Turkey and all the trimmings. Minced meat pies. Leftover sandwiches. All among the most anticipated hallmarks of Christmas.
But for the millions with common digestive issues, most favorite holiday foods are a recipe for disaster. Root vegetables, dried fruits, and Brussels sprouts are among the foods higher in a type of fermentable sugars called FODMAPs.
These sugars interact with the healthy bacteria in the gut, releasing gases that can lead to the dreaded feeling of bloating. And for one in five Britons who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, bloating comes with diarrhoea, excruciating pain and days of annoying and embarrassing flatulence.
An eating plan that aims to identify patients’ unique triggers, by eliminating high-FODMAP foods, and then reintroducing them one at a time, is the main treatment for this condition.
Experts have also found that diets low in these foods can also reduce inflammation associated with bowel diseases such as colitis and Crohn’s inflammation, while people with dairy intolerance are advised to avoid lactose – a popular FODMAP product.
With at least one in three suffering from digestive issues waiting to see a specialist, many will be thinking: What can I eat for Christmas?
Here, in collaboration with nutritionist and YOU magazine recipe writer Annie Bell, we’ve created variations on festive staples suitable for the most sensitive stomachs.
From hearty vegetable dishes to delicious festive desserts, these dishes are just as delicious as the traditional versions, but won’t leave you with a stomachache.
Root vegetables and cheddar bread
The vegetables with the most FODMAPs are onions and garlic, which tend to appear in many recipes to add flavor. Using the green part of the leeks gives a similar taste without the awful effects.
Thin slices of parsnip, which have a low level of FODMAPs, mean you’re getting a very small amount per portion — unlikely to trigger symptoms.
- 450g carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 450g parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
- 450g leeks, sliced (green parts only)
- 250 ml vegetable broth
- 30g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1½ teaspoons fine sugar
- 4 eggs
- 100gm grated cheddar cheese
- 50 gm fresh rusk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Preheat oven to 220°C / gas mark 8. Place carrots, parsnips and leeks in a large saucepan with broth, butter and a pinch of salt and sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Then cook uncovered for another 15 minutes.
In another bowl, beat eggs with salt and pepper, then stir in two-thirds of the cheese. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl with the oil, then mix with the rest of the cheese.
Add the vegetables to the bowl with the egg and cheese mixture, add the parsley and stir until combined. Place in a flat oven dish 30 cm long, spread the mixture of breadcrumbs on top.
Place the dish on a grill tray and add boiling water to the tray, around the dish, until two-thirds of the sides of the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden.
Green beans with sun-dried tomatoes, celery and green onions
Sprouts and bacon are often stir-fried with shallots, which contain a similar amount of fermentable sugars as onions. Using celery instead will spare you the terrible after effects.
If you’re a fan of sweets, replace the dried tomatoes with dried cranberries – because they are one of the few dried fruits that have very low FODMAPs.
- 150 ml white wine
- 1 celery stick finely chopped
- 30g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 60g sun-dried tomatoes (from jar), chopped
- 400g soft green beans, stem ends trimmed and cut in half
- 3 green onions, sliced
Put the white wine and celery in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Cream the butter and stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, then season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook beans for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Drain using a colander, then return to skillet, pour over sauce and stir. Sprinkle green onions before serving.
Roasted turkey with chestnut, sage and leek filling
Most recipes for homemade stuffing use sausage meat and bread — not great for those who are prone to bloating.
Wheat is high in fermentable fruit sugars called fructans, and traces of wheat are often added to sausage meat in large quantities. This vegan version uses the wheat-free bread available in most supermarkets. Gluten-free bread is also beneficial.
- 5 kg Turkey Free Range
- 225g gluten-free or wheat-free bread, cut into small pieces
- 450 ml vegetable broth
- 85gm unsalted butter
- 2 finely chopped shallots (green parts only)
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- Small handful of chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried sage
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 scrambled egg
- 50gm cooked chestnuts, cut into small pieces
Cook seasoned turkey with salt and pepper, as usual – at 220°C / Mark 8 gas for about 15 minutes per 500g bird for less than 5kg bird, and 13 minutes per 500g bird for 500g bird or more.
Reduce oven to 200°C / gas mark 6 after 30 minutes of cooking. Cover with tin foil to start with, but remove the aluminum foil 45 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
About an hour before the turkey is ready, heat another oven to 180°C/mark 4 gas and prepare the filling. Place the shredded bread in a large bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, bring the stock to a simmer. In another skillet, melt the butter, add the shallots and celery, and stir until softened. Add butter mixture to baking, then chestnuts, parsley, sage and rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Add the egg and add the stock one teaspoon at a time.
Pour the filling into an oven dish and cook for 50 minutes.
citrus roasted Pepper and tomato
Pepper is the friendliest vegetable for people with gut issues, as it does not contain fermentable sugars.
Some people find that large amounts of tomatoes — usually cans of chopped tomatoes, or tomato ketchup — can lead to acid reflux, which is often present with IBS. But here, there is only a small amount of tomato per portion, so it is unlikely to trigger symptoms.
- 6 red, yellow or orange peppers
- 3 strips of orange peel
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 18 cherry tomatoes
- 8-10 sprigs of thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons juice of lemon or lime
- 1 tablespoon clementine or orange juice
Preheat oven to 210°C/gas mark 7. Cut the cores of each pepper, quarter them, discard any seeds and arrange in a baking dish or roasting pan.
Add the tomatoes, herbs, zest, and cinnamon sticks, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until peppers are succulent and evenly rich at the edges.
While the peppers are cooking, prepare the sauce. Whisk together lemon or lime, clementine juice and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of oil.
Sprinkle with pepper and tomatoes, toss gently, then transfer to a serving plate.
Turkey and Eggplant curry with roasted nuts
Leftovers are a common cause of IBS. This recipe does not contain starchy vegetables and tastes great without the onions and garlic that most curries contain.
- 5 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 medium sized eggplant, cut into cubes
- 1 celery stick, cut into cubes
- 2 teaspoons garam masala spices
- 2 tomatoes, chopped, with seeds removed
- 300 gm cold turkey
- 275ml coconut milk (or any dairy-free milk)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons fine sugar
- 2 handfuls chopped cilantro leaves, plus extra for serving
- Minced peanuts, almonds, American walnuts
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add half of the eggplant and fry constantly until golden and translucent.
Put it in a bowl, then cook the rest. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry the celery for a minute or two until the color begins to color.
Add garam masala and tomatoes and season with salt. Simmer on low heat for a few minutes until the tomatoes fall apart.
Return the first batch of eggplant to the skillet, mix in the turkey and heat through. Stir two-thirds of the milk with the lemon juice and sugar. Add coriander and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cilantro and nuts spread on top.
raspberry christmas sundae
Christmas candy may be delicious, but too much cream and custard can trigger symptoms if you’re sensitive to milk sugars.
Apple and pear desserts contain a lot of fermentable fruit sugars and often also lead to bloating. Sherbet is a harmless alternative.
- 150g strawberry or raspberry jam
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 500 ml of raspberry sorbet
- two handfuls of berries
Heat the jam in a saucepan with lemon juice until it dissolves.
Put 2 tablespoons of raspberry sorbet in 4 sundae cups, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of jam and sprinkle the berries on top of each.
festive berry pavlova
Pavlovas with cream has a high FODMAP content, thanks to milk sugars. But in Greek yogurt, the sugar that IBS patients struggle to digest – lactose – is greatly stressed during processing, giving a rich, creamy texture.
Replace berries with low-FODMAP fruits like grapes, kiwis, oranges, passionfruit, and pineapple.
- 6 large egg whites
- 350gm fine white sugar
- 1 tablespoon of corn flour
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 800g berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries)
- 40 grams icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange or other fruit liqueur (optional)
- Squeeze of lemonade
- 300ml thick Greek or lactose-free yogurt
Preheat oven to 210°C/gas mark 7. In a bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form, then sprinkle a few tablespoons over the caster sugar at a time, whisking well.
Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, then the vinegar until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Line a baking tray with a mixture of parchment paper and spoon over the tray in a rough circle, moving the top with the spoon.
Place the meringues in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 120°C / gas mark 1 and bake for 90 minutes, then allow to cool.
While the meringue is cooking, put 1/3 of the red berries, powdered sugar, liqueur if using, and lemon juice in a blender and puree. Pass through a sieve into a bowl.
Cut any large strawberries into halves or quarters and mix the remaining fruit with the sauce.
Place the meringues in a large serving dish, place the yogurt in the middle, and top with the berries and sauce.