Strategies for Public Grazing on a Low-FODMAP Diet

Last night was the 2013 Chef’s Sampler fundraiser for the local Children’s Home Society. We’ve enjoyed the offerings in previous years (over-enjoyed, to be truthful) but this was the first such event after adopting the Low-FODMAP diet as a preventative for IBS. I was really curious how much there would be for me to try considering my restrictions included fresh dairy, onions, garlic, wheat, corn, beans, and several other things.

Dave Stewart and the Vibe were this year's entertainment.
Dave Stewart and the Vibe were this year’s entertainment.

While I didn’t feel incredibly deprived after we made our rounds, I certainly didn’t leave feeling stuffed full to the gills like usual (Todd more than made up for me, however, judging by him post-Sampler tummy ache).  While at least 3 of the 42 listed restaurants were no-shows (or at least so late we missed them entirely) the only one I truly missed was Barnacle Bills–their margaritas and oysters on the half-shell have been a mainstay for ages.

Publix brought out these tasty buckwheat blinis topped with limoncello-marinated salmon, pickled onions and cream fraiche--I skipped the blini and onions but the salmon was divine!
Publix brought out these tasty buckwheat blinis topped with limoncello-marinated salmon, pickled onions and cream fraiche–I skipped the blini and onions but the salmon was divine!

At any rate, we enjoyed what we could and were finished with our circuit after only an hour and a half.

Bruster's Strawberry Sorbet is apparently made fresh on the premises and was some of the best sorbet I've ever had.
Bruster’s Strawberry Sorbet is apparently made fresh on the premises and was some of the best sorbet I’ve ever had.

Standouts from my point of view included Bruster’s Strawberry Sorbet, the Brisket Parfait from Piggy’s BBQ (shredded brisket, mashed potatoes, cheese, and bacon–I opted to skip the red sauce, just in case), and the Tahitian Tuna Tartini from 101.

101's Tahitian Tuna Tartini came in a cute little martini glass and featured a seaweed salad on the bottom. I really want more of it--soon!
101’s Tahitian Tuna Tartini came in a cute little martini glass and featured a seaweed salad on the bottom. I really want more of it–soon!

Since I was on the lookout for labels and ingredient lists, I was only a little surprised that many things weren’t labeled and that only 1 station, New Leaf Market, had clearly posted ingredient lists. Because of this I knew their green smoothie of coconut water, kale, and pineapple was safe for me to try and I was super-shocked that I like it! Not quite enough to splurge on a VitaMix any time soon, but enough to wonder if the Cuisinart could handle the job!

New Leaf Market's spread with clearly-marked ingredient lists.
New Leaf Market’s spread with clearly-marked ingredient lists.

This leads me to the tip-portion of this post. If you’re faced with a public grazing situation such as a cocktail hour, wedding reception, or food festival, here’s what I’d do to prevent too much disappointment or stomach upset:

  1. Assume that every sauce or soup is going to include at least one High-FODMAP ingredient and proceed accordingly. I opted to take a chance on a chicken and seafood cream sauce over grit cakes from Angelette’s but left most of the sauce on the plate. I also tried a smidgen of hummus (containing garlic) on a cucumber round from The Grain and a tiny taste of a rice bowl from Qdoba (the chicken likely included a bit of garlic and the guacamole included onions). Which takes us to…
  2. Portion control is your friend. I may have tempted fate with a few ill-advised options, but with true tasting portions involved, I didn’t have to worry about too much fallout from these flavorful dalliances. Granted, if you go whole-hog and try everything in tiny portions it will all add up and you may experience some symptoms after all.
  3. Stay away from the obvious ones. Anything breaded I just didn’t both with, the same with all the sandwiches and wraps out there. Tasty Eats did have a summer roll available that was clearly in a rice paper wrapper and was a nice way to start off the event with something I knew was going to be safe.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. True, many of the volunteers may not be knowledgeable about what they’re doling out, but someone behind the table will have the answer. Be polite, not pushy, and cheerfully say a “no thank you, then” if the ingredients would cause you issue. I had to forgo the crab cakes from Cabo’s and all of the cupcakes and cookies, but the catfish from Other Seineyard was breaded just on corn meal, something I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t ask.
  5. Eat ahead, if you’re really worried about not having enough options. This way you won’t have to tell a white lie when you say ‘no thanks, I’m not hungry’ but you can still hang out and have a good time without resentment or a rumbling tummy from hunger.

The fact that I could carefully make my way through an event like the Chef’s Sampler without feeling left out or hungry was a real coup in this switch to low-FODMAP living. While not all events will have enough variety to suffice, it was nice to eat out without worrying too much about being stuck with salad as the last resort. This is also good news for being about to taste my way around the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT on our honeymoon this November. As long as I’m careful I should be able to keep the inconvenience to a minimum.

Leave a Reply