The holidays are upon us. You may be able to ignore the Christmas decorations that start showing up in Costco in September. But once November hits, we’re in the thick of it.
I know the low FODMAP diet can be overwhelming at the best of times. But then when you add in the holidays, it gets even more complicated. And you might even be tempted to throw in the towel and try again after the first of the year. But if you’re struggling with the painful symptoms of IBS — diarrhea, pain, bloating, gas, constipation — you may not want to put off your healing just because of the holidays.
That’s why we’re spending this whole month talking about how to navigate the holidays while you’re on the low FODMAP, or other restrictive therapeutic diet. Yes, food restrictions can get in the way of holiday fun. But they don’t have to.
Last week we talked all things pumpkin — and yes, pumpkins are low FODMAP. It’s totally possible to enjoy many of the fun pumpkin treats that you crave this time of year.
For many people, baking holiday treats is an important part of this time of year. Whether you’re craving foods that remind you of the joy and magic of your childhood holiday memories, you want to create some magic for your own kids, or the treats just sound good, it is totally possible to do some traditional holiday baking AND stick to your low FODMAP diet.
Fortunately, many of the ingredients common in holiday recipes are naturally low FODMAP. And most of the ones that aren’t can be substituted out for something that’s more IBS-friendly.
If you’ve spent any time navigating the low FODMAP diet, you know it can be tricky. There are plenty of foods you can have, as long as you stay within the recommended portion sizes.
Ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs, spices, vanilla, some fruits, cocoa, and chocolate can be eaten in moderation. Just check the portions of these ingredients in your recipe to make sure you can indulge without exacerbating your symptoms.
You can even include high FODMAP nuts in a treat if you keep your portions low enough. Check your low FODMAP app for tips on how much of the higher FODMAP ingredients you can have at one time. If you don’t have a low FODMAP app, check out my IBS Resource Guide. I recommend my favorite app (and other great resources).
No, the low FODMAP diet is not the same as eating gluten-free. But because wheat contains fructans, avoiding all purpose flour is important. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bake with flour. There are loads of gluten-free flour options on the market. Your best bet is to go with a gluten-free flour blend (rather than almond flour) unless the recipe you’re using calls for a specific type of gluten-free flour.
While using your traditional recipes and substituting these flours for white flour can work, I recommend using gluten-free or low FODMAP recipes. Direct flour substitutions don’t always work. Gluten-free flour blends act differently than all-purpose flour. Recipe creators who specialize in keeping things gluten-free know how to maintain both texture and flavor when using gluten-free flour.
Another ingredient swap that works well in low FODMAP baking is making your own “sour” milk in place of buttermilk. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, you use this simple formula to make your own lactose-free version:
- Pour just shy of 1 cup lactose-free milk into a bowl
- Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar
- Let sit for 5 minutes
Your best bet for low FODMAP holiday baking is to find some recipes that are specifically designed to be low FODMAP. Then you don’t have to worry about substituting ingredients.
When you use a recipe from a reliable low FODMAP recipe creator, they’re already done the hard work for you. Here are some places to get started:
This is a low FODMAP recipe site that features a variety of recipes — holiday and otherwise. These low FODMAP holiday baking recipes can add some magic into your holiday season:
This post features 6 holiday cookie recipes that can help you feel festive and keep you low FODMAP.
This post is about much more than baking. But if you’re looking for holiday baking recipes, just scroll down. They’re all grouped together.
This is one of my go-to sites for low FODMAP recipes. Here are a few holiday goodies:
This article features recipes for a variety of low FODMAP bars and brownies that are also suitable for gift-giving!
Yes, you can have this holiday favorite even on the low FODMAP diet. This gluten-free recipe is suitable for making cutout cookies too!
This pretty and delicious holiday favorite is also gluten-free and low FODMAP!
This is another go-to site for me. Monash has a variety of resources that make sticking to the low FODMAP diet easier, including great recipes. Here are a couple of holiday treats that will help you enjoy the holiday while you stick to your food plan:
The cozy combination of orange and gingerbread in a quick bread.
Yes, you can have this holiday favorite even on a low FODMAP diet.
Being on a restrictive diet during the holidays can feel isolating. So I recommend talking with your family and close friends about how you’re feeling and what you need.
Even if you’re the one who does all the things to make the holidays special for your family, it’s okay to ask for support. Let them know how you’re feeling. And talk to them about making some modifications in your traditional holiday foods and celebrations that will help you feel more included. You might be surprised at how excited they are to help you out!
This is also a great time to get some added support from a professional. If you’ve been working exclusively with your doctor, you might want to consider adding someone new to your team. A dietitian can work with you on a deeper and more detailed level than your doctor, helping you create and navigate the ins and outs of a customized eating plan that works for you.
I love helping my patients navigate the holidays with their therapeutic diets. I take it as a personal challenge! And I’d love to help you too.