Low FODMAP Restaurant Order Guide from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
If you have IBS or digestive problems, you probably have heard that a low FODMAP diet will help.
However, the most common reason why people avoid the diet is that it just seems too complicated! It definitely can be intimidating to get started, especially if you go it alone.
In fact, the MOST difficult and challenging part of the diet is figuring out what low FODMAP order to make at restaurants. Sure, a list of ‘yes and no’ foods is great, but it can be really tricky to translate that list into a choice from a menu!
I’ve seen so many clients deal with this that I’ve decided to make up a little cheat sheet for ordering low FODMAP at a restaurant. Bring this list with you so that you’re ready when it’s time to eat out or order takeout.
Low FODMAP Mexican Restaurant order:
Corn tortillas or taco shells with meat (no onion or garlic), tomato, lettuce, and shredded cheese (limit amount)
Rice and/or tortilla chips on side
Low FODMAP Italian Restaurant order:
What to order: Cooked chicken breast with bacon and marinara sauce, topped with up to 1 oz (thumb-sized amount) cheese (ensure no garlic or onion in any marinade or sauce). Or fish without garlic or onion. Side of carrots, green beans, or broccoli (or broccolini) steamed or cooked in olive oil or butter (eat just the tops).
May also have gluten-free pasta on side. Pesto is OK if garlic-free.
OR: gluten-free pizza with garlic-free tomato sauce, chicken, hard cheese, tomatoes, olives, and bell pepper.
Low FODMAP Indian Restaurant order:
Rice with a prawn curry (check curry sauce made without garlic or onion).
No added garlic or onion in sauce. Avoid marinaded chicken (i.e. tandoori).
Low FODMAP Chinese Restaurant order:
Ask for rice and a stir-fry of chicken, beef, tofu, or prawn made with broccoli.
Use only oil, soy, oyster, and/or fish sauce (no commercial sauces unless no garlic, onion, or sweeteners). Eat just the broccoli tops (not stems).
Low FODMAP Thai Restaurant order:
Rice with stir fry of protein choice (i.e. prawn, chicken, pork, or tofu) with veg. Lemongrass, ginger, sweet basil, bell peppers (capsicum), bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and green beans are safe.
Ensure sauce with no garlic, onion, or sweeteners. Oyster, fish, and soy sauce are OK.
Low FODMAP Sushi Restaurant order:
Sashimi with rice (i.e. chirashi bowl) or nigiri sushi. Nori/seaweed paper and soy sauce are safe.
Low FODMAP Pub order:
Jacket potato (baked white potato) with tuna mayonnaise salad and side garden salad (i.e. lettuce, tomato, cucumber).
OR: Roast dinner with meat/poultry roast, white roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and peas. No yorkshire pudding or gravy.
Low FODMAP diner order:
Omelette with spinach, bell peppers, and 1 oz (i.e. thumb size amount) cheese.
Ensure no milk, onion, flour, or added spices. 1/8 avocado (2 small slices) OR up to 2 Tbsp cream cheese on top. On side: 1/2 cup cantaloupe, honeydew, or grapes.
Low FODMAP French Restaurant order:
Salad nicoise (check no garlic or artichokes).
Low FODMAP Mediterranean Restaurant order:
Kofta/meatballs made without garlic or onion OR grilled kebabs (check not marinaded with garlic). Greek salad with cucumber, tomato, onion, olives, oil (no red onion). Rice.
Low FODMAP steak Restaurant order:
Steak (with garlic-free sauce and marinade), white potato with butter (or fries/chips without added garlic/onion flavor) and carrots, green beans, or broccoli (or broccolini) either steamed or cooked in butter or oil (eat tops only, not stems)
Low FODMAP cafe order:
Salad with greens (lettuce, kale, and/or spinach), chicken or beef (check no garlic marinade), 1 oz (thumb-size amount) cheese, 1 tbsp nuts or seeds (not cashew or pistachio), olives, and veg (cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and/or carrots).
Hold the dressing, or use a small of oil and vinegar (no added garlic).
Here are a few extra tips for when you decide to eat out:
- Call ahead and look at menu online if possible.
- Discuss with wait staff that you need to avoid added sweeteners, garlic, onion, and wheat (i.e. you may ask for gluten-free).
- Watch out for sneaky sources like:
- Minced/ground meat (i.e. burgers) with added garlic and onion flavoring
- Cream sauces
- Condiments and sauces with added FODMAPs like flour, sweeteners, onion, and garlic
- Broths (often made with garlic and onion)
Finally, I’d love to hear from you – what is your go-to restaurant or café meal? I love hearing new ideas from you!
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Jennifer Slinkard says
This is absolutely ridiculously unhelpful. Do you even have IBS? Can you name one Italian restaurant that is going to make a marinade without GARLIC?! Or kofta without onions? Or a sushi place that doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup in their sticky rice? Nearly every suggestion on here says “check to make sure the marinade doesn’t have onions or garlic,” but it’s not like the restaurants are going to pull out a piece of meat and make you a special low FODMAP marinade that will be ready for you the next day. More helpful would be dishes that are unlikely to have these marinades in the first place, or that are usually made totally fresh. When I’ve had Indian, I’ve asked which dishes aren’t made with any pre-made sauce, and I’ve had delicious cauliflower and okra dishes. For sushi, it’s best to skip the nigiri and just get sashimi with plain rice. I don’t even try Italian restaurants, or I just get dessert.
Erin Skinner says
Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear that you’ve found what works for you. This is a hard topic because, after doing this with hundreds of people, I’ve learned that everyone ends up at a slightly different solution. For example, for some people, completely avoiding Italian, or ordering just dessert, would be unacceptable. So, this is a starting point for some but you sound like you’ve evolved beyond this to your own unique approach. That’s great! 🙂 – Erin
Except, obviously it’s not working for me, or I wouldn’t need to read blogs to find what food I can order. Dessert ISN’T working for me; it’s just the only thing I’ve found doesn’t have garlic or onions. If everyone finds a different solution, as you say, why even try to pretend you have answers for us? I’m still wondering what your solution to “Italian food with no garlic” might include. Seriously, can you think of any suggestions that might be meaningful?
Erin Skinner says
Hi Jennifer, I’m sorry to hear that you’re suffering so much. As you found with Indian, many Italian restaurants will do the same – serve a dish without pre-made sauces. If they won’t work with you, it’s the wrong restaurant. Here are a few ideas for Italian off the top of my head:
– Salad with non-marinaded protein and made only with low-FODMAP ingredients. Oil and vinegar to dress.
– Simply cooked chicken breast or fish with a low FODMAP vegetable and possibly some gluten-free pasta with olive oil
– Gluten-free pizza crust with a safe sauce, a little cheese, and low-FODMAP toppings
If you’re struggling to figure out what you can eat at Italian restaurants, you probably don’t understand the low FODMAP diet well enough to know if it actually works for you or not. That’s completely normal and understandable, it’s hard to understand. It’s also not just a ‘diet’. It’s a process whereby you move through phases to arrive at your own individualized version of what works for you.
Also, keep in mind that it’s effective for around 70% of IBS patients in the scientific literature and around 90% of my clients. So not 100%. You may be one of the unlucky few who need a more in-depth approach.
So, I recommend working 1:1 with a professional to learn the diet protocol well, and to see if you need further interventions. Obviously, you don’t click with my approach. That’s OK, no one is perfect for everyone! Fortunately, there are many excellent FODMAP-trained dietitians who specialize in IBS. Here is a great place to start your search: https://www.ibsfree.net/news/2017/3/7/find-a-fodmap-dietitian
Good luck to you! – Erin
Adrienne Brietzke says
You use the guidelines. If you can’t find marinara with no garlic, make your own with garlic-infused oil. Look at what you CAN eat, not what you can’t. I order rice noodles – then pick out all the onion. It still flavors the dish, but I make sure I don’t eat it. That’s just an example-it’s about THINKING and figuring out what you CAN have. I’m fairly new to all this too. I’m learning by googling whether or not something I want to eat is low FODMAP. And I’ve picked up on a number of things that I can substitute- like wholeberry cranberry sauce instead of pie. I love tgem and it helps satisfy my sweets craving, in addition to being full of good nutrients- and acid. I’m prone to uti’s-the cranberries keep them at bay. Plus there’s some fiber, that helps with regularity, without being too much fiber on your system. There are tons of sites out there that you can use to glean all kinds of information. You have to work at it if you want relief. It won’t take ant more effort than whining.
Erin Skinner says
Hi Adrienne, thanks so much for sharing these awesome tips, and for sharing your story! I love your cranberry sauce idea. 🙂 Stick with it, you are doing a great job and it does get easier with time. 🙂 Wishing you all the best! – Erin
I know is frustrating. Its hard to meal plan everyday. I have been doing th Fodmap diet for over a year. I have tried to add several foods at this point but its rare. For me there is no choice. It either eat like this or lay in the fetal position all day and never work. Okay, that said, I can tell you Italian is easy. You need to be your own chef. Some companies make a marinara without onion and garlic. But I make my own sauce. I use tomatoe paste, water, tomatoes chopped (a can), italian seasonings, and garlic infused olive oil, which is a great alternative to garlic. I make big batches and freeze some for easy cooking another night. I only use gluten free pasta, but there alot of great ones out there. I know its hard, but you can do it.
Erin Skinner says
Hi Jan, thanks for sharing your story and this encouraging message! Good on you for taking control of your situation and finding something that works for you. 🙂 – Erin
I have to agree with Jennifer, with a lot less hostility though.
I feel as though asking about garlic and onion free sauces at an Italian restaurant which just lead to questionable stares and unsolicited comments. It hard enough to find that kind of sauce in the grocery store let a long a restaurant that just makes a bunch of food in bulk throughout the week. And Mexican tacos without the garlic and onion… that just seems like a dream to me lol.
I’m planning on starting this diet soon but wanted to be stocked full of knowledge and resources before starting. Not being able to eat out at restaurants is one of my biggest concerns and it seems like so far, the only place I’ll be safe is an American diner with all day breakfast. And even then, most likely no home fries will be allowed 🙁
Erin Skinner says
Hi Sarah, I know….there’s really a grieving processes that comes with the realization that diet CAN control IBS, but that life won’t be the same. Trust me, with time, low FODMAP can be effective AND minimally invasive on your ability to go out an enjoy a restaurant meal. It does take time, practice, and good resources. I wish you luck as you get started! – Erin
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