The low-FODMAP diet can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out. The diet takes time, patience and commitment, but even when best prepared, mistakes can happen.
If you’ve found you’ve made a mistake while on the Elimination Phase, don’t beat yourself up (your gut doesn’t need the added stress). Try your best to be prepared – have a plan, do your homework, and if possible, work with a registered dietitian trained in the low-FODMAP diet.
So as you make your way on your low-FODMAP journey, I have listed some common mistakes to avoid.
The 6 Most Common Mistakes in the Low-FODMAP Diet
1. Using an out of date low-FODMAP list
Unfortunately, not all low-FODMAP lists you will find are up to date with the latest research. I’ve had many people send me the famous list from Stanford University or from other online sources that have not been updated. You may trust your gastroenterologist who has diagnosed you with IBS and asked you to start the diet, but unfortunately, even some gastros who know about the low-FODMAP diet are giving away outdated information. What can you do?
- Download a free copy of my grocery list here.
- Download apps which list the most recent research for foods high or low in FODMAPs. Use these apps on the go, while choosing meals off a menu for your lunch break or for dinner, or while grocery shopping.
- Download the FODMAP Friendly app ($2.99 USD)
- Download the Monash FODMAP app
- Like my Facebook page for updates on the diet – new foods that have been tested and new research on the diet, digestive health, the gut microbiome, and mind-body health tips
2. Not properly reading labels or asking your server
When you set off on your trip to the grocery store (with your list or app in hand of course) it can be tempting (and convenient) to buy packaged and processed foods. While the best approach to health and this diet is making meals and snacks from scratch, not all of us have the time. This is why you will need to set aside extra time to read labels and look out for high-FODMAP ingredients. Read my post here to learn How to Become a High-FODMAP detective.
EA Stewart, MBA, RD, says “It’s not an all-or-nothing diet (meaning you don’t need to go back to day one of the diet if you have any setbacks); Try not to be too anxious over the diet, as this can lead to worse digestive symptoms” – The Spicy RD
3. Thinking gluten-free always means FODMAP-friendly
You may know that the low-FODMAP diet is not a gluten-free diet but rather a diet that excludes high amounts of wheat, and therefore, some gluten-free products become fair game. The caveat to that is that not all gluten-free products are low-FODMAP. Why is that? Take gluten-free bread for example. Some brands make gluten-free bread with honey (high-FODMAP), agave (high-FODMAP), inulin (high-FODMAP), bamboo fiber (not tested yet), molasses (high-FODMAP), and other ingredients.
4. Not planning ahead
Are you planning on having a busy week? Where you work, are there very limited (and unhealthy) dining options? Are you getting ready to go on a trip? Do you often spend a lot of time in the car to work or run errands?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or could answer yes to anything similar (yes we are all busy!) then you need to meal plan dude, honey, sweetie pie. I know cooking isn’t for everyone, but I promise you, once you learn how to meal prep, it will become easier and more enjoyable and make life less stressful. Plus, it will be a new technique that you can use for the rest of your life to keep you and your family healthier.
Dining out, traveling or going to an event? Call ahead of time and speak to a manager or host to see what options you have. When dining out, don’t be shy! Ask your server what’s in the marinade or sauce (high-FODMAP onions, garlic?), or what vegetables are included with your side dish or salad (high-FODMAP artichokes, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, sweet corn, peas, etc.?).
One of the safest approaches to eating out is to ask for your preferred protein to be cooked without a sauce or marinade. Olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, butter, ghee, lemon juice, white wine, herbs, and mustard are all great alternatives. Use olive oil, salt, and pepper as your dressing (and up to 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or try rice wine vinegar if they have it).
When eating out, I know most dressings are full of FODMAPs but also full of unhealthy fats and sugars. I’ll take olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and mustard or just olive oil and herbs and mix it in a small bowl and pour it over my greens.
5. Eating more than one serving of fruit per sitting/meal
You have many fruits to choose from that are low in FODMAPs but did you know that you’re only supposed to stick to one serving of fruit per sitting/meal? This is due to excess fructose and polyols. Fructose is a natural simple sugar found in all fruits and fruit juices in various quantities.
Fruits allowed on the low-FODMAP diet have low levels of fructose, but if you eat too much of one or a couple of low-FODMAP fruits, your gut may be in for some unwanted symptoms. Many fruits also contain polyols (the “P” in FODMAP) in addition to fructose. Polyols can hinder fructose absorption and make symptoms worse.
Below is an abbreviated guide to low-FODMAP servings you can consume as a snack, with your oatmeal or quinoa flakes, in a smoothie and more. Both “Low-FODMAP Serving” columns represent examples of low-FODMAP servings:
|Low-FODMAP Fruit||1 Low-FODMAP Serving||1 Low-FODMAP Serving |
|Blueberries||20 blueberries||10 blueberries + 1/4 medium unripe banana|
|Banana||1 medium unripe banana||½ medium unripe banana + ¼ cup cantaloupe|
|Cantaloupe||½ cup cantaloupe||¼ cup cantaloupe + 10 blueberries|
|Grapes (red, green, black muscatel)||1 cup grapes||½ cup grapes + 1 small peeled kiwi|
|Kiwi||2 small peeled kiwi||1 small peeled kiwi + ½ cup chopped pineapple|
|Pineapple||1 cup, chopped||½ cup chopped pineapple + 5 medium chopped strawberries|
|Strawberries||10 medium, chopped||5 medium chopped strawberries + ½ tablespoon dried cranberries|
6. Staying on the low FODMAP diet Elimination Phase too long
Research suggests that a healthy and varied diet can support a better diversity of friendly microflora in the intestinal tract which in turn helps protect our health. That’s why experts in the digestive health field suggest it’s important NOT to stay on the low-FODMAP diet long-term. If you stay on the diet, you could miss out on healthy foods and food groups that can protect your health and keep your intestinal flora balanced.
Some FODMAPs are prebiotic and probiotic in nature (good for our gut). The prebiotics can promote the growth of good bacteria in your bowel and it’s not ideal to restrict prebiotic fibers over the long-term.
By staying on the low-FODMAP diet long-term you can also compromise your intake of fiber, calcium, and B-vitamins.
Other FODMAPs can also contain phytonutrients which are good for our gut and have health-promoting properties including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and liver-health-promoting activities. 70% of the immune system’s cells are found in the intestinal tract so your immune system can be compromised when your intestinal flora is unbalanced.
“An elimination diet is a learning diet, not a permanently restricted diet”, says Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD. “If you’ve been on the diet for longer than 4 weeks and you just aren’t feeling better, staying on it longer, sadly, is not going to help. Before abandoning it, though, meet with a diet and nutrition expert to make sure you that your diet was truly low in FODMAPs. It’s not an easy project, and sometimes even people who have really worked hard at it are still eating far more FODMAPs than they think they are”.
So I’ll end with this today ~ follow the low-FODMAP diet through all phases so you can understand your “FODMAP threshold” and then go on a modified low-FODMAP diet. And every day ~ don’t forget to add in much-needed “me time,” stress relief, and some exercise (with the approval of your physician of course). Your gut, body, and mind will thank you.
How have you been doing on your low-FODMAP journey? Have you made any mistakes? If so, how were you able to rectify them, or what did you learn? Please comment below!
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Certified Nutritionist Consultant