Top Tips for Navigating Christmas Menus

Top Tips for Navigating Christmas Menus

As December is coming to an end, we all get excited for the joy and celebration of Christmas. Indulgent holiday meals and eating out are central around this time of the year as loved ones make plans to get together. If you have IBS, this time of the year can bring up a lot of stress and anxiety around the uncertainty and fear digestive symptoms.

Here are some tips for navigating Christmas menus to help you relax and enjoy the holiday:

1. Planning and research

Near the end of December, we usually get bombarded with invitations to one thing or another. It’s a good idea to schedule these events so that they are spaced out throughout the month. If you tend to get a symptom flare after eating out, you will need a few days in between to rest and give your gut the recovery time.

Take the initiative to choose the restaurants if you can. If you can’t, before you go, browse their online menu to see if there is a dish that works for you.

Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call them in advance. I’ve done this lots of times and the restaurant staff are always friendly. Ask how the food is prepared and ask about possible adjustments to the dish. Remember, prioritizing your well-being and enjoyment of the meal is worth the 10-minute hassle. The restaurant staff won’t be offended!

2. Choose customizable dishes on the menu with low FODMAP toppings

Many dishes are difficult to customize because they’re made in advance. For example, sauces, gravies, and soups. But some dishes are put together just before serving.

Here’s a list of easily customizable menu items so you can pick your low FODMAP toppings:

Dishes Pro tips


  • Choose low FODMAP vegetable base and topping with simple dressing on the side.
  • Sandwiches/wraps
  • Choose gluten-free bread, low FODMAP ingredients, and condiments on the side
  • Mixed stir-fry dishes
  • Use rice or rice noodles
  • Ask for no garlic and onions
  • Add a protein (beef, chicken, tofu, shrimp)
  • Sushi
  • Mind the avocado portion size if it’s a trigger for you
  • Add a side of salad, fried tofu, or edamame
  • Bowls
  • Quinoa or brown rice based bowls with low FODMAP toppings
  • Add a protein (beef, chicken, tofu, shrimp)
  • Ask for sauce on the side

Grilled steak, chicken or fish


• Ask for light seasoning with salt, pepper and herbs
• Choose low FODMAP starch (baked potato, rice, or quinoa) and add a side of garden salad

3. Think about your drinks

  • Alcohol, regardless of FODMAP content, irritates your gut and can give you the runs. Keep to about 1-2 drinks per day depending on your gut tolerance.
  • Low FODMAP alcoholic drinks are beer, wine, gin, vodka, whiskey. Use soda water and cranberry juice as your mixer.
  • Peppermint or ginger tea after dinner is an excellent choice to soothe the tummy
  • Warm up with a hot cocoa with lactose-free milk

4. Lightning round tips!

  • Be a bit mindful during the holidays and eat low FODMAP when you’re home. This leaves more room for unexpected FODMAPs when you’re dining out.
  • Eat regularly every 3-4 hours and don’t skip meals.
  • Keep a handy IBS kit on you with the essentials: peppermint oil capsules, enzymes (e.g. lactase or Beano), low FODMAP snack bars, medications, and travel-sized wet wipes.
  • It’s okay to say “No” to food offers or invitations, or eat a bit in advance and just go for the company. Schedule in your “me time” to rest and recuperate.
Keeping your symptoms at bay during the holiday doesn’t have to be so challenging. When you spend a little bit of time planning, you spend a lot less energy problem solving and reacting all day long. Not to mention painful symptoms and recovery time.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy tummy!

Nikki Le, RD is a Monash FODMAP trained dietitian with a virtual and in-person private practice in Toronto, Canada. She specializes in nutrition management of IBS by using an evidence-based approach and fostering a healthy relationship with food. Her hope is to help clients find joy and happiness in food and overcome IBS symptoms so they can do the things they love.

Instagram: @ibs.fodmap.nutrition



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