Athletes know the importance of fueling your body with the right nutrients for optimal performance. However, if you suffer from digestive issues when you play sports, it can be challenging to find foods that won’t trigger symptoms before a game or practice.
Enter the low FODMAP diet – a way of eating that limits, for a short time, certain types of carbohydrates that are known to be difficult for some people to digest. This is a diet that’s meant to be short term to figure out what food causes your issues.
While the low FODMAP diet can seem daunting at first, it’s entirely possible to follow it while still maintaining a well-rounded and nutritious performance diet. And if you can do some meal prep ahead of time, you’ll have good options on hand.
In fact, research has shown that recreational athletes on a short term FODMAP diet had fewer GI symptoms and felt better about exercising. (1)
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FODMAP pantry staples recommendations
Here are some low FODMAP pantry staples that can help keep you fueled and feeling your best:
Grains Low FODMAP staples
- Quinoa: This versatile grain is a great source of complex carbohydrates and protein, making it an ideal choice for athletes. Plus, it’s low FODMAP and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to bowls to casseroles.
- Gluten-free oats: Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, but they can be high in FODMAPs. Look for gluten free oats, which are less likely to cause digestive issues.
- Rice : Another great source of carbohydrates, rice is easy to digest and can be used in a variety of dishes. Choose white or brown rice over other varieties, as they tend to be lower in FODMAPs.
- Oatcakes: Similar to rice cakes, oatcakes are a crunchy and low FODMAP option for snacking. Look for brands that are made with gluten-free oats to ensure they are safe for the low FODMAP diet.
- Rice cakes: A crunchy and low FODMAP option for snacking, rice cakes are made from puffed rice and are a great alternative to crackers.
- Gluten free crackers: Many crackers are made with wheat flour, which can be high in FODMAPs. However, there are plenty of gluten free options available that are made with rice flour or other low FODMAP flours.
- Gluten free bread: Look for bread made with rice flour, corn flour, or potato flour. Also, sourdough spelt is another good low fodmap bread option. Wheat, rye and barley based breads can be high in FODMAPs, but there are plenty of gluten-free options available that are low FODMAP.
- Gluten free pasta: Like bread, many types of pasta are made with wheat flour, but there are plenty of gluten-free options available that are low FODMAP. Look for pasta made with rice flour, corn flour or quinoa flour.
Protein Low FODMAP food ideas
- Canned tuna: High in protein and easy to store, canned tuna is a great pantry staple for athletes. Look for plain varieties with no added flavors or seasonings to keep it low FODMAP.
- Peanut butter: Rich in healthy fats and protein, peanut butter is a staple for many athletes in making a healthy snack or pre game meal. Look for a brand with no added sugars or artificial ingredients to keep it low FODMAP.
Vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans – low FODMAP options
- Canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants, and canned varieties are an easy and convenient pantry staple. Look for canned tomatoes with no added seasonings to keep them low FODMAP.
- Fruit chips: Bare brand strawberry banana fruit chips are low FODMAP
- Beans and legumes: Some canned beans and legumes are low FODMAP in small amounts. However, most contain some amount of FODMAP. It’s best to know what triggers you and try to avoid that if you’ll be exercising at a high intensity.
Nuts and seeds Low FODMAP
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds/pepitas
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
Condiments and sauces Low FODMAP
These condiments and sauces are generally low FODMAP. However, you always want to read the label for FODMAP ingredients like garlic, onions and honey.
- Barbecue sauce: Many traditional barbeque sauces contain high FODMAP ingredients like onion and garlic. However, there are low FODMAP barbeque sauce options available that use alternative flavorings like smoked paprika, mustard, and vinegar.
- Mayonnaise: Most commercial mayonnaise products are low FODMAP as they are typically made with low FODMAP ingredients like egg yolk, vinegar, and oil.
- Soy sauce: Traditional soy sauce contains high levels of wheat and is not low FODMAP. However, there are low FODMAP soy sauce options available that are made with gluten-free grains like rice or corn.
- Chutney: Many traditional chutney recipes contain high FODMAP ingredients like onion and garlic. However, there are low FODMAP chutney options available that use alternative flavorings like ginger, cumin, and coriander.
- Cranberry juice: Cranberry juice is low FODMAP in small serving sizes, as it contains mainly glucose and fructose in a 1:1 ratio. However, it’s important to note that some commercial cranberry juice products may contain high FODMAP sweeteners like apple juice or high fructose corn syrup.
- Vinegars: Vinegars like malt, white, rice wine, apple cider and red wine can all be used in low fodmap recipes to make sauces and dressings.
- Spices: Add additional flavor to low fodmap foods with dried spices like cumin, oregano, paprika, basil, mustard seeds and turmeric
Dairy and milk alternatives (shelf stable until opened) Low FODMAP
- Soy milk: (made from soy protein). Soy milk is a common dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. However, flavored varieties of soy milk, like vanilla or chocolate, may contain high FODMAP ingredients like honey or high fructose corn syrup.
- Almond milk: Almond milk is a plant-based milk alternative made from ground almonds and water. Some almond milks on the market, however, may contain high FODMAP ingredients like honey or high fructose corn syrup. Flavored almond milks, like vanilla or chocolate, may also contain high FODMAP ingredients.
**It’s important to note that while almond milk is low FODMAP, it is also low in protein compared to cow’s milk and soy milk. If you are an athlete, it’s important to ensure you are getting enough protein from other sources in your diet.**
Sugars, sweeteners and sweet treats LOW FODMAP pantry staples
- Dark chocolate: While it may seem like an indulgence, dark chocolate is actually a good source of antioxidants and healthy fats. Look for varieties with a high percentage of cocoa (70% or more) to keep it low FODMAP.
- Maple syrup: Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made from the sap of maple trees. It is low FODMAP in small serving sizes, as it contains mainly sucrose (table sugar) and small amounts of fructose.
- Rice malt syrup: Rice malt syrup is a natural sweetener made from fermented cooked rice.
- Table sugar: Table sugar (white sugar and brown sugar), also known as sucrose, is a common sweetener made from sugar cane or sugar beets.
By incorporating these low FODMAP pantry staples into your diet, you can fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to perform at its best without experiencing digestive issues while exercising.
It’s important to note that the low FODMAP diet is not recommended for athletes to follow long-term, as it may be restrictive and limit nutrient intake.
However, it may be beneficial for athletes to follow the diet for a short period of time to identify trigger foods and manage GI symptoms.
Remember to always consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional before making any significant dietary changes.
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 22 years of experience in public health and nutrition. As a performance registered dietitian nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.