This past week was my blog’s first birthday! I can’t believe I’ve already been blogging for an entire year. I haven’t shared too much personal information about myself on my blog, except for bits about my experience with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the low FODMAP diet. This blog post is a glimpse into my life and features some of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. It shows what it can be like to follow a modified low FODMAP diet and has some of my reflections on life post-reintroduction.
I’ll start with a bit of background info on me. I was diagnosed with IBS in 2014 and started the low FODMAP diet in January 2015. I have been on a “modified” low FODMAP diet for more than 2.5 years now. You might be wondering, what does that mean? I completed the reintroduction phase where I systematically tested each FODMAP group. During that phase, I learned how much I could eat of each FODMAP before triggering significant digestive symptoms.
Everyone has a unique tolerance level to FODMAPs. I found that personally, I can tolerate a small amount of any FODMAP group. However, larger amounts of FODMAPs will trigger my symptoms (the exact quantity varies in each FODMAP group). When I first tested FODMAPs, I found that I was particularly sensitive to polyols and fructose. Over time my tolerance to FODMAPs has slowly improved. I used to feel unwell after eating one peach slice, but now I can eat a small apple and feel okay (as long as I limit other FODMAPs that day). I believe this is likely related to my stress levels, which are much much lower now than when I initially did my FODMAP testing. A Little Bit Yummy has a great article on FODMAP tolerance levels changing.
Now that I am past reintroduction, it is way easier to eat at restaurants. Last weekend I ate way more food out than normal because I was seeing friends and family in Toronto to celebrate my birthday. There is soo much amazing food in Toronto! I didn’t stress about eating lots of foods from restaurants (and therefore lots more oils, sugar and salt) for one weekend because I normally rarely eat out. When it comes to healthy eating, it’s important to look at the big picture, and I mostly eat home cooked foods. If you are curious, I turned 25 this year. It’s so weird to be half way through my twenties!
I started my birthday weekend by going to a workshop on Friday about IBS and the Microbiome hosted by Dietitians of Canada. Listening to a presentation on gut health may be a weird way to spend your birthday, but I enjoyed it!
In the evening I planned to go for thai food with my boyfriend and then go meet my friends at the Toronto Christmas market. We went to Khao San Road, which has amazing food and is good for making dietary accommodations. It was my first time going since they moved to their new location, which is gorgeous! They have a black and white mural on one wall and another wall completely covered in tiles.
We started with their squash fritters, made with kabocha squash. I am seriously drooling just thinking about it now.
Also, sorry these pictures are not up to my usual standards! I only had my phone with me, not my DSLR camera.
During reintroduction, I learned that I can tolerate small amounts of garlic and onion just fine. It makes it a lot easier to order at menus now that I don’t have to worry about small amounts in sauces! For my main meal, I had the Bankok Pad Thai. So delicious!
After eating some of the squash I was not able to finish all the pad thai. Even though it tasted so good I stopped when I was feeling pretty full. I know that for me, eating too much food at once, even if it’s food I tolerate well, can upset my digestive system.
Then we were off to the Christmas Market! Do you have a Christmas Market near where you live? I absolutely love going to the one in Toronto in the Distillery District. It’s a fun activity to do with friends that doesn’t revolve only around food or drinking.
We were lucky to have a pretty mild night, but the wind was still chilling. I warmed up with a mug of mulled wine by a fire. Back when I first started the low FODMAP diet I had to completely avoid alcohol because I was so sensitive. My tolerance has slowly improved, and I can now have a glass or two of wine no problem. It particularly helps if I eat food before or when I have the drink.
The week before my birthday I came across this recipe for a Cranberry Pomegranate Pavlova. I had never had a pavlova before, but the pictures were so gorgeous I decided I wanted to make it for my birthday cake! James and I spent a good portion of the day baking it, but it was totally worth it. Small amounts of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese are low in lactose. However, this recipe has a lot of whipped cream. I am okay with small amounts of lactose and had a slice no problem. If the recipe had more lactose in it I would have used a lactase pill, which works really well for me.
That night we went for dinner with some friends and my cousin. My go-to pizza place in Toronto is Famosa Pizzeria on Bloor street. They have an amazing gluten-free low FODMAP pizza crust (note: not safe for those with celiac). I’ve had many horrible gluten-free pizzas at other restaurants, but this one is as good as their regular pizza! I got their regular pizza sauce since I can tolerate some garlic and onion. On top I got fresh basil, pineapple and tomatoes, which is one of my favourite combinations… it might be a bit weird but it’s delicious!
Afterwards, James and I went to see a musical. We saw the 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee at Hart House Theatre, which was so fun!
One other thing I will note about eating at restaurants is that all of my friends and family know about my food intolerances. At first I was embarrassed to talk about it, but eventually, I realized that everyone is very understanding and supportive. There is no reason to be embarrassed! I think it’s important to talk about your food requirements so your dining companions will understand why you can or can’t go to certain restaurants.
Since we had a bunch of egg yolks after making the pavlova, we made hollandaise sauce for brunch. I had my eggs and sauce on a bagel from Almond Butterfly gluten-free bakery. Yum!
This was such a great weekend. I’m so lucky that I am able to have a flexible diet and still manage my symptoms. I really encourage everyone to complete the reintroduction phase and continue to test your problem FODMAPs again every few months to monitor if your tolerance levels have changed. If possible work with a dietitian who specializes in FODMAPs – you shouldn’t have to go through this difficult process on your own! Please note that I only can see Canadians for nutrition counselling.
I’ve had to put so much effort into modifying my diet, but it has been completely worth it and life-changing. I can still remember how overwhelmed I felt when I started the low FODMAP diet. I had no idea if it would work, but I stuck to it and was amazed when I finally started to feel better. At that point, I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be “normal” and not sick all the time. Now my symptoms are well managed and rarely interfere with my life, and I sometimes I forget I even have IBS!
I also went through what felt like a “mourning period” after completing the reintroduction phase. It finally hit me that I would never be able to eat like a “normal” person again. I thought a lot about the foods I couldn’t eat and felt sad and alone. One thing I tell myself now is that there are SO many people out there who have dietary restrictions and I am NOT alone. What really helped me to get out of that funk was to focus on all of the great foods I could eat. I started experimenting more and more with recipes and fell in love with food again. This truly inspired me to start my food blog and share my recipes with others.
I’m so excited for December and to share all of the great holiday recipes and posts I have planned! Also, in case you missed it, last week I released my first e-book!!!! The title is Quick and Easy Snacks. You can click here to learn more about the e-book.
If you are still reading and got all the way to the end of this long post, thank you 😊
I might share some more personal life posts again in the future. I’ve been considering writing about a typical day of eating for me, post-reintroduction, and other similar posts!
I always love getting feedback from my readers on my blog! You can leave comments down below or on social media 😊