Health & Fitness

Tips for the Perfect Stomach-Friendly BBQ

Have you noticed that certain summer meals leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable? Some ever-present picnic foods such as watermelon and baked beans contain loads of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms hours after the meal or even the next morning, especially if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A person with IBS has a gastrointestinal tract that does not function properly even though it appears medically normal. Symptoms can include diarrhea or constipation, gas, bloating and abdominal pain. In the past, high fiber diets were often recommended for IBS, but today patients are getting better results by limiting certain types of carbohydrates in the diet.

These potentially troublesome sugars and fibers in the diet are known as FODMAPs. If you’ve never heard the term FODMAP before, you’re not alone! The term FODMAP was coined by a group of Australian researchers just a few years ago. They found that a low FODMAP diet helped up to 75 percent of their IBS patients.

Examples of FODMAPs include:

  • Lactose (a.k.a. milk sugar, found in milk, yogurt and ice cream)
  • Fructose (a.k.a. fruit sugar, found in fruit, high-fructose corn syrup, honey and agave syrup)
  • Sorbitol, mannitol, and other “-ol” sweeteners (found in certain fruits and vegetables as well as some types of sugar-free gums and candies)
  • Fructans (a type of fiber found in wheat, onions, garlic and chicory root)
  • GOS (a type of fiber found in beans, hummus and soy milk)

The total load of FODMAPs from all sources counts more than from which foods they came, so it can be difficult to figure out how diet affects IBS without looking at the big picture. IBS sufferers may want to experiment with choosing mostly low FODMAP foods for a few weeks to see if they feel better.

Luckily, there are plenty of delicious low FODMAP foods to choose from if you find that high FODMAP foods bother you. A typical FODMAP-friendly breakfast might include oatmeal with lactose-free milk, a little 100 percent pure maple syrup and half a cup of blueberries, or perhaps a spinach and cheese omelet. Lunch could be a tossed salad–hold the onions–with baby greens, chicken or fish, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A satisfying summer dinner might consist of grilled meat, fish or poultry served with potatoes or rice and some sauteed zucchini or steamed carrots.

Which high FODMAP foods might show up on the menu at your backyard party this summer? Baked beans, carbonated soft drinks, ice cream, watermelon, cherries, sandwich buns, coleslaw, onions and barbecue sauce would top the list. With a little advance planning, you can stock your cooler with low FODMAP foods that are still plenty festive, but won’t be as likely to leave you with a stomach ache.

  • Instead of fruit juice or regular soft drink, try some fresh iced tea with lemon, a few sprigs of fresh mint and a pinch of real sugar. Homemade lemonade made with fresh-squeezed lemons and a little sugar is always special. If you’re short on time for making your own beverages, Newman’s Own Old Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade will fit the bill.
  • When selecting from the tray of veggies and dip, choose carrots, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumber strips; leave the broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms for other to enjoy. If you indulge in potato chips or corn chips, skip the onion- and garlic-filled dips and salsas. Deviled eggs are an IBS-friendly backyard classic.
  • For the main course, serve grilled chicken, steak, salmon or burgers, hold the barbecue sauce. Side dishes might include homemade potato salad made with egg, cucumbers, carrots and mayonnaise. Fruit salad with seasonal cantaloupe, blueberries and strawberries, filled out with grapes, bananas and pineapple is always a welcome addition to a picnic.
  • Before the coals die and the sun sets, enjoy a toasted marshmallow or two. If you’re in the mood for a cold dessert, try sugar-sweetened Italian ice or sorbet, or Breyer’s lactose-free ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

This IBS-friendly menu will permit you and your guests to continue enjoying the memories long after the party is over.

About the author

Patsy Catsos, M.S., R.D., L.D.

Patsy is a registered, licensed dietitian and a leader in the field of nutrition therapy for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Her bestselling 2008 book, "IBS—Free at Last!," introduced U.S. health care providers and consumers to a novel dietary approach for finding and eliminating IBS food triggers known as the FODMAP approach. She is an expert contributor at ShareCare.com, an interactive Q&A platform created by Jeff Arnold and Dr. Mehmet Oz. For more information, please visit www.IBSFree.net.