Cooking for a low FODMAP diet can be a bit daunting at first, even if you’ve got a comprehensive guide to starting a low FODMAP diet. That’s because you need to change your preferred methods of choosing meals and preparing food. Not only do you have to know which foods to avoid, you also have to learn how to use ingredients you’ve never cooked with before (and sometimes haven’t heard of either). But once you get a handle on the ingredients, the actual cooking and meal preparation isn’t usually too different from what you’re used to.
There are however a few ‘kitchen tools’ that can make low FODMAP cooking considerably easier. Don’t worry though, they’re actually not that complicated or expensive. In fact, you may already have most of them in your kitchen.
1. A list of ‘safe’ foods (and hopefully a good supply of them too).
This probably sounds like a no brainer, but it’s the most important starting point. With food intolerances, it’s very easy to get caught up on what you can’t eat, but when it comes to meal preparation you need to know what you can eat and safely use in a meal.
There are three ways you can do this:
- Install a copy of the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app on your mobile device so you can access the food lists at any time. The best time to use the app is when you’re planning meals, rather than when you’re preparing them. That’s because if you do it while you’re chopping and cooking, your hands will be messy and you’ll transfer that messiness to your device – which is not always pretty!
- Have an up-to-date printed list of low FODMAP foods in the kitchen. The advantage to a printed list is you don’t need to touch it to scan through the list (like you do with the app). But the downside is that it won’t automatically update as new items are tested (like the app does).
- Remove all of the unsafe foods from the kitchen or, at the very least, segregate the safe and unsafe foods into separate areas so that you’re less likely to make mistakes when you’re cooking. This can be difficult for families when only one person requires the restricted diet, but the easier you can make things for the cook, the safer the food is likely to be. Ideally this should be done for the pantry, fridge, freezer and any foods you keep on the benches.
2. A set of electronic kitchen scales that can measure in increments of 2g or less.
With the low FODMAP diet, you don’t actually eliminate FODMAPs from your diet, instead you minimise them. That’s why it’s called the low FODMAP diet. This is why the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app gives recommended portion sizes for each food item so that you know how much of that food will be low in FODMAPs. Most of the portions are measured in two ways: weight or volume and cups or spoons.
For solid food items, such as flours, vegetables and fruits, cereals and pulses, weight is always the most accurate way to measure a portion because many of these foods don’t fit neatly into measuring cups or spoons. This means that the amount of chopped fruit that fits into a cup will depend on how big the chunks of fruit are – coarsely chopped ingredients put into a cup leave gaps between each chunk, whereas finely chopped ingredients leave very few gaps and so more can fit in. That’s why I recommend using the weight measure most of the time, especially for small portions.
The easiest way to weigh ingredients is with a set of electronic kitchen scales. Most have a ‘weigh and go’ (or ‘tare’) function that lets you put your own container onto the scales, set them to zero, and then weigh your item directly into the container. You can then keep setting the scales back to zero and adding more ingredients on the top, which is particularly helpful when a recipe requires many ingredients since it makes food preparation faster with less washing up.
Because some of the portion sizes of low FODMAP foods are fairly small, I recommend that your scales can measure down to 2g increments to make things more accurate. This is helpful for measuring things like nuts or seeds where the portion size is very small. For instance, almonds have a safe portion of only 12g.
Sometimes though I will choose to use measuring spoons or cups for solid food items that fit fairly neatly into measuring cups, such as rolled oats or desiccated coconut, which to be perfectly honest is done more for the sake of convenience than anything else.
3. Measuring jugs, cups and spoons.
For foods that have a more liquid consistency, such as coconut cream or sauces, measuring jugs, cups and spoons are a better option than electronic kitchen scales. The same goes for milks and beverages. That’s because a liquid naturally fills all of the space in a cup so you don’t get inconsistencies from air gaps like you do with the solid foods. You’ll also find that the portions for these items are normally listed in millilitre amounts or ratios of cups or spoons (e.g. 125ml or ½ cup).
Most kitchens will already have at least one set of these items, but in case you don’t, here’s what you need:
- A measuring jug that can measure in millilitres. I would suggest a 500ml jug and possibly also a 1 litre jug.
- A set of measuring cups. These normally come in 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup. Occasionally you’ll find other cup sizes but they aren’t essential.
- A set of measuring spoons. These normally come in 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon. Again, you’ll find other spoon sizes, but these are the essential ones.
What other kitchen tools should you have?
Quite simply, this depends on your meal preferences, cooking skills, confidence in the kitchen, and how much time you have to spend on meal preparation. For instance, there’s no point buying a high-end blender if you detest green smoothies; nor should you buy a slow cooker if you hate slow-cooked meals. Essentially this means that the other kitchen tools you’ll need will depend on your own needs and preferences.
That being said, after you’ve been cooking for your intolerances for a while, you may find that there are certain foods that you’d like to try cooking that require special tools. For instance, a waffle maker, bread tins, muffin tins, or an ice cream maker may have special interest to you. But they certainly aren’t essential for low FODMAP cooking when you’re first starting out.
So my advice is to keep things simple, especially at first, and mostly stick to cooking the types of foods that you normally cook (except of course using low FODMAP ingredients). Occasionally you might like to try cooking something that uses tools or processes that aren’t what you’d normally use, but I recommend being very selective when purchasing new kitchen tools because they usually aren’t cheap.
Before making a new purchase, think about a type of food or meal that you’ve been missing a lot and then work out which kitchen tools you’ll need to make it. This way you’ll be trying something new and satisfying a craving at the same time, which will help you to deal you’re your restrictions a little bit easier.