Low FODMAP Christmas Survival Guide
Christmas (or any holiday that you celebrate, for that matter) can be a very tricky time when you’re on the low FODMAP diet. Whatever phase of the diet you’re in (check out an explanation of the diet here), this time of year can be tricky to navigate. There’s all the parties, dinners and social gatherings in the run up and then there’s the big day itself!
I’ve gathered a few tips here to help you get through the Christmas period without getting too overwhelmed, but at the same time, keeping your gut happy.
LOW FODMAP CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL TIPS
1. TAKE A BREAK
Whatever stage you’re at in the low FODMAP diet, there are so many things at this time of year to throw you off track. If you try to be super strict for the whole period, it can go one of two ways. Either you manage to stay on track but you end up resenting the diet for not allowing you to fully enjoy Christmas…or, you ‘fall off the wagon’ so you completely give up on the diet, causing lots of nasty gut symptoms, that get in the way of you enjoying Christmas anyway.
Neither of these options is ideal, so my recommendation would be to give yourself a little break. Not a full on blow out where you eat everything you want, but just a pause. If you’re in the elimination phase, let yourself relax for a bit. If you’re in the re-introduction phase, have a pause from testing. If you’re in the final, personalised phase, this will be easier, but you still need to give yourself permission to relax. This diet should not be about deprivation. The whole point of it is to help you find a balance between controlling your gut and living your life, so Christmas should be no exception.
By having a break, you don’t want to completely let yourself go, but just relax a little. In order to do that, you need to have a bit of a strategy in place. This is what I’d recommend:
Set a timeline - right now, set the date that you’re going to start your version of a break and the date you’re going to end it. Having your parameters set will make it easier to stick to it and mean that you don’t just keep the break going longer than you need to.
Choose your favourite foods - once you’ve set your timeline, you need to decide on your ‘break’ foods. The idea behind this is that you don’t want to just be mindlessly munching on loads of high FODMAP foods, that you don’t even like that much, just because you can. Sit down and pick your top 3 absolute favourite high FODMAP Christmassy foods (e.g. mince pies, stuffing and milk chocolate). Once you’ve picked, allow yourself to indulge in small amounts of those foods over your break period. Give yourself full permission to eat them and don’t feel bad about it.
Allowing yourself to enjoy some of the foods that you really love for a limited time period will help you out in the long run. It will mean you avoid caving in and getting mad at yourself, but will still allow you to enjoy the Christmas foods that you really do enjoy, rather than mindlessly munching. Sticking to your 3 favourites means that you won’t suddenly be overloading your gut with FODMAPs so you’ll be able to keep gut symptoms to the minimum, without feeling totally deprived. You’re then much more likely to keep going with the diet when your ‘break’ ends.
2. WARN FAMILY + FRIENDS
If you’re visiting friends or family for parties or dinners, speak to them about the diet beforehand. Explain the things you’re avoiding and the things that you can eat, so they can keep it in mind when they’re cooking. Your friends and family would much rather have the opportunity to make you something that you can eat, than not knowing and you not being able to eat anything. You end up hungry and they’d probably end up feeling guilty and embarrassed that you weren’t eating their food. Give them the opportunity to make something for you by talking to them in advance.
If you are embarrassed or worried about what they’ll think, try explaining to them that you suffer with gut problems and the reasons why you are doing the diet. This normally goes down better than just reeling off a list of foods you can’t eat. It allows them to sympathise with you and to really understand what you’re going through, rather than thinking you’re just trying out some crazy diet. They’re much more likely to want to cater for you.
3. OWN IT
If you’re out at a party, don’t be embarrassed to ask about ingredients. Most hosts who have cooked will be more than happy to talk you through the ingredients in their dishes. So, if you’re out, just own the fact that you’re on this diet and ask what’s in the food. This will allow you to avoid nasty gut symptoms but also to enjoy the food that actually is low FODMAP.
4. FIND LOW FODMAP ALTERNATIVES
There are so many amazing low FODMAP recipes blogs out there now. Do some research and find low FODMAP versions of your favourite Christmas foods, and make them. You don’t have to deprive yourself of all the delicious Christmas treats that you love. This way, you can make low FODMAP versions of the foods that you love, but aren’t in your top 3 ‘allowed list.’ No deprivation needed. One of my absolute favourite Christmas dishes is stuffing. I’m obsessed with it. So, I found a low FODMAP version and made it and it was absolutely delicious!
5. EAT LOW FODMAP WHEN YOU CAN
Try to stick with eating low FODMAP foods outside of parties, meals and events. FODMAP levels build up in your gut over a day and only trigger symptoms when they beyond whatever your tolerable limit is (read more about this here). Therefore, if you’re eating high FODMAP foods all throughout the day, you’ll hit that limit much sooner and experience symptoms. However, if you keep to low FODMAP foods when you can, outside of events, then when you do go to a party and have a high FODMAP treat, it’s less likely to push you over your tolerable limit. So, you’re much more likely to remain symptom free at that party!
6. START OFF WITH A LOW FODMAP BREAKFAST
One time of the day you can make sure you’re eating low FODMAP is breakfast. We rarely have Christmas breakfast parties (though that sounds like a great idea!!). They normally happen at lunch or dinner. So, if you start off your days over the festive period with filling, nutritious low FODMAP breakfasts, then at least you know you’ve started off the day well. This will fill you up, meaning you’re less likely to reach for high FODMAP snacks later on. Also, by starting off on a good note, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it throughout the rest of the day.
If you’re off to a party or dinner, offer to make a dish, and make something delicious and low FODMAP. Your host will be very happy and glad of the help and you will at least be confident that there is one dish you can eat safely. Win win.
8. PACK LOW FODMAP SNACKS
There’s normally quite a bit of travel involved at this time of year. Of course, there’ll also be meals out or occasions where you can’t just bring your own dish. For these instances, make sure your bag is full of low FODMAP snacks. Then, instead of reaching for whatever high FODMAP food is lying around, or in the petrol station shop, when you’re starving, you can reach into your back for that low FODMAP snack. If you’re embarrassed to reach into your bag for a snack at a party, but desperately hungry, you can always excuse yourself and snack in the toilet!
Christmas is a really hard time of year for sticking with the low FODMAP diet, but a bit of planning and preparation can help you out hugely.
TOP SURVIVAL TIPS:
Take a break
Warn family and friends
Find low FODMAP alternatives
Eat low FODMAP when you can
Start off with a low FODMAP breakfast
Bring your own food
Pack low FODMAP snacks
Above all, go easy on yourself. If you do ‘mess up’ don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t think that now you’ve caved in you may as well give up altogether and go crazy. Just accept it, forgive yourself, and keep going as best as you can. Allow yourself to relax a little over the festive period and enjoy yourself. Life’s all about balance, and whilst you want to keep your gut as happy as possible, you’ve got to be able to live your life!
Wishing you a very happy low FODMAP Christmas! Let me know how it was in the comments.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this,