When it comes to following a low FODMAP diet, one of the most important things you need to know is how to swap high FODMAP foods for low FODMAP alternatives, particularly those that can provide similar flavours and/or textures to your cooking. So whether you’re new to a low FODMAP diet, are up to the stage of reintroducing FODMAPs, or have modified your diet and added back some FODMAPs that you can tolerate, these key low FODMAP swaps are essential to know.
1. Onions & Leeks; Swap: Onion alternatives
Onions are one of the biggest FODMAP offenders and so are one of the most critical ingredients to swap out. This applies to white, brown and red onions, shallots (eschallots), and also the white parts of leeks and spring onions (green onions).
The alternatives that you can use to provide the same flavour are:
- The green tops of spring onions or leeks provide an excellent onion/leek flavour and can also help to replace some of the bulk in your recipe that onions normally provide. But only use the green parts; the white bits are very high in fructans.
- Chives are an excellent way to add a more delicate onion flavour to a dish, but they’re best added to foods that aren’t being cooked, or added to a dish at the end of cooking. You can however use dried chives in recipes while cooking for a good flavour burst.
- Onion-infused oil is a handy way to add oniony flavour, especially when you don’t need the bulk of the onion or if you don’t want to add green colour to the dish. This works because FODMAPs are not soluble in oil (they’re only soluble in water), so you can infuse oil with high FODMAP ingredients and transfer the flavour without transferring the FODMAPs. The easiest option here is to buy a premade infused oil – I use Cobram Estate Roasted Onion Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- Asafoetida powder is an Indian spice that has an onion/garlic flavour. But you don’t need much so use it sparingly or it will overpower the dish.
2. Garlic; Swap: Garlic-infused oil
Garlic is another of the biggest FODMAP offenders, but it’s also one of the easiest to swap out when you’re doing the cooking.
- Garlic-infused oil is the best substitute for garlic. As mentioned above for onion-infused oil, when you infuse oils with high FODMAP ingredients, you transfer the flavour but not the FODMAPs. Garlic-infused olive oil is a staple in my low FODMAP kitchen – I normally use 1 tsp to replace a clove of garlic. I also buy this premade and use the Cobram Estate Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
3. Sauces, Condiments and Seasonings; Swap: Sauce alternatives
You can definitely find sauces, condiments and seasonings that are low FODMAP, however many do contain garlic and/or onion, or other high FODMAP ingredients. But that’s okay, because you can make your own.
Here are some simple Low FODMAP sauces, condiments and seasonings that you can make at home:
- Taco Seasoning Mix
- Indonesian-style Satay Sauce
- Lemon and Garlic Mayonnaise
- Thousand Island Dressing
- Dill and Caper Sauce
- Tomato Salsa with Coriander and Lime
- Tomato Sauce for Pasta and Pizza
Another option is to simply use herbs and spices instead. For more safe ways to add low FODMAP flavour, check out this article: 4 tips for adding flavour to a low FODMAP diet.
4. High FODMAP grains; Swap: Low FODMAP Grain Alternatives
Gluten-containing grains are high in FODMAPs. But this isn’t because of the gluten, which is a protein and so therefore not a FODMAP; instead it’s because gluten-containing grains also happen to have high amounts of fructans. This includes wheat, spelt, rye and barley, as well as products made using these grains.
The alternatives that you can use include:
- Low FODMAP grains, including oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and sorghum. That gives you plenty of choices from breakfast through to dinner.
- Gluten-free pasta, provided that it doesn’t contain other high FODMAP flours, such as soy flour (see the next point for more info on high FODMAP gluten-free flours). But pastas made on rice, corn/maize, or quinoa are generally good alternatives.
- The humble potato is also an excellent way of replacing high FODMAP grains when you need something quick and easy, or if you’re at someone else’s place who doesn’t have the other alternatives. You’d be surprised just how many meals that potatoes go well with.
5. High FODMAP breads; Swap: Low FODMAP Breads
Regular breads, wraps and pizza bases, made with wheat, spelt, barley and/or rye flours, are high FODMAP. However, a simple switch to a gluten-free bread doesn’t always work. That’s because some gluten-free flours are high in FODMAPs, including soy, amaranth, besan/chickpea, coconut, and lupin flours. Also, some gluten-free breads, wraps or pizza bases contain inulin or other high FODMAP ingredients, so you need to read labels very carefully.
An alternative is to make your own breads and bread products. You can do this by starting with a suitable gluten-free flour blend, such as my Low FODMAP Flour Mix, or any other low FODMAP blend that you prefer. Then you can try making a simple ‘bread’ such as these Low FODMAP Wraps.
Another option is to use sourdough spelt breads. This works because the traditional sourdough process of bread making breaks down some of the fructans through natural fermentation, which makes spelt (and other high FODMAP grains) lower in FODMAPs. As a general rule, traditional sourdough spelt breads are low FODMAP, but wheat varieties can be too. However, since wheat flour has more fructans than spelt, a wheat sourdough bread can still have more fructans than a spelt version.
6. Regular dairy products; Swap: Lactose-free dairy products
Regular dairy products contain lactose, particularly milk, yoghurt, ice cream, cream and fresh soft cheeses. There are some dairy products that are naturally lower in lactose, but you can now buy many lactose-free dairy products as well.
The alternatives you can use are:
- Lactose free products, where lactase (an enzyme) has been added to break down the lactose in the milk. This is a harmless process since the lactase enzyme is simply replacing the lactase that your gut would normally have produced. You’ll find lactose-free milk, yoghurt, custard, cream and cheese.
- Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss and feta are naturally low in lactose. Since the low FODMAP diet doesn’t require the complete removal of lactose, just a major lowering of it, you can still eat these products even though they have a tiny bit of lactose remaining.
- Yoghurts are a tricky one. The fermentation of milk into yoghurt naturally breaks down some of the lactose. However, there can still be too much lactose remaining to make them low FODMAP. Some Greek-style yoghurts, especially those that have been strained, can be quite low in lactose and may be suitable for use, but it’s hard to know for sure. Instead, it’s better to choose a lactose-free yoghurt when you’re first starting out on the low FODMAP diet and then to test your tolerance levels for Greek-style or regular yoghurts later on.
- Low FODMAP dairy-free milk alternatives are an excellent alternative since they’re naturally free from lactose. But you do need to choose the right options, so here’s an article with more information about low FODMAP dairy-free alternatives.
If you want more information about low FODMAP dairy products/alternatives, and how much you should eat each day to get your calcium needs, here are 4 tips to help you eat enough low FODMAP calcium-rich foods.
7. Honey; Swap: Honey alternatives
Honey is very high in excess fructose, so it’s one of the sweeteners that needs to be avoided on a low FODMAP diet. But this also applies to agave syrup, fructose and high fructose corn syrup.
In terms of sweetness, swapping honey for other low FODMAP sweeteners is easy enough. But honey has a distinct flavour, as do many of the alternatives. Also, honey is quite thick and sticky, which gives it some valuable properties in cooking that not all alternatives can provide. So when you switch honey for low FODMAP alternatives, you need to consider the flavour and texture consequences as well as the sweetness.
These are the best low FODMAP honey alternatives:
- Sugar, whether it’s white, raw or brown, is low FODMAP. It’s also the cheapest alternative and very commonly used in cooking. The flavour is different, but the sweetness is there.
- Rice malt syrup is a good alternative when you’re looking for an option that has the same texture as honey, because it’s also thick and sticky. However, rice malt syrup has a very mild flavour so it can leave some recipes tasting sweet but bland if there weren’t additional flavours apart the honey.
- Golden syrup is another option, especially in terms of texture. But it has a very strong flavour that’s quite different to honey which can substantially change the outcome. Also, golden syrup is only low FODMAP in 1/2 tablespoon serves, so portion size matters here.
- Maple syrup is a very popular alternative for honey because of its distinct flavour, which while different from honey, is still closer than most of the other alternatives. However, you can only use pure maple syrup, not the maple-flavoured stuff which normally contains sorbitol, and the pure stuff is quite expensive. Also, maple syrup isn’t as sticky as honey, so it doesn’t always respond in the same way in recipes.
So there you have it. The most important low FODMAP swaps for anyone following a low FODMAP diet. If you’ve found any other interesting alternatives, let us know in the comments.