Dietary Restrictions? 6 Ways You Can Still Enjoy Food

Vive la difference! How to enjoy your dietary restrictions—yes, we said enjoy.

Welcome to the rest of your life, during which you can no longer eat gluten/sodium/dairy/sugar/fat (choose one). Bon appétit!

“It’s common because, as we get older, things don’t work as well,” says Kim Arrey, a registered dietitian in Montreal.

“People develop a heart condition or diabetes. I also have clients with new lactose intolerance and more and more older people coming in with irritable bowel syndrome.”

But new dietary restrictions don’t have to restrict your dining enjoyment.

Click through for six ways to continue to celebrate food.

Next: Consider adding fish sauce

1. Get sauced

Reduced sodium may be what the doctor ordered, but what if your tastebuds aren’t quite as happy as your heart? A Malaysian research team recently showed that adding Vietnamese fish sauce to everyday foods like tomato sauce and chicken broth makes them taste as though they contain regular salt but with up to 25 per cent less sodium.

Fish sauce, made from slow-fermented anchovies and sea salt, is a condiment commonly used in southeast Asian cooking. The researchers suggest fish sauce could be used in place of salt by anyone who wants to reduce the sodium content of their favourite dishes.

Next: Try smartphone apps

2. Apply apps

InRFood, a smartphone app released last year, lets you know if a food product is on your no-fly list, especially if that’s not obvious at a glance. Does the product contain hidden sources of gluten, like malt extract? Invisible dairy ingredients, like whey? Is it overloaded with sugar or sodium? With InRFood, you can scan a barcode while you’re grocery shopping and get instant feedback—including warnings based on your personal settings. Best of all, no more squinting at those impossibly tiny ingredient listings!

Also, look into ScanAvert, designed to check if a product is compatible with your dietary restrictions.

Next:Do you struggle with irritable bowel syndrome?

3. Unfriend your FODMAPs

When you’re struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, you aren’t always sure which foods will trigger uncomfortable symptoms. That can make mealtime a sort of surprise grab bag.

But a team at Monash University in Australia has developed a set of recommendations, based on clinical evidence, for restricting a group of rapidly fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates in your diet. FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols) are often poorly digested and absorbed, can attract more water into your digestive system or may trigger gassy bacteria activity.

Examples include certain fruits such as apples and peaches, high-lactose dairy products like ice cream and some meat alternatives such as lentils. You don’t need to avoid them completely, but your symptoms may improve if you refrain from eating them in excess. The list of high FODMAP foods is long (don’t worry, so is the friendly-food list), so for best results, caution the researchers, follow the guidance of a trained dietitian.

“The more you know about the different food choices and how you react, the more flexibility you’ll have,” says Arrey. Go to Monash University’s low FODMAP diet page to order a booklet or download the app.

Next: Stevia isn’t that bad—really!


4. Give stevia a chance

Calorie-free stevia, an ingredient extracted from the South American plant’s super-sweet leaves, has been gaining popularity as a sugar replacement. Not only is it 200 times sweeter, it may even have health benefits, like helping to balance cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.

But many consumers complain about a bitter aftertaste, which manufacturers typically mask with…well, sugar.

Now chemists at Cornell University in New York have made a bitterness breakthrough. Instead of masking the aftertaste, they found a way to modify a stevia compound on a molecular level to get rid of the bitterness altogether. The result is pretty sweet.

Xylitol, another low-calorie, plant-based sweetener that’s often produced from hardwood trees like birch, may actually play a role in preventing tooth decay. What’s important to know: a food with xylitol may be labelled “no sugar added,” but if that food is high in calories and carbs, it can still affect the blood glucose of people with diabetes. Xylitol is also toxic to dogs and cats, so always take care to keep xylitol-sweetened products out of reach of pets.

Next: Limited lactose?


5. Like your lactose…when it’s limited

How come that cheesecake went down fine last week, and yet this week it sent you curling into a ball of abdominal agony? If you have lactose tolerance, it could be related to how you ate it.

“One of the things we know about lactose intolerance is that you’re more likely to be able to tolerate it when you have a full meal. The digestion is slowed down a little bit,” says Arrey. So if you consume the cake on its own, that can spell trouble. You’re also less likely to have regrets when you eat a smaller amount; most people with lactose intolerance can digest at least a bit of dairy without symptoms.

Next: Fat-free fries are a thing!


6. Have fries without fat

Fat-free french fries—can this really be a thing? Absolutely, writes Chuck Underwood, an American blogger at So what’s his trick for crispy fries without a drop of fat? Boil them for five minutes first (start with cold water so they’ll cook evenly), then coat them with a mixture of flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and chili powder. Finish off your frites by baking them on a cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes in a 425 F oven.

“What comes out is pure fat-free french fry heaven,” Underwood assures his readers. With an endorsement like that …

A version of the article appeared in the June 2016 issue with the headline, “Vive la Difference!”, p. 56-58.