What to Expect on the Low-FODMAP Diet

low-fodmap rice noodle dish with tofu

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When following the low-FODMAP diet, you can expect to eliminate and re-introduce certain carbohydrates. This allows people with uncomfortable digestive symptoms, especially related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disease (IBD), to find some relief.

While many high-FODMAP foods are restricted to alleviate discomfort, the low-FODMAP diet is still high in certain fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, lactose-free dairy products, and protein sources.

What to Eat

There is a long list of off-limits foods that are high in FODMAPs. However, there’s an equally long list of compliant foods that are low in FODMAPs. 

Compliant Foods

  • Low-FODMAP vegetables

  • Low-FODMAP fruit

  • Low-FODMAP grains

  • Most nuts and seeds

  • Certain sweeteners

  • Most non-dairy milks

  • Lactose-free dairy products

  • Meat, fish, and eggs

  • Tofu and tempeh

  • Low FODMAP Certified foods

Non-Compliant Foods

  • High-FODMAP vegetables

  • High-FODMAP fruit

  • High-FODMAP grains

  • Legumes

  • Some nuts

  • Certain sweeteners

  • Most dairy products

  • Some non-dairy milks

Compliant Foods

Low-FODMAP Vegetables

There are a couple dozen compliant vegetables on the low-FODMAP diet. Some of them include potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, collard greens, cabbage, kale, lettuce, squash, bell peppers, carrots, bok choy, arugula, and turnips.

Low-FODMAP Fruit

What makes a fruit low-FODMAP is that it’s low in fructose and fructans, which can cause bloating, and gas in high amounts. Some low-FODMAP fruits include bananas, blueberries, grapes, kiwis, lemons, raspberries, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.

Low-FODMAP Grains

Many people assume that grains are off-limits on the low-FODMAP diet. While some are, you can still enjoy amaranth, brown rice, oats, quinoa, spelt, and small amounts of bulgar. Some of these grains contain gluten. Though many people adopt a gluten-free diet due to sensitivities or preferences, researchers believe that gluten is not a significant source of FODMAPs.

Most Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent snacks and great sources of nutrients and healthy fats. Most nuts and seeds are in the clear. Some include chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts.

Certain Sweeteners

Many sweeteners are high in fructans and fructose, which should be limited on the low-FODMAP diet. Compliant sweeteners include white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, powdered sugar, and some artificial sweeteners.

Most Non-dairy Milks

Since the low-FODMAP diet is almost dairy-free, you can replace your milk products with non-dairy alternatives. The ones that are low-FODMAP are almond milk, hemp milk, rice milk, and small amounts of coconut milk.

Lactose-free Dairy Products

Lactose is the main reason why most dairy products are considered high-FODMAP. Lactose-free dairy products are compliant, though. Look for milk, ice creams, and yogurts that are free of lactose. Some cheeses, such as mozzarella and Parmesan, are also allowed on a low-FODMAP diet.

Meat, Fish, and Eggs

All other animal products besides dairy are allowed on the low-FODMAP diet. This includes beef, chicken, pork, eggs, turkey, and seafood. However, some researchers suggest avoiding processed meats like sausage.

Tofu and Tempeh

Followers of the low-FODMAP diet can use tofu and tempeh as sources of protein. The low-FODMAP diet is not soy-free, though soy milk is not recommended. Vegans and vegetarians are especially encouraged to consume tofu and tempeh in place of legumes to meet their protein requirements.

Low FODMAP CertifiedTM foods

Some companies, such as Kellog’s, produce and distribute foods that are certified low-FODMAP by Monash University. Some of these products include cereals, bars, breads, snacks, and more. They’re available in many large grocery chains.

Non-Compliant Foods

High-FODMAP Vegetables

Some vegetables are believed to cause gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms due to their high-FODMAP content. Some examples include artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, beets, cauliflower, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, celery, and peas.

High-FODMAP Fruit

Fruit is known for its natural sugar content. Some of the sweetest fruits can cause uncomfortable digestive problems due to these sugars. On the low-FODMAP diet, reduce your intake of apples, cherries, mangoes, peaches, pears, watermelon, and apricots. You should also avoid canned fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice that’s high in fructose.

High-FODMAP Grains

There are a handful of high-FODMAP grains that should be avoided. Barley, couscous, farro, rye, wheat, and semolina are some of them. Make sure that any cereals, pastas, breads, and crackers you consume are free of these grains.

Legumes

Beans are the common culprit of many unwanted digestive symptoms, such as gas. There’s a scientific explanation, too. Legumes are high in galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), which belong to the FODMAP family. They can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and other IBS symptoms. Avoid all legumes, including beans, lentils, and pulses.

Some Nuts

Most nuts are low-FODMAP, but there are a few that are high in FODMAPs and should be restricted. This includes almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and pistachios. However, some experts suggest that almonds and hazelnuts can be consumed in very small amounts (10 or fewer nuts) in some people.

Certain Sweeteners

As you can imagine, some sweeteners are high in fructans and fructose, which are part of the FODMAP family. Some of the ones you should avoid include honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, isomalt, and any artificial sweetener ending in -ol.

Most Dairy Products

The low-FODMAP diet is almost dairy-free. Lactose is a common trigger for people with IBS and IBD, so lactose-containing foods should be avoided. This includes cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soft cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, and buttermilk.

Some Non-dairy Milks

Oat milk and soy milk are among some of the few non-dairy milks that are considered high-FODMAP. Switch to a low-FODMAP milk alternative that’s high in nutrients. Be careful of non-dairy milks with added FODMAPs, such as artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup.

Recommended Timing

There isn’t an official recommended number of meals per on the low-FODMAP diet. However, the standard is three meals per day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — with light snacking in-between.

Monash University recommends spacing out meals by 3-4 hours. If possible, leave a couple of hours in-between snacks and meals.
Some other recommendations include:

  • Consume limited fruit, especially in the same meal.
  • Get a variety of foods instead of consuming the same meals repeatedly. Since the diet is already restrictive, be sure to consume a variety of the compliant foods to maximize nutrient intake.
  • Make water your main beverage. Though coffee and some teas are allowed, water can help move stools easier through the digestive tract.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

Resources and Tips

Following a low-FODMAP diet requires that you pay special attention to your meals, which can take some planning. Here’s how to make the transition smoother:

Download the FODMAP app

Monash University released an official app called the FODMAP app. It allows you to track your food intake, view recommended foods, and access 80+ recipes. It’s also packed with information on the diet, including a complete FODMAP breakdown on common foods.

Look for low-FODMAP certified foods

You can still have certain breads, cereals, pastas, and grains which are excellent sources of fortified nutrients and fiber. Products that are low-FODMAP certified make it easy to shop and even easier to follow the diet.

Focus on Variety

Following the low-FODMAP diet already requires you to step out of your comfort zone, but you should also make an effort to consume a wide variety of the compliant foods. It’s easy to stick to foods you know, such as meat and potatoes, but challenge yourself to get in lots of low-FODMAP vegetables and grains to meet your vitamin, mineral, and fiber requirements.

Buy Seasonal Produce

The low-FODMAP diet offers dozens of fruits and vegetables to choose from, but fresh produce is expensive. To make the diet more cost-effective, buy produce that’s in-season as it’s usually more affordable. Frozen fruit and vegetables can also be more cost-effective.

Modifications

Many people with IBS and IBD also have allergies or food intolerances. Some common allergens include dairy, soy, gluten, nuts, and shellfish. Here’s how to follow the low-FODMAP diet without risking an allergic reaction:

  • Dairy-free: The low-FODMAP diet is almost entirely dairy-free. To make it totally dairy-free, skip the soft cheeses and lactose-free products. There are plenty of other ways you can get your calcium without milk. Plus, you can use a low-FODMAP non-dairy milk instead.
  • Gluten-free: Many people are surprised to find out that the low-FODMAP diet has gluten-containing foods. They’re not required, though. Simply opt for gluten-free grains like brown rice and quinoa instead of barley and rye.
  • Soy-free: Soy milk is not allowed on the low-FODMAP diet, but tofu and tempeh are. To make this diet soy-free, forego the soy protein options. There are other sources of protein, such as nuts and animal products, that you can consume instead.
  • Allergen-friendly: It can be difficult to adopt a low-FODMAP diet that’s allergen-friendly, but it’s not impossible. If you have allergies to certain foods allowed on the low-FODMAP diet, include tree nuts and shellfish, simply avoid them. There aren’t any foods that are required on this diet, so choose other options from the list of compliant foods.

Similarly, you may need to make modifications for the following:

  • Vegan: It’s common for vegans to rely on beans, lentils, and split peas for protein. However, those foods are high-FODMAP. This can make it difficult for vegans to get enough protein on a low-FODMAP food. Fortunately, low-FODMAP foods like tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, quinoa, oats, and amaranth are all sources of plant-based protein. 
  • Vegetarian: Unlike vegans, vegetarians consume dairy products. Since the low-FODMAP diet restricts dairy products containing lactose, vegetarians should choose non-dairy or lactose-free dairy products instead. Like vegans, vegetarians should also consume plenty of low-FODMAP plant-based proteins.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women have additional nutritional needs. The researchers at Monash University have not conducted a study on the effects of a low-FODMAP diet during pregnancy, so they do not recommend it. However, pregnant women can limit their intake of foods they are sensitive to.
  • Children: Growing children also have specific nutritional needs. Restrictive diets usually aren’t recommended for children because of this. There is no current research on the safety of a low-FODMAP diet for children. Many children suffer from IBS symptoms, especially constipation. If your child has uncomfortable digestive symptoms, see a pediatrician about a supervised diet low in FODMAPs.
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