One of the biggest myths about the low FODMAP diet is that you have to eat bland boring foods during the elimination phase. That is absolutely NOT true! A diet of just plain rice crackers and gluten-free toast is unnecessary and unhealthy. You can have a delicious, flavourful and varied diet while still managing digestive symptoms. Here are 10 ways to add flavour to low FODMAP food!
1. Use Spices and Herbs
Most spices and herbs are low FODMAP. You can use them fresh or dried to pump up the flavour of your food! The most important thing is to look out for added onion or garlic pieces/powder in spice mixes. Many chilli powders have added onion and garlic powder. Look for ancho chili powder (mild) or chipotle chili powder (hot). Note: spicy food can be a non FODMAP IBS trigger for some people so you may want to take it easy with the hot chili powder.
If you are particularly missing onion or garlic flavour there are a couple spices you may want to try. Chives can add a nice mild onion flavour to foods. Asafoetida is a spice commonly used in Indian foods that tastes similar to onion when cooked. Asafoetida powder often contains a very small amount of wheat, which is safe for the low FODMAP diet, but unsafe for those with celiac disease. If you have celiac disease look for certified gluten-free asafoetida powder.
2. Green Tips of Green Onion and Leeks
The white bulbs of green onion and leeks are high in fructans, just like a regular white onion. However, the dark green leaves of these plants are low FODMAP and packed with onion-like flavour. Plus, you don’t even have to throw out the white bulbs. If you place them in a glass of water the green leaves will grow back. Just dump out the water and fill the glass back up every few days and you can have fresh green onion and leeks growing in your kitchen!
Green onion and basil work together to make these Vegan Quinoa Cakes taste super flavourful!
3. Infused Oils
The fructans in onion and garlic are water soluble. This means that if you cook onion in a stew or stir fry the fructans will leech out into the water and vegetables, making the entire dish high FODMAP even if the onion is later removed. However, the fructans will not leech out into oil, which means it is easy to make garlic or onion infused oil at home. Click to read my blog post about how to safely make garlic and onion infused oils at home. Garlic infused oil is my favourite way to add garlic flavour!
You can also purchase infused oils at many grocery stores. There are many flavours commonly available other than just onion and garlic, such as lemon or herb. Infused oils are low FODMAP. Flavoured oils are different than infused and may have pieces of onion/garlic and therefore may be high FODMAP. When purchasing a garlic or onion oil look for the word “infused” on the bottle.
Garlic infused oil can be used to make a tasty low FODMAP Caesar salad dressing.
4. Fennel Bulb and Other Veggies
There are so many delicious and flavourful low FODMAP vegetables. Challenge yourself to try out a new low FODMAP vegetable this week! When was the last time you ate eggplant, radishes, parsnips or celeriac? You may discover a new vegetable you love that can be added to your regular grocery list.
Fennel bulb is one veggie that can add flavour and replace the texture of onion in soups and stews. It is low FODMAP at 1/2 cup (50 grams).
Various cooking methods bring out great flavours in vegetables. My favourite way to cook veggies is to roast them. Try out these Roasted Carrot Sticks, they truly taste a hundred time better than plain old baby carrots!
This French Oven Beef Stew uses a variety of vegetables, including fennel bulb, and is way better than your average beef stew (who needs onion?!)
Ginger root is low FODMAP and has the added benefit of helping to manage nausea. It can be used fresh or ground. Try adding it to stir fries, soups, salads, sauces and more! Ginger is one of my favourite flavours, as evidenced by the number of ginger recipes on my blog!
Ginger adds a delicious spice to this Ginger Carrot Soup.
Soothe an upset stomach with this homemade Fresh Ginger and Maple Tea.
Spice up your breakfast by making some Gingerbread Spice Oatmeal.
We all know that sugar makes food taste better. Eating lots of sugar daily is associated with various health conditions, but we don’t have to be 100% sugar-free to be healthy. Low FODMAP is not a sugar-free diet and it’s okay to use sugar in moderation. Many sugars are low FODMAP, including white sugar, brown sugar and maple syrup.
For example, a plain bowl of oatmeal isn’t very exciting and could be boring to eat every day. On the other hand, a healthy bowl of oatmeal with 1 teaspoon of added brown sugar and some fruit will taste good but still have a lot less sugar than a hyper-processed low-nutrient cereal. Fruits have a natural sweetness and are packed with important nutrients. Try out this recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Almond Oatmeal for a sweet but nutritious breakfast.
Note: if you have any issues with blood sugar management please seek help from a dietitian.
Like sugar, it is okay to use some salt in cooking to boost the flavour of our healthy home-cooked meals. Salt isn’t evil and we need a small amount for our bodies to work properly. In Canada, the largest source of salt in our diet is from restaurants and fast food. If we cook most of our meals and snacks ourselves it is much easier to get the right level of sodium in our diets.
For example, French fries at fast food joints have unhealthy fats and are covered in salt. You can make your own Healthy Potato Wedges at home, which are delicious but much lower in sodium. Just a small amount of salt is needed to bring out the flavour of the potato wedges.
Note: if you have high blood pressure or need to strictly limit sodium for another health issue please seek help from a dietitian.
8. Vinegars, Lemon Juice & Lime Juice
Tartness/sourness is an important flavour that we often forget about. A bit of sour can balance out the other flavours in our meal. There are many ways that vinegars, lemon juice and lime juice can boost flavour. We can use them in homemade salad dressings and sauces, squeeze some fresh lemon over chicken or fish, or add a slice of lime to a glass of water.
White vinegar, lemon juice and lime juice have no FODMAP serving size limit. Apple cider vinegar is max 2 tablespoons per serving, balsamic vinegar is max 1 tablespoon, and rice wine vinegar is max 2 tablespoons.
Make some Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce to use as a dip for Coconut Chicken Strips.
There are many condiments and sauces that are safe for the low FODMAP diet. Most condiments/sauces are high in calories and low in nutrition so it’s best to use just a small amount on foods. It’s very important to check for added FODMAPs, such as honey, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, onion or garlic pieces/powder. Onion and garlic can also be included under “spices” or “natural flavours”. If you are unsure if a product contains onion or garlic contact the manufacturer. For example, mayonnaise is usually made with oil, egg yolk and vinegar and is low FODMAP. Some brands of mayonnaise have added onion or garlic which make it high FODMAP. Hellman’s mayonnaise is safe in Canada unless it specifically says onion or garlic in the ingredients list (i.e., onion or garlic are not included in “spices” or “natural flavours”).
One exception to the no onion and garlic rule is Worcestershire sauce. Worcestershire sauce contains onion and garlic but is fermented, which breaks down the fructans, making the sauce low FODMAP. Alana has an entire post on Worcestershire sauce which is very informative.
Note: any sauce or condiment that is made with wheat, barley or rye is not safe for those with celiac disease.
Here are some low FODMAP sauces and condiments (with maximum safe serving sizes per meal/snack):
- Soy sauce (2 tbsp)
- Worcestershire sauce (2 tbsp)
- Fish sauce (1 tbsp)
- Mustard (1 tbsp)*
- Ketchup(1 tbsp)*
- BBQ sauce (2 tbsp)*
- Mint jelly/sauce (1 tbsp)
*Check ingredients list for any high FODMAP added ingredients
My free FODMAP Foods Chart has a full list of tested condiments and sauces.
My famhttp://www.laurenrenlund.com/recipe/low-fodmap-maple-mustard-baked-salmon/ily’s favourite dinner recipe is this Maple Mustard Salmon recipe made with dijon mustard.
10. Cheese and Nutritional Yeast Flakes
Not all dairy products are high in lactose. Hard cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and more, are low in lactose and can be included in a low FODMAP diet. I have a blog post explaining why butter and cheese are low FODMAP. Cheese contains multiple healthy nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A and protein, and tastes amazing.
For anyone who is vegan and/or does not eat dairy, there is an alternative which can add a cheese flavour: nutritional yeast flakes. These flakes are low FODMAP at 1 tablespoon, and some brands are fortified with vitamin B12, an important nutrient for vegans.
Try adding some parmesan or nutritional yeast to air popped popcorn for a healthy snack! Add flavour and protein to a salad by adding some cheese cubes.
Feta is the star in this recipe for Greek Egg Muffins.
I hope these tips are helpful. No one should have to eat bland boring foods day after day. One of my biggest goals of my blog is to prove that those of us with food intolerances can still eat tasty foods!
Are you looking for support with managing digestive symptoms and/or the low FODMAP diet? My nutrition counselling and coaching services are available across Canada (via video messaging or phone). I am a registered dietitian with a Master’s of Public Health in Nutrition who specializes in digestion and practical healthy eating tips. Learn more about my services by clicking here.
Do you have other ways you add flavour to low FODMAP food? Let me know in the comments!
Also thanks to my dear friend Audrey, another Canadian FODMAP dietitian, for reviewing this post for me and double checking all of the recommendations, to make sure they are safe for the low FODMAP diet. You can read Audrey’s blog at IBS Nutrition!