This week my nutrition student volunteer Mikaela is back with another great guest post! Her last post was about vegetarianism and the low FODMAP diet. Now I’m excited to share 12 Tips for a Healthy Vegetarian or Vegan Low FODMAP Diet! Have questions for Mikaela or I? Leave them in the comments down below!
Many believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet is inherently healthy. In truth, it is possible for anyone to have an unhealthy or inadequate diet, including vegetarians and vegans. Learn more about vegetarianism or veganism on a low FODMAP diet here. The key to having a healthy vegetarian or vegan low FODMAP diet is incorporating simple diet and lifestyle behaviours into your daily routine.
Each person’s approach to vegetarianism or veganism is different. You may want to incorporate only some of these tips. Choose what is relevant to your lifestyle, goals, and interests. It’s also a good idea to get personalized advice from a registered dietitian.
Here are my top 12 tips for a healthy vegetarian or vegan low FODMAP diet.
1. Eat enough food – most plant foods are naturally lower in calories!
After enjoying a plant-based meal, your stomach may feel full, but your calorie intake may be lower than that of your average omnivore meal. Plant-based foods are generally lower in calories and higher in water and nutrients, although the calorie content can depend on the method used to prepare the food. For example, potato fries, vegetable gratin, and mashed potatoes all contain different ingredients and involve different methods of preparation, so their calorie contents may vary widely.
When starting out on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may find yourself feeling hungry and tired more often than usual. This may be caused by not consuming enough calories. It may be helpful to keep a loose log your caloric intake for the day to ensure you are meeting your needs and not accidently undereating. If you are unintentionally losing weight a dietitian can give you tips on how to get more calories in your diet.
2. Variety is key
It is still possible to consume a variety of healthful foods while following the low FODMAP diet. Variety is key while on a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially when FODMAPs are being considered as well. Including different kinds of plant-based foods into your day can help to keep you satisfied, and can keep you from getting bored. There are so many plant-based foods out there that are FODMAP friendly and delicious. Make a goal to try a new food or recipe every week! Some suggestions include tofu, tempeh, purple potatoes, dragon fruit, star fruit, millet, and quinoa.
3. Get enough nutrients
While plant-based foods are generally higher in most nutrients, some nutrients are harder to obtain. Find a registered dietitian who can work with you to ensure you are meeting your dietary nutritional requirements. For more information on some key nutrients and how to obtain them, check out my post on Vegetarianism & the Low FODMAP Diet here.
4. Fibre-rich foods are your friend!
Choose high-fibre, FODMAP-friendly options to reach your daily fibre needs – women should aim to consume 25 g/day, while men should aim for 38 g/day. 1 Fibre helps to prevent constipation by keeping your bowels regular and can also help to keep your blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control. 1 To avoid abdominal discomfort, it is best to gradually increase your fibre intake. Some great low FODMAP sources of fibre include canned chickpeas (1/4 cup or less; rinsed well), canned lentils (1/2 cup or less; rinsed well), potatoes (skin-on), canned pumpkin (1/4 cup or less), spinach, popcorn, raspberries (10 berries/45 g or less) and brown rice. 2
5. Spice it up
Being vegetarian or vegan does not mean a lifetime of bland foods at every meal! Use fresh herbs, spices, green onions (just the green part), and other FODMAP-friendly ingredients to season your dishes and make them flavourful! Always read the ingredients list of spice blends and chili powders to check for added garlic or onion.
6. Determine which supplements you may need to take
It can be hard to get everything you need from food alone. Work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine what supplements you should consider taking. Some common supplements for vegans include B12 and vitamin D. Always talk to your doctor before starting new supplements.
7. Be prepared!
There’s nothing worse than hearing your tummy rumble and having nothing to eat! Keep easy to eat snacks in your bag, purse or desk in case you find yourself hungry with few options available. Some easy ideas include one serving of low FODMAP fruits like bananas, oranges, or grapes; homemade cookies and granola bars (check out Lauren’s recipe here for banana oat cookies!); carrot sticks and cucumber slices; or nuts like peanuts, pecans, and walnuts.
8. Rework and revamp your recipes
Vegetarians and vegan diets are often labelled as boring and repetitive, but to keep things interesting, try reworking some of your favourite ingredients. This can be as simple as turning a salad into a wrap, adding new flavours to your oatmeal (Lauren has 5 amazing oatmeal flavours here!), or turning leftovers into a delicious stir fry or salad bowl. Spend some time in the kitchen altering your old favourites so they meet your new dietary needs and preferences. Who knows? You may create something that’s even better than the original!
9. Contact restaurants ahead of time
Going out with friends or family is meant to be a fun and relaxing experience, but it can be stressful if you are worried about the food options. To help reduce this stress, call the restaurant ahead of time or check out their website to see what options they have available. Most restaurants will also be happy to make something off menu for you. All you need to do is ask!
10. Be open with your friends and family
It can be hard to adopt your new dietary preferences/needs if you feel alone. Be open with your family and friends about why you’ve made the changes you’ve made, and why a low FODMAP diet is important for you and your health. It may be tempting to try and convince friends and family to change their diets as well, but it is important to remember that not everyone will agree with your decision, and that’s okay. The best approach is to accept your differences and instead focus on how you can still spend time together, regardless of what you eat.
11. Make food in bulk and freeze it for later
One common problem with increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is trying to eat everything before it goes bad. One way around this is to freeze a portion of your fruits and vegetables, that way they last longer and can be used when you are in a pinch. Check out Lauren’s post here for tips on properly freezing low FODMAP vegetables to preserve nutrients and taste. You can also look for low FODMAP and vegan or vegetarian friendly dry goods at Bulk Barn or other bulk food stores to help you save time and money.
12. Check out your local farmers market!
Everyone knows that fresh produce often tastes better! If you have a farmers market in your area, and you have the time and transportation to be able to access it, make an effort to go every week. You will get to try local, in-season varieties of your favourite fruits and vegetables, while also building a relationship with your local farmers. Many farms also have an option for customers to sign-up for CSA boxes, where each week you will receive a box of whatever is in season. If you live with others who are not on the low FODMAP diet and can eat the produce that is high, a CSA box could be a great option.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Please consult with your doctor or dietitian before making any dietary changes. The low FODMAP diet should be implemented with the help of a FODMAP dietitian, especially if the diet is being combined with a vegetarian/vegan diet. A dietitian can guide you properly through the diet and reintroduction, while helping ensure you are still eating a nutritious balanced diet.
If you are making the switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, remember to make changes at a pace that is sustainable and that works for you. While many people are able to change ‘overnight,’ it is important to not feel pressured or stress about the strictness of the diet. Take the time to identify what becoming vegetarian or vegan means to you!
- Dietitians of Canada, 2017. http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Fibre/Increasing-Your-Fibre-Intake.aspx
- Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App, 2017. http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/fodmap/iphone-app.html
About the Guest Author:
Mikaela is a nutrition student at the University of Guelph who aspires to become a Registered Dietitian and to help others live healthy, happy, and nutritious lives. Having followed a vegan lifestyle for over 6 years, Mikaela has learned how to approach a vegetarian or vegan diet in a way that is sustainable, healthful and fun. Mikaela’s volunteer experiences include being a member of the Student Nutrition Awareness Program (SNAP), the Applied Human Nutrition Student Association (AHNSA), helping with an elementary school lunch program, and being the Dietitians of Canada (DC) Student Representative for the University of Guelph.