Everyone needs a few quick and healthy meals in their cooking repertoire that can be prepared in no time at all. Especially for those days when you’ve run out of time or can’t be bothered to cook. And while these meals will help you to stay healthy, they’ll also make sticking to your low FODMAP diet easier. Because when you’re tired or lacking time, it’s natural to want to grab the first thing you can find. But those things aren’t usually very healthy and they’re rarely low FODMAP.
So in this article, I’m going to share the hacks that I use to make quick and easy meals that are also healthy and low FODMAP. And don’t worry, they’re all very easy. Because most days, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. So here’s my best tips for creating healthy and quick low FODMAP meals.
Tip 1. Learn to love leftovers
This is the absolute key for decreasing cooking time and still enjoying quick and healthy low FODMAP meals. Not only do leftovers mean that your meal is ready faster, but you’ll also spend less time cleaning. And in all honesty, the reason I’m most likely to avoid cooking is to avoid cleaning. I hate cleaning!
There are 3 types of leftovers:
- Cooked food that’s stored in the fridge, which you’ll later eat cold or at room temperature. Examples are boiled eggs, cooked meats or veggies to use in salads, and poached or stewed fruits. Some of these items could also be reheated if you wanted.
- Cooked food that’s stored in the fridge, which you’ll heat before eating. Examples are soups, stir-fries, curries, frittata, pasta sauces, pizza, and mashed potato/pumpkin. Basically, this includes most main meals.
- Cooked food that’s frozen and stored for longer periods. This includes some, but not all, of the foods in 1 and 2. Examples are soups, curries, casseroles and pasta sauces, which usually freeze and thaw well. You can also freeze stir-fries, pasta and egg dishes, but they may become mushy or rubbery after reheating.
How you use leftovers is entirely up to you. Some people are happy eating leftovers straight from the fridge for days. But other people prefer to freeze leftovers so they don’t eat the same meal more than once a week.
Personally, I like having substantial mains such as casseroles and meat-based pasta sauces frozen at all times. When I defrost these meals, I cook pasta, rice or veggies to serve with them so that the entire meal isn’t leftovers. Sometimes I’ll add frozen green beans or spinach to boost the meal, which can often be added while the meal is reheating.
When it comes to soups, I normally keep them simple when they’re first made so that I can change the flavours by adding extras later. For instance, when reheating a basic vegetable soup, I may add canned tuna, left-over cooked chicken, shredded fresh spinach or rocket, diced tomato, herbs or spices. For more ideas on how to turn a basic soup into something different, have a look at the serving suggestions for this Low FODMAP Tomato Soup.
Tip 2. Cook extra low FODMAP wholegrains and freeze in portions
Wholegrains are great additions to any meal because they add fibre and protein, and will keep your low FODMAP diet healthier. They also help to fill you up. But most take a while to cook, so they aren’t good for quick meals. Not to worry though, because some can be pre-cooked and frozen for later use.
The best wholegrain for freezing and reheating is brown rice. Unlike white rice, brown rice doesn’t go mushy after freezing. So brown rice has become an essential part of my ‘reheat and go’ approach. Just cook up more than you need the first time around and then divide into portions to freeze. I prefer to make individual portions, so I freeze 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice in small containers.
To use the frozen brown rice, it’s best to take it straight from the freezer and thaw/reheat in the microwave. Thawing takes 1 minute on high in my microwave, and reheating needs about 30 seconds more.
But with cooked rice, you have to get it in the freezer quickly after cooking. It’s also best to defrost it just before using. That’s because rice contains a bacteria that’s activated during cooking, which then produces toxins if kept at room temperature. And the last thing someone with IBS needs is food poisoning. So always make sure you cool rice quickly and freeze it fast.
Other low FODMAP wholegrains
While I favour cooked brown rice and find it the most robust choice, there are other options. You can freeze cooked quinoa, but it can sometimes get a bit mushy afterwards. You can also freeze cooked millet, which holds up to freezing quite well. So my trick is to cook quinoa and millet together and freeze them in a single batch. When done this way, the millet stops the defrosted quinoa from getting overly mushy.
Tip 3. Roast a larger cut of meat than you need and freeze for instant protein
It’s rare to get a roast that’s the perfect size for your needs, so odds are there will be leftovers. But if you’re the rare pro who buys the exact size for your family, try getting a bigger roast next time.
The trick to freezing leftover roast meat that defrosts well is to chop or shred the cooked meat before freezing. That way you don’t have one big chunk of meat that can get tough when reheated. Instead, you’ll have little bits that are great for adding to soups, stir-fried veggies, sandwiches or salads.
Admittedly some roast meats handle the freezing process better than others, but you can make decisions based on how you’ll use the leftovers. Here’s how I do it:
- Roast chicken is the best for meat for freezing. The breast (or white meat) is good for salads, sandwiches and adding to soups after they’re reheated. While you can use the thighs and other dark meat for the same things, these are best kept for meals where there’s extra cooking involved. That’s because the breast will dry out when recooked, while the dark meat won’t.
- Roast beef can get rather tough when reheated, but this depends on the cut that you’re using. A lean beef roast is best kept refrigerated and used cold for sandwiches or salads. If you do freeze roast beef, chop it very small and add to soups, pasta sauce or other meals with lots of liquid. However, pot roasted beef tolerates reheating if you shred the meat into the cooking liquid/sauce before freezing.
- Roast lamb is similar to beef, although it doesn’t get quite as tough. I think this is because a lamb is much smaller than a cow, so the muscles are smaller and more tender to begin with. But if you eat it cold, it can taste quite fatty, so it’s best heated gently and added to meals.
- Roast pork is surprisingly tolerant of freezing and great for dicing to add to fried rice, soups or other quickly stir-fried veggies.
Like the brown rice, I freeze meat into individual portions in small containers. Then I usually defrost them in the microwave just before use. But you do need to be very careful not to overheat them and cook the meat further, which dries it out very fast.
Tip 4. Keep quick-cooking essentials in your pantry and freezer
These are the extra add ins that you can use to bulk up your meal and, which need very little or no cooking. And since they’re kept in the pantry or freezer, rather than the fridge, they’ll always be there for when you need them.
Healthy meals ideally will have 3 elements:
- Vegetables, which will be the bulk of your meal
- Carbohydrates, to fill you up and add fibre
- Protein, to satisfy you for longer
- frozen low FODMAP veggies, such as green beans, spinach, kale, carrots, or corn (but only small amounts of the corn)
- pre-made pasta sauces
- low FODMAP soups, whether homemade or pre-made bought options
- canned low FODMAP veggies
- veggies with a long life that can live in the fridge or pantry for ages, e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots
- gluten-free pasta
- rice noodles
- basmati rice (or other white rice)
- frozen brown rice or millet
- quinoa or buckwheat
- potatoes or sweet potatoes that can be microwaved
- low FODMAP bread
- pre-cooked meats, e.g. frozen leftovers
- tinned meats, e.g. canned tuna, salmon or sardines
- frozen chicken or fish that’s low FODMAP – these are hard to find, but some exist
- canned legumes, e.g. chickpeas, brown lentils or butter beans (but check your portions first)
When you have all these things sorted, you can put them together to make a safe low FODMAP meal that’s fast and healthy. And your tummy will thank you for it.