Written by Joanna Baker APD, Everyday Nutrition
‘Tis the season for festivities…gifts, laughter, loved ones and of course food. If you are hosting Christmas at your house or braving a trip to the in-laws, food will invariably be a central part of the day. The chance to indulge in some delicious treats is something that most people look forward to. If, however, you have IBS and follow a low FODMAP diet, then the very idea of navigating Christmas dinner and all the festive treats can make you super anxious instead of excited.
Being low FODMAP doesn’t mean you have to miss out, so here are 7 tips to help you de-stress and enjoy Christmas.
1. Eat mindfully
We know that how we eat has a big influence on IBS symptoms, just like what we eat does. Eating too much, too quickly or talking while eating has been shown to exacerbate IBS symptoms. Mindful eating helps you slow down and really enjoy the experience of eating. People who eat more mindfully have also been shown to enjoy their food more and eat smaller meals.
This Christmas try:
• Taking smaller bites, chewing well, and take time to really taste the food. Listen to your body and stop eating when your satisfied.
• Smiling between each bite. This creates a pause moment and helps the brain feel happy and content.
• Stop once you’ve eaten half of the meal, put your cutlery down and ‘scan’ your body for fullness cues. How much room is left? Are you still hungry, or are you now eating just because the food is there?
2. Eat regularly
This may sound strange, being Christmas and all, but having regular meals is an important part of not over-doing it. Make sure to get a good low FODMAP breakfast and have some low FODMAP snacks prepared and ready to go. This avoids turning up at Christmas lunch ravenous and being tempted by any high FODMAP appetizers on offer. If you are at home or on the road pack low FODMAP fruit, rice crackers, low FODMAP muesli bars, and popcorn. If you are at someone’s house, head for plain or salted mixed nuts or cheeses like swiss, tasty, camembert or even blue cheese.
3. Meat, chicken & fish
FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates, which means that meats, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese and other protein foods are naturally low FODMAP. Avoid stuffing or sauces and for meats that have a glaze or marinade try to avoid the outer section. If you are on meat duty, try making your own stuffing by whizzing up low FODMAP bread into crumbs and seasoning with herbs, spices, orange rind, chives and garlic infused oil. When it comes to seafood, let the produce shine with just a squeeze of lemon juice.
4. Sides & veggies
If you are hosting Christmas go for salads with fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, carrots, radishes and cheese. Hot veggies and sides, like rice, quinoa, potatoes, green beans and zucchini are also great. When it comes to dressings and sauces, you can serve them on the side or opt for infused extra virgin olive oils or vinegars. Cranberry and apple sauce are also popular at Christmas. While these are high FODMAP they should be well tolerated at about a tablespoon, so just don’t go crazy. If you are heading out offer to bring a big salad (low FODMAP of course) that you can fill up on.
5. Pace yourself
Most alcohols are low FODMAP, but they can be a gut irritant so many people with IBS find that they don’t do well with alcohol. Beer, wine and white spirits such as gin or vodka are the safest bet and best enjoyed in moderation. Mixers like fruit juices and diet soft drinks are often problematic, so opt for soda water or regular soft drink (if you are in the USA, make sure to look out for high fructose corn syrup). Try:
• alternating an alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink
• sipping on spritzers or seltzer instead of a full glass of wine
• flavouring sparkling water with fresh strawberries, cucumber or lemon & lime
This is the trickiest for a FODMAP diet. Cakes and mince pies are best avoided. Pavlova made with lactose free cream (or with a lacteeze tablet) and low FODMAP fruit like banana, kiwifruit, passionfruit and berries, lactose free ice cream and jelly are the safest bet. Keep in mind that large amounts of sugar in one sitting can irritate the gut too, so go for quality rather than quantity.
7. Get out for a walk
It doesn’t matter if you do yoga before breakfast, head out for a walk or play backyard cricket with the family. Fresh air and light exercise are great for the soul and digestion.
Everyday Nutrition Founder and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Joanna Baker loves food! Her passion is to help others eat well, be well and feel great, without giving up the foods that they love.
Joanna is a professional member of the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), the Australian Nurses and Midwives Federation (ANMF) and is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) as a Division 1 Registered Nurse.
Joanna completed the Monash FODMAP Training course for Dietitians in 2016 and again in 2018.