Following a low-FODMAP diet can ease irritable bowel syndrome and its dreaded digestive symptoms. Here, experts share exactly how to snack your way to a happy gut if you have IBS.
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Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million people in the U.S., and more than two-thirds of those sufferers are female, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. So, odds are you've heard of the low-FODMAP diet, a way of eating prescribed to help ease IBS symptoms (i.e. bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.). Up to 86 percent of IBS patients find an improvement in overall GI distress and symptoms following the eating plan, according to a 2016 scientific review.

Understanding the Low-FODMAP Diet

"FODMAPs refer to a group of fermentable carbohydrates — starches, sugars, and fiber — that, for some [people who are sensitive to them], are indigestible or poorly absorbed and cause IBS-like symptoms including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain," explains Katie Thomson, M.S., R.D., co-founder and CEO of Square Baby. These fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (aka FODMAPs) draw excess water into your small intestine, and when they move into your large intestine, they're fermented by bacteria that can cause symptoms, says Thomson, who has IBS.

While these carbs are found in a wide range of foods, high-FODMAP culprits include gluten-containing grains (i.e. wheat, barley, rye), some dairy products (especially milk and yogurt), fruits such as apples, veggies such as asparagus, as well as low-calorie sweeteners or sugar alcoves (i.e. xylitol or sorbitol). 

While a low-FODMAP diet has its perks, it can be "challenging for many people at first, especially if you're used to a higher carb/higher sugar diet," says Thomson. "So just be prepared — stay stocked up with foods and snacks that are low-FODMAP."

If you've spoken to your gastroenterologist and/or nutritionist and are ready to give this IBS-easing eating plan a try, keep scrolling for the best low-FODMAP snacks to have on hand. Having IBS is hard enough, snacking (and satisfying your cravings) doesn't have to be.

How to Snack on a Low-FODMAP Diet

When it comes to finding low-FODMAP snacks, in general, you should look for simple, whole, natural foods that are low in sugar and higher in protein and healthy fats, says Thomson (a good rule of thumb for anyone snacking, too). "The low-FODMAP life is all about knowing which foods are unlimited, which need to be portion-controlled, and which should be avoided altogether," she explains.

Chelsea McCallum, R.D., who specializes in IBS nutrition, also advises choosing whole foods over processed ones whenever possible, as well as sticking to one serving of fruit at a time and opting for lactose-free dairy products to avoid FODMAP stacking (essentially filling your gut up with fermented carb after fermented carb).

DIY Low-FODMAP Snacks

Oranges and Walnuts

Skip the almonds, cashews, and pistachios and go for walnuts instead. Add an orange and, violá, you've got yourself a healthy, FODMAP-friendly snack that's particularly good for when you're on the go. "I always carry tangerines and a little bag of [plain] walnuts," says Thomson. "This provides carbs, fiber, protein, and healthy fats, with a little salt and natural sugar to satisfy cravings." She recommends buying a big bag of raw, unsalted walnut halves from Costco, but you can also snag similar options on Amazon (Buy It, $32, amazon.com).

Peanut Butter and Banana

Ripe bananas contain FODMAPs, so be sure to choose one that's a little green (and sans-brown spots) and pair it with peanut butter — such as that from Wild Friends (Buy It, $5, walmart.com) — for a satisfying mix of sweet, salt, and healthy fats, says Thomson. However, eating too much of a high-fat food such as nut butter can trigger IBS symptoms in some people, so start with 1 tablespoon; if you can tolerate that, it's okay to increase to a full serving (2 tablespoons). More of an almond butter fan? Stick to 1 tablespoon per meal, as almonds (and, thus, almond butter) have portion-dependent FODMAPs, meaning the more you eat in. a sitting, the more you'll fill up on these tummy-troubling carbs. (Related: Everything You Need (and Want) to Know About Nut Butter)

Hard, Aged Cheese

Another one of Thomson's go-to low-FODMAP snacks is aged cheese such as Gouda or cheddar with salami, rice crackers — such as Laiki's Black Rice Crackers (Buy It, $27, amazon.com) — spiced nuts, and olives. "When I go to a dinner party, I always take this as an appetizer along with assorted veggies, because most 'party foods' are going to be problematic," she adds. Similar to nut butter, you don't want to overdo it on the portion size of cheeses either, as too much fat in one meal can cause digestive distress. "In general, harder, more aged cheeses (at least one month) are easier to tolerate [for those with IBS], but even Brie can be tolerated as it's aged at least 30 days," she explains. Cheddar, parmesan, Gouda, and Manchego are all good (and tasty!) options — in particular, Thomson recommends Dubliner cheddar (Buy It, $5, walmart.com), which pairs well with everything, she says. Avoid fresh cheeses such as fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta, as they contain many FODMAPs.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eggs provide a wide variety of nutrients, including muscle-building protein and choline, which is incredibly important for your nervous system, says Melissa Rifkin, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. (ICYDK, choline functions similar to that of B vitamins — both of which are essential for maintaining adequate energy.) "Enjoy the eggs on their own; pair with a low-FODMAP fruit like grapes or strawberries; or mash them and combine with mustard to serve as an egg salad on rice crackers," she suggests.

Popcorn

Corn is naturally considered a low-FODMAP food, says Rifkin, and popcorn is a great snack for anyone due to its high fiber content and low caloric density (meaning you can eat a high volume for not a lot of calories). Watch out for seasonings that may contain high-FODMAP foods such as garlic and onion, though, and pair your popcorn with a healthy fat such as walnuts or shelled pumpkin seeds to get a variety of nutrients, she says. Rifkin recommends The Safe Fair Food Company Sea Salt Seasoned Popcorn (Buy It, $5, safeandfair.com), which is convenient and made with only three ingredients. Of course, you can always make your own air-popped corn at home, too. Just be sure to skip the microwave variety to avoid any added ingredients that could trigger symptoms. (BTW, popcorn is not only a smart low-FODMAP snack to grab when that mid-day hunger strikes, but it's also considered one of the best foods to help you sleep.)

Packaged Low-FODMAP Snacks

BelliWelli Bars

Packaged snacks are essential for times when you're out running errands or traveling and need a snack in a pinch, says McCallum. She recommends BelliWelli's gut-friendly bars (Buy It, $27 for eight bars, belliwelli.com), which come in enticing flavors such as Minty Chocolate, Fudge Brownie, Cinnamon Swirl, and Lemon White Chocolate — all of which are low-FODMAP, gluten- and dairy-free, and contain probiotics.

Lil Bucks Clusterbucks

The star of this low-FODMAP snack? Sprouted buckwheat, which is a gluten-free, high-protein ingredient that, despite its name, is not wheat at all but rather fruit seeds. Lil Bucks granola clusters are a great low-FODMAP option, says Rifkin — just be sure to stick to one 1-oz serving, as larger portions may trigger those pesky IBS symptoms. The Chocolate Reishi Clusterbucks (Buy It, $18 for two, amazon.com), in particular, get a nutritional boost from hemp seeds and cacao and feature adaptogens, too. (Related: What Are Adaptogens and Can They Help Power Up Your Workouts?)

GoMacro MacroBar Minis

All of GoMacro's MacroBar Minis are certified low-FODMAP, meaning they've been laboratory tested to be low in FODMAPs and, in turn, received the FODMAP-Friendly trademark from Monash University (which, BTW, is the so-called birthplace of the low-FODMAP diet). Available in a wide array of flavors, Thomson says the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip variety (Buy It, $33 for box of 24, amazon.com) is the best for satisfying sweet cravings. 

Pearls Olives To Go Kalamata Olives

These portion-controlled packs of pitted olives (Buy It, $33 for 24, amazon.com) pack a punch of healthy fats and nutrients, says Manaker. They don't have to be refrigerated or drained, making them an easy snack to stash in your desk drawer, gym bag, or purse.

Wilde Himalayan Pink Salt and Chicken Chips

Salty cravings are no match for this low-FODMAP snack, which is made from IBS-friendly ingredients such as chicken and tapioca flour, says Lauren Manaker, M.S., R.D.N., L.D. Each serving of Wilde Himalayan Pink Salt and Chicken Chips (Buy It, $4, walmart.com) has 10 grams of protein (which makes sense since they're essentially lightly-salted crisped chicken) and is gluten- and grain-free.