Don’t know where to start? I know that feeling all too well. I was very overwhelmed by the low FODMAP diet and where to start. It was scary knowing that most of the foods I was eating were doing the damage to my system. So how do you completely change your thinking about food?
First, get rid of anything that is high in FODMAPs. Check every product in your house and know if it’s a safe food or not. Once you have identified the high FODMAP foods, donate them, throw them out, whatever you need to do, because if you know its available, its easy to eat. I spent an evening cleaning out the pantry, reading every label and what I couldn’t eat, I put on my husband’s shelf (which is out of my normal reach and view). Anything that he didn’t want, we gave to our neighbors who have kids. By far, this was the toughest part because some of my favorite go-to foods ended up on my husband’s shelf.
Next, stock up on some low FODMAP basics. Print out the low FODMAP food list and the high FODMAP food list and spend a long evening at the grocery store inspecting the labels on products. You can get a peek at my favorite low FODMAP items to see what my grocery list looks like. I can save you a lot of time and heart-ache and tell you just to pass on the following products: salad dressings, marinara sauces, marinades, and sauces (like BBQ and steak sauce). I have inspected numerous ingredient labels and almost all of these products contain garlic, onion, honey, high fructose corn syrup or molasses. Here’s a great list of low FODMAP garlic and onion replacements so you can still get great flavor into your food.
Take a look at my low FODMAP recipes that includes some basics like salad dressing, marinara sauce, salsa and mashed potatoes. I am not the best cook in the world, so please don’t be intimidated if you aren’t either. Ensure you pick up some of those ingredients while you’re at the store. Also, as a go-to and a good transition into the diet, pick up some of the low FODMAP brand name packaged foods that I have compiled. Some are winners and some aren’t, but it’s a good base to have some foods you can eat right out of the package.
I have compiled a list of low FODMAP sample meals so you can visualize a my meal plan for yourself. Ensure you have a good base of the ingredients that go into those meals available.
Once you have all your basics in house, an important step is to discuss your new diet with your entire household. Ensure that they understand why you’re eating differently and to please allow you to eat your safe foods (since chances are they’re a little more expensive) while they can enjoy other, less expensive foods. My husband has been very good to incorporate my eating habits into most of our meals, and if he’s eating something I can’t have (that he knows I miss), he will eat in another room. He made the mistake on day 1 of my new diet to comment on how delicious his meal (of all my discarded food) was. I broke down in tears and had a little melt-down because of the limitations I was now faced with. I explained to him how his comment hurt me because it’s difficult to know all the things I am missing out on. He has been much more sensitive since that incident… especially now with how much happier I am.
Next, find your routine. I do a lot of my big cooking once a week and plan my schedule based on what I have. I utilize the freezer a lot to have food on hand in a pinch. I eat a lot of salads and with my quick low FODMAP balsamic dressing, it’s a quick, low calorie meal.
Also, I tend to eat much smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Because the low FODMAP diet is it not only what you eat, but in what quantities. I can always tell when I ate too much, even with all safe foods. My system just can’t take a large quantity of food, so I eat 200-300 calorie meals about 6 times a day. Even if I dine out, I usually save half and take it home. For example, if I take a sandwich, a banana and baby carrots for lunch, I will eat the banana around 10:30am, have the sandwich at 12:30pm and then snack on the carrots around 3:00pm.
For me, it took about 2 weeks to fully immerse myself in the diet as I got more comfortable with preparing some of the foods that I used to buy out of the package. Just assume that convenience foods are out and you have to be prepared for each upcoming meal or snack. When laziness strikes, that’s what you have tortilla chips on hand!
I’m not going to sugar coat it… it’s a tough transition. I felt it was maybe a little easier for me since I was already happily gluten free. Also the hope is that you don’t have to eat this way forever. You should eat FODMAP free for about 6-8 weeks and then reintroduce FODMAPs back into your diet. For me, I can handle galactans at almost all quantities (welcome back hummus!), and a little bit of lactose, fructose and polyols later in the day. Unfortunately, fructans and I do not get along.
If you’re starting on the diet, I am happy to help in any way possible. I’ve been there and you shouldn’t have to do this alone. Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at @LivingHappywIBS or on Pinterest.