Low-FODMAP, My Family and Me
by FoodMaestro | 2 November 2016
From Laura Stonehouse at www.ourhousefortea.com, October 2016
My journey to the Low-FODMAP diet has been a long one, filled with bloating, constipation, cramps, illness and several fruitless attempts to control my IBS symptoms. I had already identified some trigger foods but still felt there were other things making me ill. When, under dietitian guidance, I was put onto the King’s College trial of the Low-FODMAP diet my life changed immeasurably. The bloating dropped away, no more pointless trips to the doctor’s with ‘suspected appendicitis’, I could wear the same outfit all day and it would still fit me in the evening, no more being offered a seat as I appeared to be pregnant! A few weeks later, again under dietitian guidance, my young daughter joined me on the trial to help ease her symptoms of IBS. Again, an overwhelming success! Her little life was turned around, but it did leave us with the question – what DO you eat?!
With a husband and son who have cast iron constitutions and as a family of foodies I knew I didn’t want to go down the route of cooking 4 different meals. The food had to look the same as what everybody else ate as I didn’t want the children to be labelled as ‘freaky’ eaters by their peers. My recipe blog, Our House For Tea was born, and after 4 years of creating real-life family low-FODMAP recipes I think we may have cracked it!
Aside from the recipes there are several things I’ve had to learn to do to make life easier. Life is already very busy - my husband and I run a business that has irregular hours, the children are at an age where everyday we seem to be late for some club or activity, weekends are filled with muddy rugby kits and somewhere else we absolutely have to be in 5 minutes with equipment we can’t find. It may sound like I’m making life more complicated but I need to be organised with the food or we’d starve/ live on chips.
I don’t cook from scratch every night but then again, I always double or triple a recipe if it is suitable for the freezer. Stews, soups, bolognaise, sauces all get the freezer treatment. I freeze everything in portion sizes. It is quicker to defrost a single portion and it allows for the variables of who’s in the house. Most things can be adapted to be eaten with rice, pasta or potatoes.
It is vitally important for me that my children learn to cook and not just fairy cakes. This sets them up for a life that is not only healthier but also cheaper and it gives them a chance to be creative and learn not everything will work first time. My son really wanted a can of cream of mushroom soup (another point, he can eat whatever FODMAPs he wishes, I’ll come to this later) but was really, really and I mean wholeheartedly disappointed. “It doesn’t taste of mushrooms! My soup really tastes of mushrooms, I thought it’d be better…” So he has learnt two things – his mushroom soup is way better than anything canned and just because something has a flashy advert, doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good!
FODMAP’s for the family - No foodstuff is banned in our house but sweeties are restricted to Wednesdays. The main reason was to try and prevent a food rebellion in pre-teen years. So now my daughter aged 7 knows what FODMAPs are and where they are found. We look at safe amounts of different foods and if she wants to try more she can. We look at the reaction she has and she makes a decision whether she thinks it was worth it or not.
So far the Little Miss has been amazingly mature and brave about the situation. She’s trying to use her need for a FODMAP app as a reason to buy her a mobile phone – it’s not happening! I do always make her Low-FODMAP ‘lookalikes’ for parties and other fun-food occasions and other parents often view this as if I’m martyring myself to her cause but I am really not. Yes, it is hard work staying up late at night to make something for school the next day but I do this because I understand what it feels like to be miserable in your own skin, when everything hurts and nothing fits. I don’t want her to see food as an enemy but really want her to enjoy sharing food with friends and family. I always think it is important to keep fun stuff and treats in your diet to keep you on the Low-FODMAP wagon - tangerines are lovely but no substitute when you are seven and all your classmates are ploughing through a pile of cakes at Christmas!
If I had known, when first faced with the baffling lists of what not to eat at that first dietitian appointment in 2012, that in 2016 I’d write and publish a cookbook with my Low-FODMAP recipes, I think I would have fallen off my chair! As for making sure the rest of the family eat their FODMAPs, this is relatively easy. We do have different breads and certain meals lend themselves well to adding in FODMAPs for those that can. Weekend meals tend to be easier to slot in baked beans, onions etc. and snacks of apples or mangoes are perennially popular with the Young Master.
So that’s what happens at Our House For Tea, real family life happens: it just happens to be low-FODMAP