If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), SIBO, or other inflammatory bowel diseases, you might have come across the low-FODMAP diet plan while researching ways to control symptoms. FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate present in a number of foods we eat every day. The acronym stands for fermentable oligosaccharide disaccharide monosaccharide and polyols.
Sensitivity to FODMAPs isn’t just limited to those with these digestive challenges. Symptoms include gas, bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea, which happen to be identical to IBS symptoms. It can be challenging to identify a specific food (or type of food) that could be causing these symptoms. Often, holistic practitioners will recommend an elimination diet (whether eliminating FODMAPs or other potential trigger foods) to attempt to identify the culprits.
Knowing what to eat and what not to eat can sometimes feel overwhelming, so we’ve created low FODMAP food list and a three-day meal plan with basic low FODMAP recipes to help you get started.
The Biphasic FODMAP Diet
It’s important when embarking on a FODMAP diet plan to understand that the elimination phase is meant to be temporary. We know that FODMAPs feed the healthy bacteria in our colon (also known as probiotics), so they’re a necessary part of our diets to ensure healthy gut flora. Taking a break from them, while beneficial symptomatically, should be done chunks of time, from two weeks to two months.
A critical piece of any elimination diet is the second phase of the plan. That’s the part where you begin strategically reintroducing foods from the elimination phase back into your diet to best understand which ones trigger symptoms and which ones don’t.
In the case of FODMAPs, the categories are found in the acronym. There are four types of FODMAPs:
Foods to Avoid (High FODMAP foods):
- Oligosaccharides (fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides): Garlic, onions, wheat products, barley, oats, bananas, artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and all legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts — soybeans and soy products are allowed)
- Disaccharides (lactose): All lactose-containing dairy products, including milk, ice cream, yogurt, soft cheeses (small amounts of cream cheese may be tolerable), cheeses that have been aged for less than one month, sour cream, all canned milk and milk powders
- Monosaccharides (high fructose): Sweeteners such as honey, agave, and high fructose corn syrup, and many fruits, including apples, mangoes, pear, and watermelon
- Polyols (sugar alcohols and certain other fibers): Erythritol, sorbitol, mannitol, apples, avocado, cherries, nectarines, prunes, and mushrooms (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
This is not an exhaustive list of high FODMAP foods. Monash University in Australia and King’s College in London have both created apps you can download to help you navigate shopping lists and restaurant menus on the go. Check those out in your app store so you can always be prepared.
In the elimination phase of the FODMAP diet plan, all of the above categories of foods should be eliminated. This phase lasts two weeks to two months, depending on individual symptoms. Ideally, you are symptom-free before beginning the reintroduction phase. When reintroducing FODMAPs, do so one category at a time, ideally only a few foods at a time. This will help you identify particular groups of foods — or even individual foods — that might be triggering for you.
What Can You Eat?
While the list of foods that are off-limits during the elimination phase of the FODMAP diet seems overwhelming, there are still lots of foods left to enjoy. The key to enjoying a low FODMAP diet plan is to focus on the foods you can enjoy without limit along with the those you can enjoy at a particular serving size. Serving size is actually pretty important when it comes to your carbohydrate and veggie intake, as low FODMAP foods eaten in large servings can trigger high FODMAP symptoms.
Foods that have no FODMAPs at all are mostly animal products:
- Dry, hard cheeses
- Meat (including sugar-free, uncured bacon, but avoiding most other processed meats)
- Lactose-free milk (6, 7)
Vegetables that are very low FODMAP:
- Baby spinach
- Bok choy
- Bell peppers and other hot peppers (including Tabasco sauce)
- Summer squash and zucchini
- Bamboo shoots
- Green beans
- The green parts of scallions and leeks
- Olives (6, 7)
Vegetables that are low FODMAP when eaten in small servings:
- Winter squash (1/2 cup)
- Spaghetti squash (1 cup)
- Beets (1/2 cup)
- Brussels sprouts (2–4 sprouts)
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes (1/2 potato or 1/2 cup)
- Broccoli (1 cup)
- Corn (1/2 cob)
- Snow peas (5 pods) (6, 7)
Low FODMAP fruits:
- Clementines and mandarins
- Lemons and limes
- Oranges (6, 7)
Other acceptable items:
- All nuts and seeds except cashews and pistachios (limit to 15 nuts per serving)
- Gluten-free grains, including polenta, white and brown rice, quinoa, and noodles or breads made from these grains
- Dark chocolate
- Cooking oils
- Condiments that don’t contain added sugar, honey, chicory root, garlic, onion, or any other high FODMAP ingredients
- Nut butters except peanut butter (limited to 2 tablespoons) (6, 7)
In the meals we’ve planned for you, we encourage whole foods that have gone through minimal processing. Some processed meats contain spices, sugars, or other high FODMAP ingredients that might not be obvious without carefully reading the ingredient list. It’s the same with spices in general. Certain spices are off-limits in this diet. We’ll include allowable spices, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper to flavor these meals.
For breakfast, we recommend focusing on a protein and low FODMAP veggies. Eggs are a simple, standard breakfast item packed with nutrition and zero FODMAPs. Collagen powders are also a great protein source to add to smoothies if you prefer to drink your breakfast or mid-day snack. To save time, consider making breakfast items that will last for more than one day, such as a frittata or egg muffins (using gluten-free flour).
Coffee, black tea, and green tea are allowable on a low FODMAP diet plan. Drink plain or sweeten with a small amount of 100% pure maple syrup, liquid stevia, or table sugar (avoid sweeteners with excess fructose). Use lactose-free milk or dairy alternative (no oat or soy milk).
Frittata with baby spinach, chopped leaf lettuce, or kale, aged swiss cheese, and unsweetened almond milk or rice milk.
Smoothie with 1/2 banana, 1 tablespoon almond butter, unsweetened almond milk, baby kale or romaine lettuce, cinnamon, and collagen powder.
Polenta and poached eggs with sauteed baby spinach.
Lunch is a great time for big salads. Eating a big salad at lunch that includes allowable veggies, both raw and cooked, along with a good-quality protein source is a great way to make it through the afternoon. Consider roasting your veggies at the beginning of the week and keep them in the fridge to throw onto a salad each afternoon. Soups also work as a delicious make-ahead option that will keep you full.
Grilled or canned salmon and roasted eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini over a bed of baby arugula. Salad dressing: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
Open-faced egg salad sandwich using gluten-free bread. Skip the celery, and instead include the green part of spring onions, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chopped pickles or olives.
Chicken soup using bone broth and allowable veggies: carrots, bok choy, potato (portion size 1/2 cup per serving), and the green parts of leeks.
Snacks should contain a healthy protein source. A handful of nuts and a low FODMAP fruit make for a simple, no-fuss snack option, especially if you’re on the go.
15 pecans and 1 cup strawberries
Quesadilla using gluten-free tortillas, sliced tomato, and aged cheddar
Air popped popcorn topped with flax or olive oil, nutritional yeast, and parmesan cheese
At dinner time, you can get a bit more creative when cooking at home. If you go to a restaurant, make sure to ask about cooking ingredients to ensure that you’re staying on track. Cut down dinner prep by preparing enough to have leftovers or doing one-pot meals like the stir fry in Dinner #1.
Shrimp stir fry with bok choy, carrots, bamboo shoots, and fennel over brown rice. Season with turmeric, soy sauce, fresh cilantro, and pepper.
Beef burger on a gluten-free bun or lettuce-wrapped with baby arugula, pickles, tomato, and mustard.
Roasted chicken leg seasoned with fresh sage and parsley, 1/2 a sweet potato, and red chard.