Low FODMAP Pesto Sauce Recipe

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Living Happy with IBS

Pesto sauce is one of those foods that I never had growing up. I think it was the color that turned me off. But as an adult, once I tasted pesto on a delicious chicken pizza at an Italian winery, I was smitten. The fresh basil, the garlic, the crunchy pine nuts and spices blended together beautifully and from there, pesto became my go-to sauce with Italian dishes.

Fast forward to now and two of the main ingredients in my beloved pesto are foods that I can no longer tolerate. I am now allergic to pine nuts and the fructans in the garlic are a big trigger for me. So how is it possible to enjoy pesto sauce without garlic while on the low FODMAP diet? It took me awhile to figure this one out, but once I did, pesto and I have engaged in another long term relationship.

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Life beyond onions and garlic: experiences of the low FODMAP diet for IBS

Having suffered from IBS for over 6 years now I thought I’d share a few of my experiences trying out the low FODMAP diet. At my wit’s end, I’ve committed to this diet for 12 weeks to see whether it helps to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. As there is no blanket standard for IBS, with each individual exhibiting different symptoms and sensitivities, it can be extremely frustrating to pinpoint trigger foods and develop a treatment plan.

I’ve been through the whole process and had all the (extremely unpleasant) tests. But one thing I can say is that going through the process of elimination with your doctor will bring you peace of mind. And trust me, rather the enemy you know! Once you can rule out coeliac, crohn’s or any other inflammatory bowel disorder (at one point I even had friends and family asking whether it could be the ‘C’ word), you can start to formulate a plan of attack. The niggling worry in the back of your mind that it could be something more serious will not go away and may cause you unnecessary anxiety and stress. One piece of advice that I can give: see a specialist! Once you’ve ruled out all other possibilities you can work with both your dietitian and gastroenterologist to come up with a treatment plan that is right for you.

After first being diagnosed with IBS I spent a lot of time scanning the internet, reading article after article and trying to formulate my own treatment plan. Don’t go it alone – trust the people that do this for a living. While we all believe ourselves experts after consulting Dr. Google, there are a lot of things that get left out. For example, I tried going gluten, lactose and meat free at one point but still cooked with onions and garlic. Knowing what can trigger a reaction can help you eliminate and slowly reintroduce potential problem foods so that you can better understand your own sensitivities. However, being informed will help you to have better discussions with your doctor so that you can understand your condition.

Unfortunately there is no magic drug that you can take that will cure you of all symptoms. I’ve tried all the remedies and potions that are recommended in the treatment of IBS. Some helped. Some, not so much. I find that probiotics, aloe vera juice and peppermint oil have been the most effective. I also find that a glass of barely grass in the morning improves my general health. However, without a controlled diet, these do not alleviate all symptoms. Pysllium husks (soluble fibre) never really did that much for me, but I believe other people have experienced good results with this. I also find that charcoal capsules help with bloating (it’s also a miracle hangover cure). Green tea with mint and peppermint tea are good to have throughout the day. I also mix up something I call “juju-juice” – grated ginger with freshly squeezed lemon juice and water which I drink throughout the day. It’s easy to mix a jug of it in the morning and keep it on your desk (this is also a very effective hangover treatment). The trick is to try different things to find out what works best for you.

So after having gone through all the tests, my dietitian has now put me on a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligio-saccharides, Di-sacchardies, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. As for the science of it, this is what I understand: food is made up of many components, such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates (including sugars). Some carbohyrates (FODMAPs) do not get absorbed in the small intestine and pass along the gut into the large intestine. The bacteria in the large intestine ferment FODMAPS which may result in the symptoms experienced by sufferers of IBS.

The low FODMAP diet:

Allowed Not allowed Limited (1 at a time)
Rice Wheat and all wheat-based products
Gluten & wheat free alternatives
Banana Apple Cherries
Blueberry Apricot Dried coconut
Breadfruit Blackberry Grapefruit
Cantaloupe watermelon Nectarine Lychee
Clementine Peach Pomegranate
Cranberries Pear
Grapes Plum or prune
Honeydew melon Watermelon
Kiwifruit Tinned fruit in apple or pear juice
Lemon Mango
Lime Fig
Mandarin Boysenberry
Passion fruit
Alfalfa Beans & pulses (chick peas, broad beans, soy beans, black eyed peas, butter beans, lentils, baked beans, kidney beans, split peas) Artichoke hearts
Aubergine Cauliflower Asparagus
Bamboo shoot Chicory root Avocado
Beansprouts Garlic Beetroot
White cabbage Jerusalem artichoke Broccoli
Carrot Karela Brussels sprouts
Cassava Leek Butternut squash
Swiss chard Mushroom Celery
Chilli Onion (white, red, Spanish, shallots, spring onion-white part) Fennel bulb
Chives Mange tout
Courgette Okra
Cucumber Peas
Endive Savoy cabbage
Ginger Sweetcorn
Green beans Sweet potato
Lettuce (iceberg, butter, radicchio, red coral)
Pak choy
Spring onion (green part)
Water chestnut
Herbs & spices
Asafetida powder Garlic or onion products (dried, extract, salt etc)
Basil Dressings
Chilli Gravy
Chives Sauces
Cinnamon Stock & stock cubes
Coriander seed
Egusi seed
Fenugreek leaves & seeds
Garlic infused oil (strained)
Lemon juice
Lime juice
Peanut butter
Poppy seeds (white)
Vinegar  (balsamic – 1 tbs)
Wasabi powder
Nuts & Seeds
Cashew Macadamia
Pistachio Peanuts
Pine nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
1.5-2 l water per day Chai tea Fizzy
Coffee Chamomile Beer
Tea Chicory Gin
Green tea Coconut water Vodka
Dandelion tea Whiskey
Fennel tea Wine
Rum Caffeine
Desert wine
Fruit juice
Agave nectar
Fructose syrups
Lactose free milks Milk
Cheddar Yoghurt
Feta Ice cream & custard
Mozzarella Processed cheese
Brie Cheese slices
Camembert Reduced fat cheddar
Blue Cottage cheese
Edam Cream cheese
Goat’s cheese Ricotta
Dark chocolate Quark
Sour cream Low fat soft cheese
Meat, poultry, fish
Tofu, tempeh
Quorn (no onion/garlic ingredients)
Soya mince
All oils, butter

When I first saw the list of foods I was/was not allowed I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how I’d adapt my lifestyle and cooking habits to accommodate the new diet. However, as I go along, I’m finding new recipes and tricks. One thing is certain: planning ahead is key. I went straight into the diet without any fore-planning and without an adjustment period: cold turkey. It was tough. I remember walking around the supermarket at lunch time trying to find something that I was allowed to eat. But each time I picked up a product and read the ingredients it turned out to be unsuitable. Garlic and onions are the real killer – they’re in everything! So while I’d usually get carrot sticks and dip for a snack at work, there wasn’t a dip in the whole store that I could have as each one had garlic or onions in the list of ingredients! So I settled for roast chicken pieces and made my own Greek salad of tomato, cucumber, feta, lemon juice and olive oil.

When you’re in a rush and need to pick something up on the go, sushi is always a good bet. Make sure to avoid sushi containing spring onions and avo, and packs that have edamame beans in them. Nigiri and sashimi are probably the safest, but have a look and see what is suitable. Jacket potatoes are also a good lunch idea.

Unfortunately most soups will be out as the stock nearly always contains onions. For store-bought salads, read the ingredients very carefully and prefer homemade salad dressing. If you’ve not had time to make salad dressing, keep some lemon juice/vinegar and olive oil at your desk to use as an alternative.

I found breakfast to be quite a challenge initially. Luckily there is a shop close to work which does egg pots with peppers, tomatoes and goat’s cheese which I’ve been getting quite a lot. As honey is out, I’ve tended away from porridge as I don’t like to have it plain. Another idea is to get some plain oats and mix your own muesli. Add some nuts and fresh banana with soy/almond/coconut milk for a filling breakfast. Add golden linseeds to this mix as these help to reduce IBS symptoms.

Going gluten-free really isn’t the end of the world as there are so many gluten-free alternatives. Browse the free-from section at your local supermarket and try different products to find the things that you like.

I like to eat little often and so a typical meal plan for me looks something like this:


Scrambled egg pot/homemade oat muesli & fruit/ banana

Mid-morning snack:

Mix of blueberries, strawberries & raspberries


Chicken (or any other meat), quinoa and Greek salad (no onions, homemade dressing)/sushi/salad with cold meats/jacket potato (see Mediterranean chicken recipe below)

Mid-afternoon snack:

Veggie sticks/rice cakes with homemade dip (see recipes below)


Salad/popcorn (popcorn should be counted as a food group!)/fish or meat & veg

I’m not going to pretend that the low FODMAP diet is easy, but once you get into the swing of things it’s not so bad. My dietitian has recommended that I strictly adhere to the diet for 12 weeks, upon which we’ll start reintroducing certain foods. My plan is to continue blogging about my experiences, sharing recipes and tips for other people who are going through something similar. Any and all suggestions and personal experiences welcome!

Kale Pesto

  • 85g toasted pine nuts
  • 85g parmesan, coarsely grated
  • 85g kale
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 75ml olive oil
  • Handful fresh basil
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz into a paste. Season to taste
  2. To store, put in a container or jar and cover the surface with a little more olive oil. Keep in the fridge for a week.

Raw Courgette Hummus

  • 1 cup diced raw courgette
  • 1/3 cup raw tahini
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Pinch paprika
  1. Throw all the ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Season to taste.

Mediterranean chicken

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • ½ cup kalamata olives
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 200⁰C. Combine all ingredients in a baking tray. Cover with tin foil and bake for 45mins or until the chicken is good. Remove foil for last 15 min of baking.