I’m always surprised at the amazing things a manufacturer can throw in a simple food product. When I’m trying to compare oranges to oranges, it seems they are doing their best to throw in some apples. This week I had coconut milk on my grocery list and thought I’d take the time to compare a few brands.
I picked up all three brands at my local Safeway. The Tosca brand of coconut milk cost $2.99, the Compliments brand cost $1.79, and the Thai Kitchen brand was $3.49, so there was a considerable price difference between the three.
Not surprisingly, the Thai Kitchen brand, though it was the most expensive, was the purest product. As you can see on the label, just three ingredients.
The product at the next price level was the Tosca. Besides good old water, it also contains some of my favorite scrabble words: Potassium Meta bisulphate and polysorbate 60.
Finally, at the lowest price, the Complements brand contains carboxmethyl cellulose, along with the polysorbate 60.
Now, I find that living on a low FODMAP diet is challenging enough – squinting at labels to see if they contain things like honey, onion or apple is quite enough effort thank you. I don’t really want to become fluent with ingredient names like carboxymethyl or polysorbate. A food product should be just that.
I will take the time to do a taste test on these three products, though. I’ll just make sure that the two products with ‘mystery ingredients’ will be used on an evening when I know that the following day I can wear my ‘bloat pants’.
I’m sure there are many other brands of coconut milk on the shelves, with many other additives that may or may not be pronounceable. I’m also sure that the manufacturers will say that these additives are totally safe. But living with IBS and a few food intolerances has taught me that a body is very sensitive to what we put into it and sometimes it’s difficult to determine what side effect is caused by what item we’ve put into our mouth.
It will probably be a while before manufacturers start to label products as ‘low FODMAP’, so in the meantime, I think I’ll stick to the products that are the purest. Even though Thai kitchen is the most expensive, it’s probably what I’ll reach for first.
Learning to eat following a FODMAP diet in your own home is tricky enough, but it can be very daunting when you get an invite out. This Thanksgiving, The Husband, The Kid, and I have been invited out to a friends place for Thanksgiving dinner. Even thought they are dear friends, I am still nervous about the whole thing, so I thought I’d give myself a list of things to do before I try to celebrate Thanksgiving with Food Intolerances.
In some ways, successfully eating out when you have a food intolerance seems a bit like waging a war: 90% preparation, 1% action, and 9% waiting around for the worst to happen. So here’s my plan:
Gutsy Broads Top 10 List for Eating Dinner out as a Guest
1) Call the Hostess to let them know, or remind them, that I have food intolerances. This is the hardest thing for me to do, because I don’t look sick, I don’t want other people to pity me, and I hate explaining an intolerance to eggs, dairy and what the heck a FODMAP is. I’m lucky that the hostess for this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner knows that I have food intolerances, so I will assume (which I know is a dangerous thing) that she’s waiting for me to call and help her out.
2) When talking with the Hostess, I will ask about the main course she is planning on serving. Thanksgiving is usually turkey, so I’m hoping she’s not planning on serving it drenched in a heavy garlic cream sauce or something. If the turkey will be cooked simply and just the gravy will be off limits for me, I’ll know just to stay away from the gravy. Because of my dairy intolerance, if she’s planning on serving a butterball turkey I may have to do some heavy strategizing. I’m not going to tell her what she can or cannot cook so I will plan on taking a teeny piece for my plate and asking my husband to quietly steal it during dinner.
3) Also when talking with the Hostess, I will ask about side dishes. Usually it’s potatoes – if her plans are to prepare it in a way I’m uncomfortable with I can offer to bring my own baked potato. She will probably then offer to nuke a potato for me – if she doesn’t that’s no big deal.
4) I may slip in a question about dessert. I will already feel like I am grilling her, so depending on how the conversation is going I’ll decide whether to approach this or not. I can always pass on dessert – there’s always at least one annoying person at every dinner party who refuses dessert, it might as well be me.
5) I will offer to bring something. Actually, I already know that I’m responsible for bringing the salad, so I’ll make sure that it, and the dressing, is low FODMAP. I will then feel comfortable loading up my plate with it.
6) Before going to the dinner, I will eat something filling at home. Making sure that you are ‘sort of’ full before going out for dinner seems counter-productive, but it is a tried and true strategy.
7) I will take two things to dinner (besides the salad): A positive attitude and a purse with a couple of safe granola bars. I may take an appetiser if I feel brave.
8) I will go easy on the alcohol. I know that I need to stay alert during dinner, and getting blasted isn’t conducive to that. Sigh.
9) I will not make a fuss at dinner. If all I have on my plate is a piece of turkey (inedible or not), a baked potato and my salad – that will be fine. Having something on my plate is less of a distraction for other guests than having an empty plate at the table.
10) I will be prepared in case I ingest something that sets off my stomach. I always like to wait about an hour after eating something I’m unsure of, just to see if my stomach will reject it or not. So, not eating dessert, sipping my wine or tea, and then chatting while cleaning up the dishes will give me time to decide if I’m ok to get in the car and head home. My purse will have my emergency kit (extra underwear, etc.) just in case. Having this with me gives me some comfort and helps reduce my stress which can make a mild symptom much worse.
My plan is to do what I can to make sure I can accomplish the real goal of Thanksgiving dinner: spending time with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company.
Hopefully this list can help you if you’ve been invited out to Thanksgiving dinner!
I found what sounds like the most delicious ingredient in my local organic food store this week: Milanaise Roasted Coconut. These Roasted coconut chips look delicious!
The product is attractively wrapped, with a little window to show the large flakes of roasty-toasty coconut. Best of all, according to the back of the package, it’s the only ingredient. I was very surprised when I discovered my old brand of shredded coconut was really a cocktail of ingredients!
According to the Monash FODMAP App, a half cup of shredded, dried coconut gets a yellow warning light, as it contains a moderate amount of polyol-sorbitol. (Incidentally, I had a tough time finding the coconut on the FODMAP App, as raw coconut isn’t included – just the dried and shredded type, which is considered a ‘processed’ food. So it’s listed towards the bottom of the list. Incidentally, coconut milk is given the green light).
I usually add shredded coconut to a recipe, so I don’t think I’d eat more than a quarter cup at a time, which is given the green light by the app.
So what should I do with my new package of Roasted Coconut?
This is a recipe I tried this summer on a whim, and I have to admit it’s pretty cool. I bought the package of Bob’s Red Mill whole seed chia to include with some granola bars I was making. On the back of the package is a recipe for a rather unique jam. With some slight modification I was able to turn it into a FODMAP Free Blueberry Chia Jam.
According to Authority Nutrition, Chia is loaded with fiber, protein and antioxidants, and we all know how good blueberries are for you! After checking out the Bobs Red Mill website, I see they note that the recipe is High in fiber, lactose free, Low Cal, Low Carb, Low Fat, Soy Free and Vegan.
The interesting thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for pectin – the package notes that chia is a ‘nutrient rich substitute for pectin’. Because of this, it doesn’t call for much in the way of sugar either. The 1/4 cup of Agave syrup was easily swapped for a more FODMAP friendly Brown Rice syrup.
Here’s the recipe, right off the package with the minor sugar substitute:
FODMAP Free Blueberry Chia Jam
3 Cups fresh Blueberries
1/4 cup Brown Rice syrup
1/4 cup Chia Seed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine berries and syrup in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat until berries soften. Add chia seed and cook, stirring often, until very thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Store in refrigerator. Makes 10 servings. Keeps best refrigerated or frozen.
The resulting jam has a mild flavour and fun texture. I love it loaded on a piece of my toasted gluten, egg and dairy free bread. Or a rice cracker for a snack!. I find that regular jam is often overwhelmingly sweet and this is a nice alternative. It also makes a smaller batch than most jam recipes, so is a little more convenient for a home cook like me.
Summer is here and it’s time to enjoy fresh food from the garden or farmers market! I have a rhubarb plant tucked into the corner of my yard and it’s the first thing I can harvest each year. One of the things we look forward to is a warm Rhubarb Crumble, spooned over ice cream (or frozen coconut, rice or soy milk for those of us with dairy intolerances!). A FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble is a wonderful spring and summer treat…
I adapted this recipe from the one printed on the back of the GoGo Quinoa package. Apples are a no-go, so it took just a little tweaking to make this into a FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble recipe.
FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble
Chopped rhubarb, enough to fill at least 1/2 the depth of the pan
6 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. Earth Balance dairy free baking margarine
Grease the pan, add the chopped rhubarb. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the rhubarb. Add small dots of margarine to the top.
For the crumble:
4 tsp Earth Balance dairy free margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten free flour
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
Melt the margarine and toss with the sugar, flour and flakes. Spoon this over the rhubarb in the pan. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until crust is golden and rhubarb is tender (approximately 25 minutes).
This is a terrific way to use rhubarb. Rhubarb is given the green light on the Monash FODMAP app, so it’s nice to have this option for fresh fruit!
The Husband and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this year, and decided to treat ourselves to our first trip to NYC. As always, I’m nervous about travelling with IBS, but I’m determined to not let it hold me hostage (see Manifesto #3; I will be free ). Travelling to New York City was The Husbands idea, but I was pretty confident that I could make it work, now that I have a few travel strategies in place.
Packing and preparing for our trip was a bit of an ordeal…. What clothes should I bring? What will we want to see and do? Our friends and family jumped in with many helpful suggestions – unfortunately MOST of these suggestions centered around restaurants. At first I didn’t mind, but after being told of the millionth pastry shop that we simply ‘must try’, I had a little snit and mild panic attack. My wonderful, supportive, patient husband sat me down – and helped me see that we were going to NYC to:
A) celebrate our anniversary, and
B) SEE (not eat) New York City.
So with my priorities straightened out, I packed my negligee and supplies for ‘camping’ in a hotel. My hotel kitchen kit holds granola bars (FODMAP Free), an empty lunch kit, plastic cutlery, a few Ziploc baggies, napkins, some dish soap, and for my first few hours in a new city, some rice cakes, organic peanut butter, travel sized almond milk and tea bags. OK here’s the thing: I know we are staying in a nice hotel in the middle of civilization, but I never assume that I can quickly get my hands on the basics. And I’m not a good person if I can’t have a cup of tea (with milk) and a small breakfast FIRST THING in the morning.
WE had a fabulous time! Our hotel was new and bright, we were located close to Times Square and found the city to be overwhelmingly awesome – so much to see and do and the people we met were very friendly (thanks to the complete stranger that helped us figure out the subway!).
Our first morning we were able to find a well-stocked grocery store – The Food Emporium – where I could load up on peanuts, rice crackers, safe deli meat, fruit and more. We stocked our little hotel room fridge and I was good to go!
My breakfasts were peanut butter on rice cakes with a strong cup of tea. Lunches were mostly granola bars, bananas, nuts – but I did order a lovely salad with grilled chicken (just olive oil for dressing) at Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park one afternoon. I had planned on being a bit more daring for dinners, but honestly, we were so exhausted from hiking around Manhattan all day that we both enjoyed a coffee-table picnic in the hotel room, catching whatever movie was on in the evening. Munching on sliced turkey, sharing grapes and sipping a bottle of wine was a surprisingly romantic dinner!
We did try out an Irish Pub for dinner once (we stopped in earlier that day, asking if they had baked potatoes available on the menu – only later did I realize the humour of doubting an Irish Pub would serve potatoes). I brought a (pop-top) tin of tuna, ordered a baked potatoe, green salad and olive oil on the side – no, it’s not fancy, but it keeps my tummy happy!
Thanks to my cautious eating, I felt awesome the entire trip – we did so much sightseeing and covered a lot of territory. When I asked The Husband if he really was ok with not eating out at fancy New York restaurants he looked at me like I was daft: “Do you know how much money we’re saving?!”.
So, travelling to New York City can be done if you have IBS! Here’s what worked for me:
Bringing my emergency kit purse with a change of clothes – this is especially comforting on the flight. I didn’t need it, but feeling in control keeps the tummy calm.
Making sure our hotel had a bar fridge
Bringing my ‘hotel kitchen’ kit
finding a grocery store close to the hotel
I did try to google ‘NYC FODMAP friendly restaurants’ but didn’t get much that was helpful
Maintaining the perspective that I’m travelling to see and do. Not eat.
Having a plan for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, and not relying on spur of the moment choices.
It was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary and a big treat for us to see this magnificent city. I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary gift….
Top 10 Foods I wish I could easily buy at the Grocery Store
I’ve been on the FODMAP diet for over a year now, with amazing results, and I think that one of the few things that is still a thorn in my side is the list of foods I wish I could easily buy at the grocery store.
I shop at two places on a regular basis – a nation-wide mainstream grocery store and a local, natural foods grocery store.
The national chain store is getting better at providing foods for those of us with more selective dietary needs. There is a ‘gluten free’ section, sitting beside a ‘dairy alternative’ area. I’ve been able to hunt and peck a few safe prepared products from the main shelves of the store as well, so as a result I do the majority of my shopping here for me and my family.
However, I’m very grateful for having a local natural foods store a short drive a way. I keep a list on fridge of the things I buy there regularly, and circle the items as I run out of them during the week. As soon as I’m out of 2 or 3 things, I’m off!
As wonderful as it is to have access to both styles of selection, there are some things that I really miss.
Here are the Top 10 foods I wish I could easily buy at the grocery store:
Salad dressing – I make some very good ones from scratch, but it would be nice just to pick up a FODMAP free dressing at the store, or be able to tell my mom that it’s the one I can have. As a bonus, I would like it to do double duty as a marinade for chicken, pork or fish (no, I don’t ask for much from my condiments, do I?)
Barbeque sauce – I have attempted a few recipes for FODMAP free barbeque sauces, but I haven’t come up with a really good one yet.
Canned soup – this winter, when The Family was laid low with colds and flu, I would have paid dearly for a prepared soup that was guaranteed FODMAP free. Too many have dairy, or use the nebular ‘seasonings’ in their ingredient list. If I can’t breathe with a head cold, the last thing I want is to be running to the bathroom because I accidentally ingested garlic or onion!
A bigger selection of dairy alternatives. I am completely off dairy milk and try to limit my intake of goat and soy products. I miss my old recipes that called for mozzarella or cream cheese or ice cream and that sort of thing. Something like ice cream often has egg product added to it, and eggs give me a terrible reaction… so I just stay away now.
Chocolate bar – I never really used to be tempted by the selection of chocolate bars by the checkout stands, but that was when I could eat any of them without having a gut reaction. Now that I can’t have any, I really want one!! There are more organic options now, but I find that plain dark chocolate is too… chocolately? (how is that possible?). And they often have bits of fruit or nuts that are verboten on the FODMAP list. I could risk it, but I don’t think a small treat should punish you THAT badly.
Gum. I really miss gum. I’ve tried the natural options and they just aren’t a good substitute for a minty chew. One stuck so badly to my fillings that it took me a week of intensive brushing and flossing just to get it all out of my mouth!
Chinese Sauces. Yes, I know I could make something from scratch. But sometimes I’m lazy and just want to sauté some chicken and broccoli and throw on a prepared sauce and call it dinner.
East Indian Sauces. Ditto.
Italian Sauces. Ditto.
Watermelon. Apples. Peaches. Pears. Apples (yes, it needs to be in there twice)
So, perhaps my list isn’t the most ultra-health conscious list out there and I’m sure the marathon running, wheatgrass drinking folks out there will tell me I’m better off without these items. But I miss them, and being able to tell my mom (or friends or other family members) that a product easily available is fine for me to have would be a real bonus. The constant label-reading is exhausting, and I won’t ask my family and friends to start doing it for me.
Living on a special diet, no matter if it’s for diabetes, IBS, or other reasons brings it’s own special challenges. Once I was able to figure out WHAT I could eat safely (this took me about 2 years), I was then left with the challenge of making sure that I could have safe foods easily accessible. One thing I really missed was being able to toss a granola bar into my purse. I needed to discover a FODMAP free granola bar!
Most easily available granola bars are filled with ‘healthy’ ingredients that don’t sit so well with my tummy. Apples, honey, dairy, wheat and even sometimes ingredients that I can’t pronounce, let alone try and spell!
I did discover the granola bars from Nature’s Path, and found two types that are safe – but one of them is pumpkin flavoured, and I’m not a real fan of pumpkins in anything except pie (and that will now be a memory from my pre-IBS days).
So I checked out recipes on the internet and from my cookbooks. I mucked about in my kitchen. My biggest disappointment was ending up with a crumbly mess that didn’t stick together – I made the mistake of putting one of these (wrapped in saran) in my purse and it didn’t survive the morning before disintegrating.
After some experimentation, I did end up with my go-to recipe, that I’d like to share with you.
There are three secrets to making a granola bar that sticks together and doesn’t fall apart:
I use Organic Brown Rice Syrup by Lundberg (no doubt there are other suppliers of this product). I can find this at both my local health food store as well as Safeway, and it is a FODMAP free substitute for corn syrup.
Be cautious of how many ‘dry’ ingredients (particularly the oats) that you add to the recipe. Adding a little ‘extra’ can result in a dry bar with not enough ‘stick’. The total amount of dry ingredients should not exceed 6.5 cups.
Boil the ‘wet’ ingredients for about 2 minutes, before adding dry ingredients. If you’ve ever made candy, you know this is an important step.
The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s really flexible. I change it up all the time.
1/3 cup Earth Balance or other margarine substitute
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Brown rice syrup
3 cups rice crispies
1.5 cup quick oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup diary free chocolate chips
In a large, heavy pot set on medium heat, combine the margarine, brown sugar and rice syrup. Stirring constantly, bring to a light boil and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Press into a 9×13 lightly oiled pan. Let set, remove from pan and cut into bars. Individually wrap bars in saran, store in freezer until needed.
As I mentioned, one of the key things to not having a dry crumbly bar is to control the urge to add too many dry ingredients (particularly the oats). I usually measure out the dry ingredients beforehand to make sure I’m not over the magic 6.5 cup amount.
The fun part of this recipe is that if you remember this rule, you can mix up the ingredients for variety. I’ve removed the chocolate, increased the coconut and added chia seeds:
I’ve added the candied orange peel that I’ve had left over from my Christmas baking:
If you don’t want your chocolate chips to melt into the bars, you can add them just before you turn the batter out into the pan.
If you add peanuts, be aware they may be oily and not stick to the bar. I find if I use Spanish peanuts and chop them up they stay put.
I take large Ziploc bags of these whenever I travel. One of these and an orange or banana will do me for lunch if there’s no other safe options available. They keep well, are convenient to have on hand and are definitely a sanity saver!
I have to admit that this winter is wearing on me. It takes a great deal of effort to talk myself out of wearing my oversized flannel shirt every day! I’m so lazy that I might as well be hibernating – and that’s why this recipe for Chicken Chili and Pasta is perfect. It’s very, very easy and is one of my go-to recipes for when my tummy isn’t feeling well. Very FODMAP friendly!
It’s also quick and uses so few ingredients that I almost always have them on hand. It’s a good recipe for beginner cooks to learn.
Chicken Chili and Pasta
1 Package of ground chicken (you could substitute ground turkey as well)
1 can of Aylmer Accent Fire Roasted diced tomatoes (they have no onion or garlic included)
1 Tsp Cumin (I add more because I like it)
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked Rice Pasta (I use the Tinkyada brand)
That’s it! That’s all the ingredients!
First brown the ground chicken in a frying pan (I sometimes use a bit of olive oil). Once browned, stir in the cumin, salt and pepper and tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes and serve over cooked pasta!
This recipe serves 3 hungry people and I often will double the recipe to make extras for leftovers to keep in the fridge. Because the Aylmer diced tomatoes are so chunky, I will sometimes add half the can as is, and then blend the rest with my hand blender in the can before adding it.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how far I’ve come in the year I’ve been on the FODMAP diet. This time last year, I was a real mess – I remember clearly thinking ‘just shoot me’, when I thought about living the rest of my life with the pain and diarrhea and exhaustion. I credit the FODMAP diet with giving me my health and life back – I’ve been able to make great progress in all aspects of my Manifesto! One thing I haven’t really addressed is point number 5: I want to be prepared for the future. Why not look at food labels for FODMAPs?
As I see myself ageing, I see myself having difficulty managing a FODMAP diet. Already, trying to read itty bitty ingredient lists (hello Campbell’s soup), on the sides of food products can be a challenge, never mind the likely eventuality of ending up in a Seniors Residence, dependant on others to cook for me. Will they know what food products are FODMAP friendly? Why not IBS food labels for FODMAPs?
I think it’s time I started doing my small bit to try and make some changes. I see in Australia that some enterprising souls have set up the FODMAP.com website, which encourages food companies to identify their products as being FODMAP friendly. I contacted them and this is what they tell me:
“Nice to hear from you, we are based in Australia but we have already had Fodmap Friendly Certification approved in all countries including Canada. We are currently just launching worldwide so at this stage no specific organisation in Canada at this stage but hopefully soon the food manufacturers will get on board and assist all those people who have difficulty in finding food they can eat throughout the supermarket. This will make their lives so much easier.”
I think I’m going to try and do my bit to see if I can get food processing companies in Canada/North America thinking about utilizing the FODMAP friendly label.
To start, I’ve picked three food products (that I’ve mentioned on one of my previous Top 10 lists), and I’m going to write the companies with the following message:
I am writing to you to express how very much I enjoy your product.
I discovered this product after I began to follow a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (google it for more information) – the idea is that foods that are high in FODMAPs cause great digestive discomfort (gas, bloating, diarrhea) for many people, including people suffering from IBS.
These fermentable sugars are in many, many foods (honey, garlic, apples, among many others), and it is difficult to find prepared foods that are free (or low) in these ingredients. That’s why I was so please to find your product: it is now on my grocery list nearly every week.
The FODMAP diet is gaining in awareness and is an effective way to battle IBS. Many people are learning about the diet, but most find it difficult to follow because there are so few food products clearly labelled. I would ask that you consider labelling your products so that we can more easily locate and purchase foods that we can eat. Australia has a FODMAP labelling program already in place, and it is approved for use in Canada. You can check out their website fodmap.com, to learn more about this program.
The three products I’ve chosen to start with are:
Earth Balance Vegan cooking and baking sticks (www.earthbalancenatural.com)