Before starting the diet we discussed what we were going to miss most, and decided it would be the flavour from foods such as garlic and onion, fresh bread and our weekend baked treats such as pastries. In reality, these were relatively easy to deal with once discovering garlic oil and trying a wide range of wheat free breads. In the end the things that we really missed were having a variety of vegetables (especially some of our favourites like mushrooms & leek) & pulses. By taking pulses out of our diet, we started to realise how much we used them, for example when cooking a vegetarian meal as well as bulking out certain meals with meat; making them last longer so there were meals to take to work, reduce cost and help achieve a more sustainable diet. We would also use them as a quick lunch option, such as adding butter beans or lentils to a salad and hummus on bread. This meant that we relied on animal based protein such as meat and fish more than we had predicted.
The changing routine….
The past 8 weeks have flown by and to be honest following the FODMAP diet has now actually become part of our normal routine. The interesting part of following a structured diet, was discovering how difficult it was at first to change many ‘routine’ aspect of our day with the first week or two being the hardest. As the weeks went by we found finding suitable meals to grab for lunch easier and had discovered plenty of snacks to keep us going. Cooking lots of different meals and having to think a bit more creatively has been really enjoyable – and we do have a stack of recipes for all meals of the day which we feature on low FODMAP recipes found on the blog. A main message for those embarking on the diet *it really isn’t as hard as first thought, or felt in the first week – routines are very easily formed*
The new discoveries and essentials…
We have previously discussed how to get loads of flavour into meals and snacks, by using herbs and spices and garlic infused oil, and have described how to use these best in recipes. By not being able to use garlic and onion as a base flavour has made us use spices and herbs even more, which has been a revelation and made us prepare more dressings and sides such as pesto, pistou, Chimichurri and our own versions of these classics. Why we don’t use these sort of sauces & techniques more often in the UK is crazy, they are so simple and can be used with loads of different meals.
For us, using gluten/wheat free products was really useful and made the 8 weeks much more bearable. These products enable you to have the flexability you are used to, grabbing a slice of toast or crumpet before the gym or taking some rolls to a BBQ. Some of the companies also do cakes and muffins which are great for a treat, but ingredients need to be checked to ensure there are no FODMAPs added. Some of the breads available really are great (stay tuned for product reviews) – but they are expensive. If possible request some product samples from companies and ‘try before you buy’, and we actually found the gluten free breads were often discounted in the supermarkets. If you shop smart the diet is no more expensive than your normal diet.
We don’t tend to eat that much pasta so having rice and potatoes more often was fine, and some of the gluten free pasta’s really were so good that we felt they weren’t any different from their wheat counterparts (providing you do not overcook!). Also discovering buckwheat flour in the form of pancakes has now meant we have a new favourite pancake – go see for yourself and try a buckwheat pancake.
The fruit and veggies….
It really was the variety of vegetables we both missed the most. Courgettes, peppers and aubergines are actually some of our most favourite vegetables…however having them nearly everyday got a bit repetitive. Carrots, green beans and sweetcorn were other favourites on the diet and we would always have a supply of all of the above in the fridge or sweetcorn in a tin.
Fruit did not seem too restrictive as we naturally preferred fruits such as grapes and bananas to apples and pears, however it seems that apple is added to SO many products once you start looking. This includes many pre-prepared foods and drinks as a sweetener, including a fair number of the gluten free products. Baking treats and making snacks from scratch is a better idea, as well as using foods in their most natural form and flavouring yourself i.e. yogurt. With the summer now arrived and the increased choice of seasonal cherries, plums, nectarines & peaches (all high FODMAP) being available, it is a good time for us to be able to reintroduce these. We picked a good time to start the diet in this case as we look forward to these fruits coming into season…something to consider if this if important to you.
The most important meal of the day….
The meal that was most altered was probably breakfast. Not being able to eat wheat means you have to think about your breakfast options. Finding options like oatbran / oatmeal and re-discovering oldschool classics like rice crispies and cornflakes led us to making our own mix of different suitable cereals in a tub and adding some extra nuts, seeds and dried fruit for flavour and sweetness. We also made our own snack food which could be eaten as we travel around in our jobs or as a quick grab and go if rushed at breakfast.
Breakfast is something we always have, and just couldn’t function without something decent to kickstart the day. Some of our new blog posts to come will be on what we have for breakfast and some tips on getting a healthy start to the day. As part of our morning routine, dairy was also something that we changed and actually we are likely to continue with these changes. We have been discovering all the amazing non diary milks of which there are such a huge variety now including nut, rice, soya, oat and coconut, as well as the flavoured versions of these. We found they taste great on cereals and porridge or as a drink and in smoothies. We tend to use a mix of nut and rice milk mainly however did stick to cow’s milk in tea and coffee as we felt the alternatives don’t work so well. With the variety of semi skimmed for coffee, skimmed for tea and nut/rice milks for cereals, our fridge door is usually jam packed! Small amounts of dairy are still allowed when following the low lactose part of the low FODMAP diet, allowing you this flexibility (or fussiness).
Following the low FODMAP diet over the past 8 weeks has been the most practical and useful way of learning a lifestyle change that we would be advising clients on. This has enabled us to learn exactly how hard following a restrictive diet is when eating out, shopping, cooking and snacking. There is no doubt this will make our consulting more effective, and it has been great to provide a growing resource and share other resources that we hope will be useful for both clients and healthcare professionals. There are lots of more recipes to come for you to try (whether you are following the diet or not!) now….to tackle the reintroduction.