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WIAW #5: FODMAPing with Family

Visiting friends or family while you’re on the low-FODMAP diet is not easy. But don’t let that stop you from spending time with your loved ones!

Thankfully, my mom and dad are very supportive. They’ve also been with me through an eating disorder, recovery from an eating disorder, and a lot of gastrointestinal distress. So they know that something was really up with my eating patterns for a while: that I was trying to learn how to eat intuitively, according to my hunger and fullness signals, but still eating very little, feeling depressed and anxious, and feeling very uncomfortable after small meals. They’ve also seen how, since going low-FODMAP, I eat more, I’m focused, cheerful, and I feel better physically. For that reason, they’re pretty willing to feed me what I need to eat.

What I Ate Wednesday Button

For today’s What I Ate Wednesday, I’ll be sharing the meals I’ve been sharing with family. Trust me: when you have a lot of food intolerances, it is a special blessing when someone is willing to prepare meals you can eat.

DSCN0718For example, Mom used lactose-free milk and substituted green onion for the regular onion so that I could enjoy her potato corn chowder. (I have a variation on this recipe here on the blog.) Served with popcorn, because that is how my mom’s family all eat soup: with popcorn. Try it.


Experimenting with a new low-FODMAP mug cake recipe based on this one from Running with Spoons. Still not perfect, but it’s getting close.

But there have also been times when I’ve visited other family members, such as my aunt and my grandparents, for shorter and longer stays, as well as friends. And when I’m do that, I’m asking a lot of patience. A lot. The low-FODMAP diet is complicated, especially for someone who’s never heard of it before. And, when I’m having a flare-up (as I often do when I’m traveling), it’s hard for them to believe that it’s doing me any good.

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Made one of my favorite recipes–Greek chicken quinoa bowls–to share with my folks on Monday night.

So far, many of my friends and family have been wonderfully understanding and accommodating. And there are some great blog posts out there for hosts and guests for how to prepare for a guest on the low-FODMAP diet.

Just know that if you go into your Grandma’s house this Easter and tell her you can’t have her honey-baked ham, even though it used to be your favorite, because some you’re following a new diet developed in Australia, the reaction may or may not be so positive.

They may be amazing. They may be the type of extremely-kind-but-honestly-a-bit-over-compensating friends and family who will make you several special dishes, explain to you what’s in everything, and make you feel very grateful but a smidgen guilty at all their hard work.

They may do their best to accommodate, but be a bit skeptical and ask you a bunch of questions. They might list off all the ingredients in the green bean casserole, but forget to mention the garlic. They may ask if you mind eating a bowl of Cheerios while you’re salivating over their delicious-looking French toast casserole.

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That said, I tried Cheerios the other day, something I’d been hesitating to do because the FODMAPs cut-off for oats limits you to one serving size. Who only eats one serving size of cereal? But ohmygoodness. All I’ve wanted to eat since then is Cheerios.

Or, they may not understand at all. They might go on a tirade about how everyone in the world is following some crazy fad diet these days and it’s all a conspiracy on the part of the leftist government to destroy the agricultural industry, as well as the result of the fact that children don’t play outside anymore, and remind you that beef is good for you. I hope they don’t do that to you, but they might.

Whatever you do, do your best to:

  1. Give them a heads-up. Provide them with educational materials, such as this handout from Kate Scarlata, if you think that would be helpful. I always call ahead of time, explain my situation, ask if they are willing and able to accommodate, and offer to bring food.
  2. Be helpful. Offer to bring a dish, help cook, help grocery shop, provide a recipe, or even eat before you arrive, if that would be the easiest.
  3. If you’re staying for a longer visit, bring some of your own staples. I often bring gluten-free bread, maybe lactose-free milk, and a few snack items like bananas, nuts, low-FODMAP granola bars or crackers.


    Simple cheese sandwiches–gluten free bread with mayonnaise, sliced red pepper and Swiss cheese. Strawberries on the side. Sandwiches are an easy meal I can share with my family just by making sure we have Udi’s bread on hand.

  4. Have reasonable expectations. Don’t expect to be accommodated on every dish, but instead focus on one or two dishes the host could easily modify for you. Don’t expect your host to spend absurd amounts of money or have every allowed and disallowed food on the diet memorized. Don’t get mad at them for having questions. You get the idea.
  5. Be grateful. Whatever their reaction, say thank you for any accommodation they are willing to provide. Remember that they are going out their way to feed a FODMAPer; you know this because you go out of your own way to feed yourself.


    While I was grading papers on Tuesday afternoon, Mom stopped by the grocery store to get us some pork chops. She roasted them up with potatoes, green beans, and red peppers, seasoned with olive oil and dried basil. Delicious!

  6. Stay calm and try to stay positive. If, for example, you find out the green bean casserole has garlic in it, say, “Thank you for offering! I’m afraid garlic tends to bother my tummy, though. It looks delicious, but there’s plenty else here I can eat.”
  7. Remember that IBS flare-ups suck–and they do suck–but they won’t kill you. If you accidentally eat something that you fear might cause a flare-up, don’t panic. There are people in the world who have deadly food allergies, and if you are not one of them, thank goodness you are not one of them.


    Went out for family with Applebee’s on Saturday night. Ordered a steak and potatoes with gravy, even though I knew it probably wouldn’t be strictly low-FODMAP. And I was fine!

IBS sucks, but don’t let it ruin your life and relationships. Find a way when you can.

Do you have any food intolerances or allergies? Do you find your friends and family to be accommodating?

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  1. Emily says:

    I love the staying calm and positive! It’s so much more important to treasure the relationships than to worry about the diet. I’m glad you were prepared, and I hope it was a blessing.

  2. I definitely understand trying to eat with family while also having a lot of restrictions. Luckily (or rather unluckily…) lots of my family members have allergies too – the only trouble is when they cook something that suits their own specific needs and insist it will also fit mine. Also luckily/unluckily, my boyfriend’s family has a lot of restrictions too, so I was never worried about seeming high maintenance with eating with them either!

    1. Joyce says:

      Ha! There’s a cartoon my family often jokes about where the couple are planning a dinner party with all their various family member’s food intolerances, and decide the only thing they can serve is Mentos. Glad to hear your family are supportive!

  3. Sacha says:

    Thanks for the link to low fodmap for life!

    1. Joyce says:

      Sure thing–I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that post I linked to.

  4. Cora says:

    This is such a wonderful resource for anyone with IBS – or any diet limitations. It can feel really isolating, even embarrassing and guilty for some, when you have to admit to not being able to eat something or needing to follow you own specific regimen. But at the end of the day you are what matters and you need to do whats best for you. And it can always be done with gratitude and kindness.
    It’s so wonderful your family is supportive and seems to really be doing what they can to make sure you are included and comfortable. Go moms!!

    1. Joyce says:

      Moms are seriously the best.

  5. I’m so glad you’ve found a way of eating that makes you feel good!

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