Plant Chat: Eating Low FODMAP Meals on a Plant-Based Diet

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Wondering how to eat Low FODMAP meals on a plant-based diet? Dive in to IBS friendly eating in this plant chat with expert Sarah Greenfield, RD, CSSD.

When you’re suffering from digestive issues, such as IBS, a low FODMAP meal plan can bring you relief. However, you may be eliminating some extremely healthful plant-based foods from your diet on a low FODMAP diet; thus, missing out on the health and environmental benefits of eating the plant-powered way. So how can you enjoy vegetarian or vegan low FODMAP recipes while managing your symptoms?

Well, we’re talking about just that on the blog. I sat down with FODMAP and digestive nutrition expert Sarah Greenfield, RD, CSSD to talk about ways you can eat a healthy vegetarian or vegan Low FODMAP diet while managing digestive disorders. We dive into a thoughtful discussion on why digestive issues are more common today, how these disorders are affected by nutrition, and how to eat a vegan IBS diet.

Sarah Greenfield, RD, CSSD

Plant Chat: Eating Low FODMAP Meals on a Plant-Based Diet

Sharon: What are some common digestive disorders people face today that are impacted by diet? 

Greenfield: IBS, acid reflux, bloating, and SIBO are the most common digestive disorders I see in my practice. Eating a standard American diet will exacerbate most digestive disorders as this diet contains low amounts of fiber, anti-inflammatory fats, resistant starch and phytonutrients, all critical for optimal digestion. Making some minor changes to the diet, like including more variety of whole foods, can have a big impact on digestive health.

Sharon: How are these digestive disorders impacted by nutrition?

Greenfield: Anytime you have an imbalance in the gut, it will impact overall health. Not enough beneficial bacteria and you won’t be able to breakdown and extract nutrients from food, your body won’t make and respond to neurotransmitters appropriately, you can’t make adequate levels of b-vitamins and vitamin K. Your diet is critical to maintaining gut health. In order to maintain a healthy gut lining your body needs adequate levels of many different nutrients, especially vitamin D and zinc. Getting enough omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s help balance inflammation. Fiber is a critical food needed to feed the bacteria in your gut and help them produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate which can help prevent colon cancer.

If you have a bacteria imbalance, or bacteria in the wrong area of your gut, the food you eat will play a critical role. Following a healthy diet will not be able to help decrease bloating if you have bacteria in your small intestines. Sometimes more fiber, fermented foods and raw veggies, all what I would consider part of a healthy diet, can exacerbate symptoms. When this happens its usually associated with SIBO and needs a special diet (low-FODMAP, GAPS or Bi-phasic) to help decrease fermentable carbohydrates and rebalance the gut.

Spicy Sesame Grilled Tofu

Sharon: How can a plant-based diet be good for these types of disorders?

Greenfield: Plant-based diets are loaded with fiber and phytonutrients. Most people who follow a plant-based diet get well beyond 35 grams of fiber in their diet and are eating a range of different colored whole foods. This helps increase the diversity of the gut microbiome and improves regularity. Phytonutrients in whole foods feed different strains of bacteria, that is why it is so important to eat the rainbow on a daily basis.

Sharon: What is a Low-FODMAP Diet and what are the benefits?

Greenfield: A low-FODMAP diet decreases fermentable carbohydrates from the diet. The FODMAP acronym describes a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestines. There are five types of carbohydrates that are removed from the diet: lactose, fructose, polyols (mannitol and sorbitol), galactans and fructans. Foods that are high in FODMAPs pull water into the intestines and can lead to an increase in bloating and irregularity. Removing high FODMAP foods can help improve digestion imbalances especially in those who have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and IBS. Following a strict low-FODMAP diet is not something I would suggest for the long-term. Finding out what foods trigger you, why they trigger you and then building a more complex diet is the best for the long-term digestive health management.

Berry Bowl with Quinoa and Walnuts

Sharon: How can you follow a FODMAP friendly plant-based (vegan) diet?

Greenfield: It can be a bit more challenging to follow a low-FODMAP friendly vegan diet, but not impossible. Focusing on quality protein sources is the best place to start. Include proteins like tofu, quinoa, tempeh, lentils (1/2 cup), almonds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, sesame seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chickpeas (1/4 cup), green lentils (1/4 cup), lima beans. Sticking to the proper amount of these foods will ensure you are keeping FODMAPS on the lower end and supporting digestive health and healing.

Sharon: Which foods should you avoid on a vegan diet while following a low-FODMAP diet?

Greenfield: Staying away from high-FODMAP foods like sugar snap peas, artichokes, apples, pears, watermelon, mango, garlic, leeks, just to name a few, is a good place to start. I always suggest working with a nutritionist or dietitian that specializes in a low-FODMAP diet to help create meal plans and ensure you are following a balance diet while minimizing FODMAPs. Remember, this is not a long-term diet, the most restrictive phase usually lasts 2-6 weeks.

Baked Mediterranean Lasagna

Sharon: How can people decide which plant-based foods to reintroduce after trying a FODMAP elimination diet? 

Greenfield: There are several different ways to go about a reintroduction. The goal is to find which foods cause a reaction and continue to keep those foods out of the diet. You can retest the foods again after a couple weeks. The best way I like to re-introduce foods, is to pick one group of FODMAPS per week to challenge. You will try one food per day from the group and test it for 3 consecutive days during that week.

For example, if you choose to test fructose you would reintroduce one tsp of honey and increase to 2 tbsp if you didn’t experience a reaction. You could then try ¼ cup of mango and increase to ½ cup if you experience no reaction. If you start to experience symptoms, stop the food reintroduction and give yourself a 3-day washout period. You can begin introducing foods from other categories.

Once you identify which foods are reactive and which are safe, you can then begin adding them back into your diet.

It is helpful to work with a dietitian that knows FODMAP reintroduction and can help make this process easier to follow and organize.

Sharon: What does a day worth of eating a low-FODMAP vegan diet look like?

Greenfield:

Breakfast:

  • 2 slices of gluten free bread with 2 tbsp of almond butter + 1 banana
  • Smoothie: 1 cup mixed greens, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 tbsp peanut butter, ¼ cup strawberries, 1 banana

Lunch:

  • Quinoa + lentils with a side salad of romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes
  • Sushi with brown rice, tofu, cucumber and carrot with a side of peanut butter and lime dipping sauce

Dinner:

  • Tempeh burger with baked fries
  • Vegan tofu spinach lasagna (with gluten free noodles)

Check out some of my IBS-Friendly, plant-based recipes below.

Desert Sage Lentils
Sesame Roasted Tempeh
French Green Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes 
Summer Green Bean Tomato Salad
Curried Yellow Lentil Stew
Easy Soba Noodles with Peanuts and Seitan
Miso Green Beans and Tofu
Fresh Orange Tofu with Brown Rice (shown above)

For other blogs on eating for IBS, check out these:

Eating for IBS on a Plant-Based Diet
What Should I Eat to Avoid Bloating?

About Sarah Greenfield:

Sarah received her Bachelor of Science from the Pennsylvania State University in Nutritional Science and moved to Los Angeles where she became a dietitian. Working as part of an integral care team in the ICU, trauma centers and digestive health clinics opened her eyes to the power of human physiology. One of her most valued accomplishments in the healthcare setting was starting a garden at St. Francis Medical   Center that allowed the hospital to provide low-income families with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Transitioning from healthcare into prevention-focused nutrition, Sarah began studying functional medicine, running marathons and creating programs for large wellness brands like NutriBullet, Dr. Hyman, and HUM Nutrition. She even had the opportunity to speak on the same stage as Bill Clinton and was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt about a wellness program she created to transform children’s health called NutriBullet University.

With all of Sarah’s program experience, it was time to create a platform to bring all these tools together, which is how her website, Fearless Fig, was born! Through Fearless Fig, she helps her clients change the way they think about health, identify root cause of health imbalances and provide the education and tools needed to make a long-lasting change. Through her work, Sarah has been featured in Men’s Health,    Self, BuzzFeed and just gave her first TEDx talk! Follow Sarah on Instagram and Facebook to see her latest updates.



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