Food is often an important part of the holiday season – which can make following a specialized diet during this time seem daunting. In my practice, I have heard many clients disclose to me weeks ago that they are concerned about how the low FODMAP plan will fit into their holiday plans. As such, I am sharing my top tips below with you, so you can properly plan, set expectations and develop an action plan that works best for you!
Consider Swaps for Your Favorite Recipes
Holidays often come along with traditional recipes that can spark nostalgia and joy. My number one tip to clients during this time of year is to see how you can take your favorite family recipes and swap out some high FODMAP ingredients, so you can enjoy your holiday traditions and manage your symptoms. Of course, some dishes may be easier than others to convert to a low FODMAP recipe, but the following tips can help to get you started:
- Swap out milk for lactose-free milk (This is a great tip for mashed potatoes, which may use milk and cream cheese. Simply swap out the milk and cream cheese for lactose-free options and no one will even notice the difference!)
- Swap out broth for a low FODMAP broth option, whether this is purchased or homemade. This can be used for soups, but it can also be used as a base for certain dishes (such as rice or quinoa, chicken dishes, or any other dish where you would use broth for added flavor).
- Omit garlic and garlic powder and swap traditional oil for garlic-infused oil, so you can enjoy some garlic flavor without the FODMAPs!
- Utilize the green parts of scallions and leeks so you can enjoy some onion-like flavor.
- Swap out honey for pure maple syrup – this works well in most baking recipes, but I also love cooking with pure maple syrup for some added fall flavor!
Embrace Trying New Recipes
One benefit to following an elimination diet, such as the low FODMAP diet, is that you can also embrace trying new foods and new recipes. Trying something new for the holidays can help you to keep a positive mindset, rather than focusing on some once-loved foods that may not have loved you back! With so many low FODMAP cookbooks and online recipes available, there are bound to be some recipes that excite you! Take some time to plan your holiday meal and bookmark some recipes that seem appealing and feasible.
Communicate with Holiday Hosts
If you are not hosting the holiday, consider how comfortable you are communicating your dietary needs with the host. Due to the current pandemic, it is likely that your holiday table is potentially filled with only immediate family this year, which may make this communication easier. Regardless, speak up if you are comfortable sharing your dietary needs with the host – oftentimes, people are happy to accommodate dietary needs and would rather know in advance, so they can plan their menu accordingly. Not comfortable? Offer to bring a dish that you know you can tolerate, so you are sure to have some options at the table.
Consider Additional Methods of Symptom Management
Holiday time can be joyous, but this time of year can also be stressful and busy! Remember that diet is not the only form of symptom management for IBS and, in fact, symptoms may be triggered by non-dietary factors. Focusing on self-care, including proper sleep hygiene, stress management, setting boundaries and eating regular, balanced meals and snacks, should play a primary role in your IBS management during this time of year (and, truly, throughout the rest of the year, as well). Additionally, it may be helpful to keep an emergency “toolkit” to help soothe symptoms if you do experience some not-so-great days. Depending on your needs, this may include medications and supplements on an as needed basis, a list of things to do when you feel stressed, a journal, or anything else that may be helpful for you. Your healthcare team can help you to determine the best “toolkit” for you and assist you with a variety of ways to mitigate the potential triggers that may come along with the holiday season.
Take Some Stress Off Your Plate…And Fill Your Plate with Convenient, Delicious, Low FODMAP Food!
If the thought of cooking new recipes or altering traditional recipes stresses you out or if you prefer a hybrid option, take some stress off of your plate and consider trying options from Epicured’s Thanksgiving menu. Epicured is offering a range of dishes, from the main event (turkey!) to sides and desserts – including rosemary whipped potatoes, pumpkin soup, stuffing, and their famous Baker’s Box – all low FODMAP and delivered to your door with no prep or dishwashing required. You can check out their full Thanksgiving menu here:
With the holiday season upon us, it is understandable if you feel nervous that there may be hurdles ahead. However, it is important to remember that you can choose whether or not you would like to follow the low FODMAP guidelines to a tee during this time – or not. You may decide to step out during the holiday and endure some GI discomfort, which is completely your choice. Alternatively, you may prefer how you feel when you follow the guidelines and take some extra effort to ensure that your holiday table has plenty of low FODMAP options. Or, you may opt for a bit of a mix – meaning you can lessen your FODMAP load and likely ensure some discomfort, but this discomfort may be minimized by including low FODMAP options, as well, and focusing on additional methods of symptom management. Either way, remember that the holiday is one day and you can get back on track afterward if things go awry. Food should be celebrated – not stressed over – and setting a plan, keeping a positive mindset and adjusting your actions in a way that works best for you is going to be the best plan of action!