What should I eat?
This question comes up quite frequently for people when they embark on the Low FODMAP diet. For people with IBS, the Low FODMAP diet can do wonders to identify their food-related triggers, but at the same time this elimination diet can feel quite restrictive. Sometimes finding foods you can eat...that you want to eat, can feel like a challenge (especially when you are hungry and want something to eat NOW, right?!)
Since I know how challenging it can be to find appropriate snacks, I decided to put together a list of savory snacks that are suitable on the Low FODMAP diet. (For those with a sweet tooth, another list is coming…)
Snacks can mean different things to different people. A snack can be a nutritious ‘mini’ meal, in between main meals OR a snack can be something that we eat for enjoyment (as in when you care craving something salty or crunchy and not necessarily to meet your nutritional needs). Some of the snacks listed will be more balanced and will provide a healthier mix of nutrients, while others are foods that may be eaten for pure enjoyment. This list is more about FODMAPs, or lack thereof, rather than nutrition as a primary focus.
All my recommendations come with a caveat - please check ingredients lists of any packaged foods. Companies can change the ingredients of their recipes without much notice. So, while my recommendations are low FODMAP, it’s best to double check ingredients lists on packages to be sure.
GRAB AND GO SNACKS
These snacks are literally grab and go. Or grab and open. They require no prep for those times when you are busy, tired or just don’t want to make anything.
Gluten Free Pretzels
Gluten free pretzels are a great low FODMAP snack. They provide a bit of crunch and salt, if that’s what you crave. If you can’t find any of the gluten free varieties, you can safely enjoy some regular pretzels but need to keep the serving size to ½ cup (or 21 grams) to keep the FODMAP (oligo-fructan) content low. Some gluten free pretzels, like those from Snyder’s of Hanover, are made from corn starch, potato starch and tapioca starch, all of which are very low in FODMAPs. While it doesn’t appear that gluten free pretzels have been tested (there’s nothing on the MONASH app at the time of writing this), you will very likely be able to enjoy more than the ½ cup serving that you are limited to with the regular varieties of pretzels.
Cheese portion (snack size):
If you’ve visited the dairy section (or even the deli) of the grocery store lately, you may have noticed packages of individually wrapped cheese - from cheddar, mozza, havarti to Monterey Jack. Typically these snack-sized cheeses are in 20 gram portions, which is great news for those meticulously following the Low FODMAP diet because Monash lists safe servings sizes for most hard cheeses at 40 grams. This means 2 of these little cheese packages are safe to eat!
If you like a bit of fruit with your cheese, you can pair it with a safe serving of fruit such as 1 cup of grapes.
Ok...so not all potato chips are low FODMAP. Plain potato chips (i.e. just potatoes, oil and salt) are certainly low FODMAP. It’s just when the flavourings come into play that you may be dealing with high FODMAP ingredients. If you are in Canada, ingredients like onion and garlic don’t need to be listed separately (but sometimes are) so if you are unsure about a particular type of potato chip, contact the company to find out if sneaky FODMAPs are hiding in the flavourings or seasonings.
A caution I do have with potato chips is that because they are fried, sometimes people with IBS have trouble with them. You may tolerate a lot of chips, or you may need to limit your portion size...and it has nothing to do with the FODMAP content.
Corn tortilla chips
Plain tortilla chips are another low FODMAP snack that’s quick and easy. If you’re partial to having salsa with your tortilla chips, you will have to be careful. Most commercial salsas do have onion (and probably garlic, too) which makes them high FODMAP. Luckily, there are at least two commercially made low FODMAP salsas out there available in Canada (or to be shipped to) - one by Fody and the other by Casa De Sante. If you have a bit more time, you can always whip up your own, low FODMAP pico de gallo/salsa by combining chopped tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and jalapenos/chilis, if tolerated.
According to the Monash app, the safe serving size of corn tortilla chips is 50g or about 2 cups.
Lundberg Rice Chips
If you’re looking to deviate a little from plain potato or tortilla chips, you may want to search out Lundberg Rice Chips (seasalt flavour) or their Rice and Quinoa Chips (Pink Himalayan Salt flavour). Unfortunately, their other chip flavours appear to be higher in FODMAPs due to either onion, garlic or milk ingredients.
Since these chips haven’t been tested for their FODMAP content, I’d probably stick to a serving size similar to those of corn chips (above) which is about 50g or 2 cups. A bigger serving size would probably be tolerated as the chips ingredients are primarily rice (and either corn or quinoa) but to be on the safe side, I’d first start out with no more than 2 cups.
While you do have to be careful with nuts on the Low FODMAP diet, they are such a good snack that they shouldn’t be totally discounted. The trick with nuts while on the elimination portion of this diet is to choose the right ones and watch the portion size. Nuts are easy to overeat, take care to note the safe serving sizes below.
Macadamia nuts: 20 nuts*
Pecans: 10 halves
Almonds: 10 nuts
Hazelnuts: 10 nuts
Peanuts: 32 nuts
Walnuts: 10 halves
*although the safe serving of macadamia nuts is 20 nuts, they are quite an oily nut. Large portions of these nuts may irritate your IBS.
As you can see, many of these portions aren’t that large but if you enjoy nuts in conjunction with other grab and go snacks, like low FODMAP fruit or cheese portions, they can be a part of a satisfying snack.
If you crave a bit of salt and tanginess now and then, olives may just be what you are looking for. Of course, olives aren’t the best stand alone snack but to satisfy a salty craving they just may do the trick.
According to the Monash FODMAP app, green and black pitted olives contain only trace amounts of FODMAPs and are able to be eaten “freely”. That being said, it does also suggest a serving size of 15 small olives or ½ cup which is a pretty reasonable serving size for olives.
Remember to check the ingredients list of olives to ensure they don’t contain any high FODMAP ingredients.
Roasted Seaweed (Nori) Snacks
Nori snacks, those little packages of roasted and salted seaweed, are also low FODMAP. Actually, according to Monash, FODMAPs were not detected in this food. That means you can snack on these without worrying about limiting it to a certain amount. Look for the nori snacks without high FODMAP ingredients, as there are some garlic flavoured ones around. Choose the simple ones flavoured only with a light amount of salt - and you’ll be fine.
SNACKS IN 10 MINUTES OR LESS
These snacks require a little work...but not too much. Sometimes you have to put a little effort into your snacks. These snacks require minimal effort and cooking skills.
Low FODMAP crackers and toppings:
Crackers are great vehicles for toppings and just because you’re temporarily on the Low FODMAP diet, doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some crackers with a tasty topping.
Plain rice crackers are, for the most part, low FODMAP. Remember that different brands have different ingredients, so double check ingredients list for any sneaky high FODMAP contents (like inulin!). Besides rice crackers, Mary’s Gone Crackers are a delicious cracker. Made with brown rice, quinoa, flax and sesame seeds, these crackers are really satisfying if you tend to like “seedy” products.
According to the Monash app (as of August 2019) the following are safe servings sizes for cracker toppings:
Cheddar, Havarti, or Swiss cheese: 1 serving is 2 slices or 40g (⅓ cup).
Brie or Camembert cheese: 2 wedges or 40g (~¼ cup)
Cream cheese: 2 tablespoons
Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons
Almond butter: 1 tablespoon
Strawberry jam (check ingredients for FODMAPs): 2 tablespoons
Orange marmalade (check ingredients for FODMAPs): 2 tablespoons
Corn Thins (Original)
Corn thins are another great vehicle for toppings. Made of only corn, sunflower oil and salt, corn thins (original flavour) are part cracker, part popcorn and are particularly delicious with:
peanut butter (limit 2 tbsp) and sliced (yellow) banana
cream cheese (limit 2 tbsp) and strawberry jam (limit 2 tbsp)
slice of cheddar cheese, tomato, avocado (limit ⅛ whole avocado), and a basil leaf
Monash limits Corn Thins to 1 “cracker” but one Corn Thin with the right toppings can still make a satisfying snack.
Homemade popcorn is a great low FODMAP snack and is safe at a serving size of 7 cups. Top with butter, salt or even nutritional yeast (contains only trace amounts of FODMAPs, can be eaten freely) to dress up this classic snack.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are a great quick-ish snack. Eggs are high in protein and packed with nutrients. If you like eggs but don’t feel like you have the time it takes to boil (and cool them off enough not to burn your fingers peeling them), you can pre-boil eggs and keep a supply of hard boiled eggs in the fridge.
Pair your hard boiled eggs with some low FODMAP crackers, a toasted piece of sourdough bread, a small handful (5) of cherry tomatoes or simply with a small sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Tuna salad is simple and satisfying snack. Even if you’re not too confident in the kitchen, it’s definitely something that can be made with minimal effort or skill. Simply mix tuna with a low FODMAP mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s) and there you have it - tuna salad. Of course you can jazz your tuna salad up a bit with dried dill, chopped up garlic-free dill pickles, or a squeeze of lemon juice (or any other low FODMAP flavour you like).
Tuna salad is great on low FODMAP crackers or toast, or even piled on corn tortilla chips (max serving 2 cups) or sliced cucumber rounds or “coins”.
If you are a fan of tuna, other canned fish may also be up your alley such as canned salmon, sardines or mackerel (remember to take a peek on the ingredients list to make sure the canned fish you choose isn’t packed with any high FODMAP ingredients).