Christmas is only days away, it can be a busy time and with all the seasonal treats and meals
everyone is looking forward to, it can feel like a minefield for those following low FODMAP.
Christmas is a time of joy and fun but you probably can’t ignore the fact that IBS symptoms are likely
to be worse in this period and, as a follower of FODMAP, you may still need to stick to your diet.
This may be a difficult time of year for following a low FODMAP diet, but planning and preparation
can definitely help.
Try and remain calm and avoid becoming overly anxious ahead of the Christmas Dinner. It is an
important social occasion but, after all, it is only one day of the year and you only have to plan for
one meal and then you can go back to our usual routine. If you have learned relaxation techniques
as part of your therapeutic approach, this is the perfect time to put those new skills to practice and
prevent those unwelcomed stress-related IBS attacks.
It also helps to let your friends and family know about your dietary requirements and keep in mind
that you don’t have to allow those restrictions to be a deal-breaker. Understandably, this task is
daunting in itself. How do you inform your friends and family who are hosting this year’s Christmas
party of all your dietary restrictions without blowing their minds?
Well, you can use your knowledge and experience to build their understanding. You now have a
pretty good knowledge of IBS and what happens to you when you eat various triggering foods and
you can ease them into your low FODMAP regime.
You could explain to them the Low FODMAP diet by saying that FODMAPS are certain types of sugars
that are difficult to digest for people with IBS. That by avoiding these sugars, or having a low amount
of them in your food, you can help control your symptoms and enjoy your meals without having to
worry about them anymore.
One sure way to help the host with your requirements is to actually help prepare the parts of the
meal that are most likely to be high FODMAP. By being practical and proactive, you can show them
how easy it is to substitute those pesky FODMAPS with suitable and easy alternatives.
This way, you can lift the burden from the host and show your family that a low FODMAP meal is
fairly easy to make and as tasty and delicious as any other.
If you can’t be in charge of the cooking, you can eat what will be served for everyone and bring your
own sauces and stuffing to swap the high FODMAP ones. In fact, you might even end up educating
friends and family on the therapeutic paths for those with IBS symptoms, afterall 1 in 8 have them.
So you are unlikely to be the only one with IBS around the table.
A good strategy is to try and eat low FODMAP when you can during the Christmas holiday and start
off with a low FODMAP breakfast (for example smoked salmon, non-dairy cheese spread and gluten
free bagels) and pack low FODMAP snacks if you’re staying with family and friends for the weekend.
That way you won’t risk feeling peckish and diving in on a snack that is likely to lead to a flare-up.
Although roasted meats, baked ham and seafood are suitable options for a low FODMAP Christmas
meal, you need to be careful of seasonings, stuffing and sauces. If you are not in control of preparing
the meat seasoning and stuffing, choose parts of the meat that do not contain high FODMAP
seasoning and remove the stuffing on your plate.
When it comes to sauces, many contain high FODMAP ingredients such as garlic, onion and dairy
products. Avoid creamy sauces like thousand island dressing and those containing high FODMAP
fruit, such as apple sauce.
Most people should be able to tolerate small quantities of cranberry sauce (1 tbsp) and other
condiments such as mint sauce or jelly, home-made gluten-free gravy, mustard, olive oil, fresh
lemon/lime and red wine vinegar.
It would be impossible to cover IBS and Christmas without touching on the topic of alcoholic drinks.
Alcohol can trigger unwanted IBS symptoms, however, saying no to drinking can be hard during the
festive season. Try to avoid drinks like Baileys or cocktails because they are high in fructose and
lactose which may cause some discomfort. If you do choose to have a few drinks over the festive
period best to stick to spirits such as vodka, whiskey and gin, perhaps mixed with soda water and a
wedge of lime.
Christmas food can be daunting when following a low FODMAP diet, however, with a few simple
ideas and adjustments, you can make it FODMAP friendly so that you can have the best time and the
Christmas dinner as enjoyable as ever! If you decide to take a break from the Low FODMAP diet
altogether during the Christmas holiday, try to choose the safest food options first and go gradually
towards those foods that might be less suitable for you. Portions are key in following the FODMAP
diet so try small portions of foods to avoid passing your threshold for symptoms and then restart the
low FODMAP diet after the Christmas break.