A low FODMAP diet can be difficult to navigate, and not just for the person with IBS, but also their loved ones (especially whoever is responsible for the cooking). Importantly, a low FODMAP diet should ideally only be followed by those with IBS, which can add another layer of complexity to family meal preparation.
Eating out can also be a significant source of anxiety for people with IBS, as they often do not want to burden family, friends or chefs with complex dietary requirements. Even very small quantities of some high FODMAP foods can cause significant pain, bloating and embarrassing bowel symptoms in people with IBS, so avoiding key trigger foods can be very important.
If you are a friend or family member of someone with IBS, here are some quick tips to take the stress out of meal preparation!Living with someone with IBS:
1. Endeavor to learn as much as you can about IBS and the low FODMAP diet – attend dietitian appointments with your loved one if you can to offer support and improve your understanding of the 3-phase diet process. Make sure you also have a copy of key resources like the Monash low FODMAP diet booklet or App, especially if you are responsible for the family cooking. Remember - a strict low FODMAP diet is NOT permanent but for 2-6 weeks only. Your family member will also require ongoing support during the re-challenge and re-introduction phases of the diet.
2. Use low FODMAP recipes as a base and cook key high FODMAP ingredients (like onion, garlic or vegetables) separately. Stir these through for the rest of the family at the end of cooking after removing the low FODMAP portion.
3. Swap key high FODMAP ingredients out of your family’s favourite recipes for similar, low FODMAP alternatives (i.e. swap honey for maple syrup, wheat noodles for rice noodles etc. Refer to the Monash FODMAP App for more swap ideas!)
4. Only buy and use costly low FODMAP staples (like low FODMAP bread, breakfast cereal and pasta) for the family member with IBS. This will reduce costs associated with following the diet and minimise unnecessary restrictions on the rest of the family.
5. Keep low FODMAP bread in the freezer and remove slices as required. This will prevent other family members from using this bread and prevent unnecessary waste through spoilage.
6. Serve more low FODMAP grain varieties like quinoa and brown rice with main meals. These are nutritious options that the whole family can enjoy!
Advice for family or friends hosting someone with IBS:
8. If you are cooking for someone with IBS, ask them for a list of foods that they need to avoid – key ingredients to avoid in cooking include onion, garlic and wheat based products. Importantly, ask for a list of foods that they CAN eat! This will really help you to brainstorm suitable recipe and snack ideas to offer.
9. Ask your friend/family member if they have any recipes or resources that you can use, or visit the Monash FODMAP recipe index for ideas.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! If you have an idea in mind, run it past your friend/family member with IBS to check if it is OK or ask them for suggestions about how best to create a low FODMAP version. If in doubt, ask, ask and ask again! Your friend/family member with IBS will really appreciate the effort you are putting in to make the meal suitable and enjoyable for them.