnosed with a medical condition that has me eating a low FODMAP diet in order to properly control my symptoms.

FODMAPs stand for Fermentable Oligo, Di, Mono saccharides and Polyols. Essentially short-chain carbohydrates make my innards exceptionally mad and the results are not fun. It explains why I have felt somewhat better when I ate gluten-free (gluten has fructan which I was reacting to) and keto (knocks out a lot of those carbs). A low FODMAP diet is best undertaken with a registered dietitian, and has three parts – elimination, reintroduction/challenge, and integration.

It is not for weight loss but rather for managing GI disorders. FODMAPs are found things like wheat, garlic, onion, cow milk, beans, mushrooms, apples, etc. Monash University in Australia has been the leader in FODMAP research, and has designed and extensively studied the diet.

With things still spotty in the grocery stores and a rather hefty list of things to avoid (short-term), you can imagine the fun I’ve been having lately in the food department.

I am 1) not working with a FODMAP informed dietitian (con of living in a rural state) and 2) marching through reintroduction stage so please feel free to take this with a grain of salt and always consult your doctor, this is not medical advice, etc.

But here’s what I’ve been doing lately to make sure I stay low FODMAP.

1. Get Monash’s FODMAP App. It’s $9 (one-time payment) and 10000% worth it. Monash is always testing foods for their FODMAP-iness and updating the app with their results. In addition to the list of foods and their level of FODMAP-iness and serving size (because that’s important too), there’s also a bunch of other information including a walk-through of reintroduction for people like me including how to do it, which foods to use for each group of FODMAPs, and a diary to track symptoms. I use the app constantly.

2. Make menu plans. If you don’t plan your menus already, you should start now. And since FODMAPs are beneficial for everyone, my family shouldn’t eat low FODMAP with me and I should also eat some level of FODMAPs (just not enough to make me sick). Each week I make 2 plans – they’re often the same foods, but meals that I can adapt for me. Like stir-fry. Same with tacos, chili (no beans which is an abomination), and spaghetti.

3. Thrive Market Membership! Since I live in the land that time forgot, we have hardly any low FODMAP items beyond Kellogg’s cereals. Fody Foods makes low FODMAP condiments, which I buy through Thrive Market. I also buy things like gluten-free noodles, since those typically are sold out locally.

4. Have a backup plan. When we have busy nights and I don’t want to cook but can’t eat Pizza Hut, I need to have a backup plan of something. Anything. I’ve found quick things like egg and ham scrambles work, or Costco’s rotisserie chicken in a pinch. I’ve found I need to have backup plans for meals, because sometimes the store won’t have something like GF noodles that I need, or the GF noodles they do have have something FODMAP-y in them, or – as I recently discovered – chickpeas destroy me so anything from them is not happening. I’m trying to build a little stockpile of GF noodles that I can tolerate because GUESS WHAT – the fructan in wheat also destroys me (but not as bad as chickpeas).

5. Get comfortable with low FODMAP recipes. I’m starting to be able to adjust recipes into low FODMAP, but still need a lot of help, especially since I’m still working out my triggers and trigger amounts. Some blogs that I’ve found exceptionally helpful are:

6. Read all! The! Labels! Seriously, read everything meticulously. It gets old and shopping takes forever (when I don’t do grocery pickup) but it’s so needed because things that you don’t expect are FODMAP-y can have them. My chili powder – it’s JUST chili powder on the front label, but the ingredient label shows that it has garlic and onion powder as well as chili powder. Just because it says it’s “chili powder” doesn’t mean it is. (I also found garlic and onion powder in my peanuts which were just sold as “roasted peanuts” – not flavored with anything). I’ve been trying to eat non-processed foods whenever possible and just keep it as easy as I can since while the grocery stores are starting to stay better stocked, it really is a hit and miss game.

I still have a ways to go through before I hit integration but the relief I’ve felt already has been immense and it is so worth it to have to do all this, even in the midst of a pandemic and essentially making two different dinners. But I will be ecstatic when I hit integration and I know what I can and can’t eat and in what quantity, and hopefully meals become a bit easier to manage!

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