SCD legal and low FODMAP spices.

During the first weeks on the diet, I really struggled with the knowledge that I would no longer be able to enjoy eating out. Savouring ethnic cuisines has always been a highlight of travelling to me, and indulging in a piece of scrumptious cake and a nice cappuccino used to be a nearly cathartic experience. Not to mention the sudden awkwardness of attending social outings, celebrating a colleague’s birthday at work or even going over to a friend’s house for dinner. It all sounds pretty daunting, and if you have any experience with limited diets, you know it’s pretty tough.

At this point, it is politically correct to be upbeat and gush about how you can still have steamed carrots, salad with no dressing and plain, grilled chicken breast. Well guess what, I’ll be honest instead: I DO NOT enjoy tasteless food, and any sane person who has ever had even one encounter with a flavourful falafel wrap, a decadent pizza or an irresisitible piece of tiramisu will agree. Salt and pepper are not enough! I have well over 30 spices in my kitchen that I regularly use, and going out to eat something several classes below what I can put together myself in half an hour makes no sense. To add insult to injury, we’re supposed to enjoy this dubious fare while watching everyone else stuff their faces full of bread, delicious garlicky meat and dessert. So, this isn’t exactly a cheerful post on how to be a good little martyr. Instead, it’s a survival guide, written by a low FODMAP guerilla warrior who tries to maintain the ability to feast.

1. Company

This will make or break your meal: as much as possible, try to go out with people whose company you enjoy! Food is not likely to be fun, so if the company is lacking, too, you’re in for a looooong meal. I can honestly say I don’t mind eating grilled shrimp and lime over and over again, or even drinking mint tea (evil) when out with someone special.

2. Know thy enemy:

If you need/want to go out, do peruse the menu. Try to find options that are likely to be safe, or put together a simple meal using ingredients the restaurant will have on hand. Bring your own dressing or go without! Whenever possible, call ahead and find out if they will cook a simple meal for you. As a last resort, eat ahead of time and stick to water. Yes, your companions will likely feel insulted, but calmly explain that none of the available foods are safe for you and you’re just avoiding getting ill. At this point, friends will understand, and strangers will drop the subject.

3. Be prepared.

Know what you can and cannot eat, have a printout of your forbidden and allowed foods, quiz the waiter and chef (tip well…), ignore the raised eyebrows. By no means should you be rude, but don’t let other people influence your decisions – somehow, my dinner companions (with some notable exceptions) always know better what I should and should not eat. Here are some go-to options for flexible chefs:

SCD and low FODMAP:

  • prawns – friend or grilled, with salt, pepper and lemon juice
  • grilled red peppers and zucchini
  • grilled chicken breast
  • grilled fish (salmon, trout)
  • soft boiled eggs with butter, salt and pepper
  • fruit salad from allowed fruits
  • any salad made with allowed vegetables and appropriate cheese if you can eat that

I’d normally take a few slices of bread with me (avocado or squash based).

Low FODMAP only, in addition to the above:

  • grilled plantains or cassava
  • boiled white rice or rice noodles with any of the following: cucumbers, shredded carrots, leafy greens, red peppers, tomatoes, nuts, chicken pieces, shrimp, tuna, sweetcorn, seeds, hard cheese (if tolerated), chives, green parts of scallions, olives, anchovies, chopped sausage, ham or salame, beansprouts, avocado; dress with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, mayo, mustard, mango chutney (check for garlic!)
  • egg fried rice with any or all of: tofu, red peppers, zucchini, nuts, seeds, meat, shrimp, bamboo shots, spinach, green parts of scallions, peas (small amount), sweetcorn
  • french fries, potato wedges, hashbrowns or roasted potatoes (watch out for dairy in mashed potatoes)
  • polenta
  • chirashizushi, nigirizushi, oshizushi, onigiri or inarizushi (the latter, only if you can tolerate tofu)
  • gluten-free bread or pancakes – find out if the flour mix they use contains soy or other bean flour, and whether there is any dairy added
  • oatmeal made with almond milk or water, with allowed fruit, nuts, maple syrup and a pat of butter (guilty as charged, I like rich breakfasts)
  • grits with butter
  • sausage or bacon, make sure it has no garlic/onion/fennel

I usually take a few slices of bread with me, too.

These are some places where I had a particularly good experience:

  • House of Siam
  • The Fish Hopper
  • Lois the Pie Queen – I had eggs, bacon and grits; their hash browns also seemed OK, I think they were made with simply potatoes with no onion/garlic; you may want to avoid the spinach omelet
  • Coupa Cafe – they have almond milk, and their flavoured syrups are made with plain sugar (no corn syrup, high fructose or other)
  • Scrambl’z – amazing wait staff, the server literally ran through the crowded restaurant to catch a busy chef and ask him if there is any dairy in their gluten-free pancake and waffle batter. They also do wheat-free french toast! (To be honest, now that a few hours have past and I’m updating this post, I think the bread may have been made with bean flour – I should have asked, so this one’s on me)
  • Millie’s Kitchen – the omelet with Polish sausage was to die for, and their hashbrowns are THE BEST
  • Stacks - yet another breakfast place with delicious options

and a bad one:

4. Have something tasty waiting for you and treat yourself.

For me, this will be something sweet and/or nutty. Like and oatmeal cracker with peanut butter and lemon curd, a ripe banana or a home-made cookie.

5. Potlucks:

This one is fairly simple – just take a few small dishes in addition to/instead of one  large one and stick to your own fare, unless you can convince a few friends to cook something you might enjoy. A little disappointing, I know, but the other two options are to either not attend at all, or be sick… I actually prefer this form of a social outing above all others, it doesn’t constrain me to eating a very simple and boring meal as I would at a restaurant, while at the same time nobody has to feel awkward when I start pulling out the tupperware.

 6. Cafés:

Depending on how you’re approaching coffee and tea, you may still be able to enjoy these. All coffeehouses will have either drip coffee or americano (which is espresso diluted with hot water). As a funny side note, americano is the European option, drip coffee is practically nonexistent on the old continent. Stay away from instant coffee, it’s high in FODMAPs. Most places will obviously also serve black or herbal tea. One easily available and delicious option is the sencha tea from Starbucks, but in general, the more ‘upscale’ places are more likely to have an exciting selection of herbal teas with no illegal ingredients. As for the cake…well… sometimes, you’ll be incredibly lucky and find a place that serves low FODMAP goodies. This will depend on how strict your diet is. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring your own, just make sure to ask the server or barista whether it’s OK to eat it. To stay positive, think of all those empty calories you’re avoiding and focus on gossiping with your friends, people-watching or whatever else is the real reason you’re out.

7. Formal events:

Daunting as it may seem, this one is doable, too. You may have to suffer the slight indignity of taking out tupperware with your own food and arranging it on a plate, but this can be done discretely. I’m speaking from experience, as recently, I have done just that at a wedding! To make things easier, you may want to prepare food that can be eaten cold. At this particular wedding, my menu included roasted aubergine with almond meal, marinated chicken breast with a salad and home made bread, and for dessert I had orange wedges with squashablanca. Delicious! Similarly, at a Thanksgiving meal I enjoyed at my friends’ house, I tried a tiny bite of ham and had some potatoes, and reheated the rest of my meal in a microwave. It may help to prepare things similar to what the host is serving – for some reason, this seems to make people more understanding (you like the options they’re offering, but cannot handle just a few ingredients).

8. The right to say no:

This is something I’m addressing in a separate post, but in a nutshell – if nothing seems appealing and/or safe, feel free to politely decline food and stick to water/tea/coffee.

This is as much as I have to say right now, will update as I learn new tricks. And seriously, do stay positive – a limited diet is not the end of the world, focus on what you can eat instead of what you cannot. Good luck and keep smiling!

 

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  1. […] range of intolerances. I have already addressed the issue of navigating this potential minefield here. But here comes the additional frustration that I only recently became aware of: for some reason, […]

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When your love for onion rings, whipped cream latté and apple pie has to surrender in the face of a gastrointestinal war... when the world becomes a bleak place, full of chicken soup and carrots... do not despair! There's more than one sweet fish in the sea, and your culinary adventures have only just begun. I hereby present you Squashablanca, the land of plenty for people following a low-sugar version of the low FODMAP diet. Enjoy your food!

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