Fodmap Tips and Tricks*


I know I sound completely obsessed by Fodmaps at the moment and I think I probably am. You can’t make a major dietary change and stick to it for life without going a bit tunnel vision in the process. Not only does it help focus your mind, it distracts you from the sense of tedium you get as you eat the same meal again. And again. And again.

I’ve been attempting to be free of my particular Fodmap triggers since just after Christmas so have managed the guts (pun intended) of six months of it and learned plenty along the way so thought I’d share a few nuggets of information I’ve picked up. I’m pretty much fine with wheat and lactose unless I combine them with other Fodmap triggers, so my experiences might not be as helpful for the wheat-free brigade, but you never know.

The main thing I’ve learned is that people will put onions and garlic in every single bloody thing possible. I won’t even be surprised if someone serves me an onion based dessert or sticks a clove of garlic in my cocktail (and yes, I do know there’s a bar called Garlic and Shots in London before you ask. I had a terrible night there once.)

Being an allium dodger in this town is hard. No cuisine completely eschews them and between onions, garlic, shallots, spring onions, leeks and their powdered versions, there’s a lot of ways to add them to things. I find lunchtime easier because not only am I lucky enough to be able to eat a sandwich, eggs are still on the menu before 5pm. Variations of breakfast  and brunch food work well here if you avoid black pudding with its dried onion evilness.

My other lunchtime option is always sushi or sashimi. Not only is it less expensive at lunchtime, it’s now relatively easy to come by on the go (just avoid Marks and Spencer here. Theirs is vile.) Scotch eggs are another potential if you don’t mind a blast of sulphurousness as an accompaniment to lunch. Cocktail sausages are surprisingly filling with a bag of crisps on the side and make any bus journey seem like an actual picnic.

Yet crisps are a Fodmap minefield. Gone forever are my beloved Tayto cheese and onion or a pickled onion Monster Munch, but so are just about any ‘fancy’ versions that sound like a meal in a bag. From prawn cocktail to roast pork with mustard or the suchlike, they will have dried onion in. I have become the person who always chooses ready salted now.

And don’t even think of trying vegetable crisps instead. The beetroot are little deep fried Fodmap bombs covered in salt. Kale chips smell like death itself and come doused in onion powder or garlic salt. Prawn crackers and mini poppadoms should be surrounded at parties and guarded fiercely because they are the only snack foods in town you can still eat. Cashews and pistachios inexplicably have Fodmaps and let’s not even remind ourselves of the existence of dip because it is gone to you forever. Lactose, pulses, vegetables and alliums combine to do their worst here.

Ironically the fact you have to basically give up savoury snacking (and sweet ones if you like Haribo. Those fizzy ones will kill you off trust me) means you will be even hungrier by the time of the main meal which can make it harder to concentrate and spot potential menu pitfalls. Instead of adding joy to life, chorizo adds problems to every dish it finds its porky charms into, which in 2015 is most of them. Soup is a complete no go as all stock will have onions in it. Pasta is problematic as a base and a vehicle for Fodmappy sauces. Pulses have to be avoided and the foodie fascination with avocado and cauliflower with their tricksy little polyols cannot end soon enough for my innards.

In fact this whole ‘healthy’ eating kick at the moment that constantly replaces certain foodstuffs with fruit and veg products is a nightmare for me. Date syrup or agave instead of sugar, root veg instead of flour, cauliflower instead of rice, green juicing and smoothies, all agonising for me. Especially accompanied with the constant refrain that they are ‘healthier’ so I end up with envy of other people’s cast iron digestive systems as I politely shuffle their wonder food round my plate without being able to eat it.

My failsafe on most menus these days is steak and chips or salmon and potatoes which means that ‘ethnic’ food tends to be a no no. I may think I’m all cosmopolitan living in Brixton but my small bowel is acting like UKIP and classing everything as ‘foreign muck’ to be viewed with culinary suspicion. About all I can eat from outside Northern Europe is dim sum and some Vietnamese dishes. On a recent trip to The Real Greek, the only thing on the entire menu I could safely eat were the boiled potatoes. Thank god for white wine.

Because the Fodmap fun doesn’t stop with drinks. Oh no, fruit juice is a complete no go for me now along with anything dandelion, fennel, chicory or chamomile based. Cocktails have to be checked carefully for certain juices and purees and rogue agave syrup. Red wine bloats me and gives me terrible hangovers in any amount. Beer, except oddly Guinness, is an occasional treat. Luckily prosecco and cava work fine as do espresso martinis, so I’m sure I’ll survive Happy Hour if not the main meal itself.

After years of mocking those people, I now understand why they bring their own portion of fish to be steamed alongside some rice. Only now that I’m in eating disorder recovery do I actually look strange around food. Alanis Morrissette would have a field day.

I’ve tried the Monash University Fodmap app and it’s mainly only been useful in acquainting me with the names of fruit and vegetable varieties. I cannot become the person who asks if the tomatoes in the sauce are baby plums or cherry or vine ripened after some of the responses from wait staff to queries about garlic and onions. I see why people with food intolerances stick to chains where they serve the same thing repeatedly and can consult their big binder of facts. Wahaca were helpful and can adapt five or six dishes for me. Nandos suggested the chips and shrugged on everything else but since I live in South London I can always go to the chicken shop on the way home or simply eat before I go out.

So if anyone has any tips on Fodmap free dips or tips on what the hell to serve wheat and dairy free Fodmappers who of course can’t eat fruit for dessert, do tell me in the comments. I’ll buy you a drink in thanks. We should both be ok with soda water…

*the trick is that you can’t live without potatoes on this diet.

12 replies
  1. claire
    claire says:

    Hi there, what about taramasalata as a dip? it’s basically fish roe, bread, oil and lemon (see david lebovitz’ version here would that work? or is the lemon a no-go?
    as for non dairy non gluten dessert, is soy milk ok? if yes, you could give Heidi Swanson’s dairyless chocolate mousse from super natural cooking a try (you’d probably have to skip the almond extract/amaretto, but it still tastes good without)
    Stay strong and thanks for sharing, I’m sure fellow fodmappers appreciate the effort

  2. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Claire: sadly most Fodmappers can’t eat bread because it’s wheat based so taramasalata is out. It also usually contains onion or garlic. Gluten isn’t the issue in this diet so GF flours don’t work. It’s the sugars in the wheat, rye and barley so things must be completely free of those grains.

    Also soy isn’t feasible on this diet as it is a legume and all legumes are high Fodmap. This is the kicker with this diet in that the standard alternatives don’t work and are often as bad if not worse than the original. But I’m going to look at that dairyless mousse and see if I could adapt to another plant milk. How did I forget about chocolate mousse existing?

  3. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Claire: hang on a moment, I see mention of potato in this dip. I’m off to investigate that immediately!

  4. claire
    claire says:

    sorry I didn’t get it right! 🙁 The bread is only for texture in taramasalata, hopefully it shouldn’t be too hard to sub it. Another idea for a fishy potatoey dip is cod brandade, skipping the onion (maybe replace it with a bay leaf?) and using an adequate plant milk to soak the cod. As a variation on sashimi, what about Peruvian ceviche (without the onion) for starters? generally peruvian cuisine has plenty of starch and few veggies (just need to dodge the ubiquituous red onion!) have you looked into it?

  5. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    Claire: don’t worry, the diet is super confusing but your ideas are great. Hadn’t thought of brandade at all and it’s a corker of an idea. And adapting ceviche is brilliant. I could use the green tops of spring onions instead (which are ok). You’ve been a huge help! Thank you!

  6. tomatoesandradiowire
    tomatoesandradiowire says:

    I second the chocolate mousse idea – Rude Health have started to sell hazelnut milk, so you could to a Nutella-lke concoction. Or f you could get your hands on vegan dark chocolate, would old-school macaroons work? You haven’t mentioned coconut as problematic…

    Speaking of macaroons, I have had a thought – for people who need to be wheat-free and dairy-free, you may want to have a look at Jewish recipes which are “Kosher for Passover” – these will be free of all grains, and because of the prohibition on mixing milk and meat (or eating milk after meat) they tend to be dairy free as well.

  7. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    My husband pointed out that Jains don’t eat garlic or onions, might be a cuisine worth exploring?

  8. misspiggy
    misspiggy says:

    If you were in North London, Turkish food might be a good eat-out option: tons of lovely grills, not usually coated in anythng as far as I know, with rice?

  9. Phil
    Phil says:

    Careful with the mini poppadoms – gram flour is chickpea flour so technically only small amounts allowed on FODMAPS 🙁

  10. Rhodesian red
    Rhodesian red says:

    I’ve just made a great carrot dip, roasted carrots, 2 tsp peanut butter, salt, pepper, juice of a lemon and lots of fresh coriander plus olive oil to whiz it up

  11. Ann Marie
    Ann Marie says:

    I have a great recipe for a desert
    Turkish orange cake
    2 large oranges (unpeeled). 6 eggs, 1 cup caster sugar, 2 tbsp lemon juice,1 tsp baking powder,280 grams ground almonds.
    Put the oranges in a saucepan cover with cold water bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Drain and leave until cold. Cut them into quarters and remove all pips and put into a large food processor and process until finely pulverized. Add the eggs, sugar and lemon juice and process for 1 minute. Add baking powder and ground almonds then pulse until mixed, do not over process pour into a well greased and floured and lined 23 cm cake tin. Bake at 180c for 50 to 60 minutes or fan bake at 160c for 50 minutes until golden in color and skewer comes out clean. Stand for 10 minutes before turning out dust with icing sugar and serve with either dairy yogurt or coconut yogurt

  12. Em
    Em says:

    Am three days into the elimination phase, and desperately searching out anything and everything written about low FODMAP eating. This is one of the best (and funniest) articles I have read! Thanks for all the tips, am squirreling them all away. It currently feels like a minefield of potentially bad food decisions, but I have to say, my gut is seriously thanking me for taking this on. 🙂

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