Chinese takeout can be a delicious treat and a break from cooking after a long week of work. However, unlike other regimens like the low carbohydrate or vegetarian that just stay clear of certain food groups, the low FODMAP diet can be particularly challenging since it concerns avoiding certain foods within food groups. Even a small amount of trigger foods can cause a flare-up of uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Follow the tips below to learn how to enjoy Chinese cuisine without any digestive discomfort.
Foods to Avoid
No golden or crispy treats
Appetizers like crab Rangoon, egg rolls, spring rolls, and wonton soup are off limits due to their glutinous wrappings. Be sure to look out for crispy, battered, or “golden” in the menu offerings since this could signify a wheat flour batter on meats and vegetables.
Get sauce on the side or not at all
It can be hard to know how each restaurant prepares their sauces or marinades. Common Chinese sauces like bean paste and soy sauce are made from soy beans, and the pastes can be thickened with flour, so it is safe to avoid such sauces. Hoisin sauce, which is a sweet and thick sauce often found on a Chinese food dinner table, is made from soy beans, garlic, and sometimes wheat, along with other seasonings. These high FODMAP ingredients make these sauces off limits. Sweet and sour sauce may be ok, but just ask it cornstarch is used instead of wheat flour for a thickener and make sure no high fructose corn syrup was used as a sweetener.
Sometimes it can be safer to just get your protein plain, but you could also ask for any of these low FODMAP condiment and sauce options like:
- gluten-free tamari (a soy sauce substitute)
- Sesame oil or sesame paste
- Garlic oil or scallion oil
- Chili paste or sriracha sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Oyster sauce
Egg drop soup is safe with a base of egg, chicken or vegetable stock, and sometimes some corn kernels or peas, with green scallions on top. Chicken and sweet corn soup or any vegetable soup without noodles should be ok. Just be sure to ask if any common soup ingredients like mushrooms, garlic, or onions was used since these are high FODMAP ingredients to avoid. Also, say no to hot and sour soup since it may contain black mushrooms, which can be high FODMAP, as well as any soup with noodles or dumplings, which may contain wheat.
Another starter option is a salad. Just ask for no onions or garlic, and stick to a simple dressing base like oil and rice vinegar or another vinaigrette option.
Stick to Sautéed, Steamed, or Satay
Choose proteins that have been cooked without a batter. You can usually tell this by the menu description. Grilled, baked, sautéed, or broiled typically indicate proteins that have been cooked without a batter. However, it is always safe to ask just in case.
Keep vegetables simple
Carrots, water chestnuts, green beans, and broccoli heads are ok on a low FODMAP diet. However, keep cauliflower, snow or snap peas, celery, and onions off your plate. Stir fry veggies may come standard in some Chinese restaurant dishes, so be sure to ask for specifics of ingredients when ordering.
Safe Low FODMAP Chinese dishes
Examples of some safe low FODMAP Chinese dishes include:
- Beef and Broccoli; sauce on the side
- Steamed chicken and green beans or broccoli
- Prawns (not battered) with pineapple
- BBQ ribs
- Teriyaki beef or chicken
- Fried rice with or without a protein; just ask to be sure onions are left out during cooking
Written by Staci Gulbin, MS, RD a Board-certified dietitian.