Rice milk: not nice milk?

Us low-FODMAP-living lovers of milk products can’t catch a break. We can’t drink regular cow milk (unless it’s lactose-free). Soy milk is a no go (unless it’s specifically made from soy protein, not soy beans, which is harder to find). Almonds are no good, so we stay away from almond milk. Rice, at least, is easy for most of us to tolerate, so rice milk should be fine, right?

Right?

Not so fast. The good researchers at Monash (aka the people who discovered this whole FODMAP business in the first place) recently found that rice milk, even in small quantities, contains a high amount of oligo-saccharides and even some fructans as well. Therefore, it’s definitely not good for those on the low-FODMAP diet!

If you’re confused, don’t worry—the Monash folks are as well, and in this blog post they detail their findings and posit a hypothesis as to just how this came about. (They theorize it somehow takes place during the manufacturing process.) And they do warn that perhaps not all rice milks are troublesome—they didn’t test them all.

For now though, it might be best to stay away. Sorry cold cereal and milky coffee lovers—we’ll have to just keep looking for another substitute.

The Low-FODMAP Toolkit

Low-FODMAP chicken stock ingredients

Take stock, then make stock.

One thing you discover pretty soon after starting a low-FODMAP diet is that we’re not living in a low-FODMAP world. Things will probably eventually change, but there are very few foods that are labelled “low in FODMAPs” the same way practically everything has a gluten-free version these days. At this point, almost nobody who isn’t on the diet themselves has even heard of it (you’ll probably find yourself saying “well, it’s not exactly gluten-free, but gluten grains aren’t allowed” at least a few times a week).

Though the barrier to eating without FODMAPs is relatively low, all these little challenges add up. There simply aren’t as many shortcuts as there are in the regular old high-FODMAP world we used to live in. No waiting until it’s too late to cook dinner and ordering a pizza; no grabbing a breakfast sandwich on the way to work.

But there are ways you can make your life easier. Over the first few months I spent going low-FODMAP, I found myself assembling a little toolkit of helpful apps, kitchen tools, and ingredients. Everything I list below has been incredibly helpful in making this transition smoother.

Monash University’s Low FODMAP Smartphone App

If you’re following the low-FODMAP diet, you’ve surely come across the folks at Monash University at some point—after all, they’re the ones who thought up the program, and the very concept of FODMAPs themselves. Their smartphone app, available for iPhone and Android both, has proven really useful to me, especially when I’m out shopping. It’s got a searchable index of low- and high-FODMAP foods, with a cool “traffic light” system that indicates which FODMAP exactly any particular food might be high in, which are safe to eat in smaller quantities, etc. It’s really quite comprehensive, and great when you’re out grocery shopping and can’t quite remember if zucchinis are okay to eat or not. (Spoiler: they are.)

A decent rice cooker

The rice cooker is truly a wondrous device. Film critic Roger Ebert, who was particularly enamoured of the device, even wrote a cookbook called The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker. I use mine every day, and sometimes multiple times in the same day! In fact, I plan to write a longer post detailing my love for the thing soon. In short though, you’ll probably find yourself eating a lot of (tasty) non-gluten grains—oats, rice, etc—in the weeks and months to come, and good programmable rice cooker will make that all the easier.

Garlic-flavored oil

Ah, garlic. Sweet, musky, delicious garlic. How I have missed you. I have a whole Ode to Garlic post planned, but for now I’ll tell you there is a way to get some of that magnificently stinky flavour in your food, and it is garlic-infused olive oil. See, FODMAPs themselves are water-soluble, not oil-soluble, so it’s possible to extract non-FODMAP-y flavor from ingredients like garlic and still enjoy them. A life saver! Be careful, though, homemade garlic oil only lasts for a few days (in the fridge!) before you risk nasty stuff like botulism. I’d be cautious of any store-bought stuff that actually has chunks of garlic floating in it too.

Pre-made dishes and “building block” ingredients in the freezer

Everyone has days when they don’t have time to cook. Or maybe you’re just too hungry. Or maybe you do have the time and energy to make a quick meal, but you’re missing a FODMAP-friendly basic ingredient like chicken stock. Take some time to make a big batch of something easy to defrost and store it away in ziploc bags in the freezer in individual or two-person portions. Make a big pot of Delicious Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock so you can always whip up soups, stews, risottos and other rice dishes without the hassle.

What’s in your low-FODMAP toolkit? I’d love to know.