Are you planning to holiday in Italy, but have concerns about what to eat and how you can manage your symptoms?
The FODMAP diet approach can be applied in every part of the world. In particular, it can also be applied in Italy, where there are strong links between Italian cuisine and cultural habits.
Traditional Italian food is delicious, but unfortunately, a lot of recipes are not low in FODMAPs.
1. In Italy, food shops (like ice-cream shops or pizzerias) have to show the ingredient list of each food for allergen information. You can ask to check them before buying a product.
2. Breakfast in Italy: if you are lactose intolerant, you can ask for a cappuccino made with lactose free milk or several alternative milks such as rice milk, oat milk or almond milk (although pay attention to serving size and high FODMAP ingredients such as inulin or chicory). Common breakfast foods like biscuits, croissants, pastries and cakes may be high FODMAP as they’re made from wheat flour, but you can use gluten free bread with jam, or in the supermarket you can often find gluten free and/or low FODMAP biscuits by checking the label.
3. It is possible to find a lot of gluten free products in the supermarket, such as pasta (including buckwheat pasta, corn pasta, rice, quinoa, millet, or polenta), gluten free bread, rice crackers or puffed rice cakes. In some bakeries you can also buy traditional sourdough bread.
4. In Italy, we usually add a lot of garlic or onion to our recipes. If you’re cooking for yourself you can use spring onion green tops and fresh basil, parsley, and oregano instead.
5. For pasta sauce, you can use fresh tomato sauce (available in tins as well) or pesto (you can find some without garlic in supermarkets). If you have lactose intolerance, avoid sauces based on cooking cream, or be sure to use a lactose free version. If you eat in a restaurant you can ask for a meal without garlic or onion, but be mindful that many sauces are prepared in advance.
6. Fresh dairy products are suitable if you can find lactose free versions or naturally low lactose dairy products such as hard cheeses (e.g. Parmesan). Even mozzarella is suitable and you can usually find a lactose free version if you want to eat large serves.
7. At a restaurant, suitable main courses can include risotto (i.e. “risotto alla Milanese” with saffron or with seafood), but only if you are sure that the chef can prepare it without onion or garlic. If it is not possible, you can ask for gluten free pasta with tomato sauce, Parmesan, basil and some suitable vegetables (e.g. zucchini, aubergine (eggplant), or pumpkin), or roasted fish or meat with a salad. French fries with mayonnaise are also suitable. Sauces applied to fish and meat dishes (like “scaloppina” or cutlet) often include high FODMAP ingredients, so check with wait staff about the ingredients in these dishes.
8. In Italy is very common to have “aperitivos”; a small snack with red or white wine or other cocktails. You can ask for some hard lactose free cheeses like Parmesan, Grana, Pecorino or “scamorza” cheese, with olives, ham (like Parma ham), pickled onion or chips. Avoid salami if you can’t check the label as it may contain garlic.
9. If you want to enjoy an ice-cream in Italy, try fruit-based iced desserts such as “sorbetto” or “granita” that are generally made using low FODMAP ingredients.
10. If you want to eat a pizza you can choose a gluten free or sourdough pizza base (especially in the South of Italy) with low FODMAP toppings, such as tomato sauce (be sure that there is not garlic added) or fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, rocket and Parmesan. Generally, the quantity of mozzarella on a pizza is small, therefore not a problem to eat.