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Navigating Thanksgiving Dinner

People with IBS seem to take one of two approaches to Thanksgiving Dinner. The oh-what-the-heck group splurges on high-FODMAP party foods and bears the consequences. Friends, good luck with that. This post is for members of the other group, who know they will enjoy the festivities more without abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel problems getting in the way. Many of us are spending Thanksgiving weekend with friends or family, and it will be a long weekend, indeed, if we are feeling miserable or tying up the bathroom for hours.

Fortunately, the centerpiece of the meal, the turkey, doesn’t contain any FODMAPs, but these classic menu items do:

French onion dip. Instant onion soup mixes that are used to make dips are full of, well, onions. And the sour cream can contain too much lactose for a low-FODMAP diet. Try our recipe for Lower-FODMAP Hummus instead. Or bring a batch of our Spinach Dip and Mini Sweet-Pepper Poppers from The IBS Elimination Diet and Cookbook to share instead - scroll down for the recipe!

Mixed nuts. All kinds of nuts should be limited to one small handful on a low-FODMAP diet. Skip the cashews and pistachios, which are highest in FODMAPs. Choose lower FODMAP peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and macadamia nuts.

Green bean casserole. While I confess I’ve never been a fan of this mid-century dish, I know some people consider it a family tradition. It’s not a good prospect for modification to a low-FODMAP diet because its very identity depends on topping it with crispy fried onions. No way around it. To keep green beans low-FODMAP, skip the canned soup and onions and go with simple roasted, steamed, grilled or sautéed green beans instead.

Bread stuffing. “Moisten and pack down bread, mix it with onions and sausage grease, let the fat from the roasting turkey soak into it. Eat the equivalent of several slices of bread in a single serving. Maybe have seconds.” Does this sound like a recipe for a belly ache? I think so. The fat from the sausage and the turkey aren’t FODMAPs, but they can be heavy. At a minimum, make your stuffing with real sourdough bread and bake it in a separate dish instead of in the bird. Consider a stuffing made with quinoa or rice instead of a bread stuffing. See the stuffed kabocha squash recipe we developed for our friends over at for inspiration. 

Mashed potatoes. Potatoes themselves are low-FODMAP, but if they are mashed with milk, loads of sour cream or garlic, they don’t stay that way. To keep them low-FODMAP yet still delicious, mash them with butter and lactose-free milk, and season them with salt and black pepper. Garnish with fresh minced chives or sliced scallion greens and you’ll have some delicious low-FODMAP spuds.

Gravy. Many recipes for gravy contain flour, which is a source of FODMAPs. Instead, look for a recipe that uses cornstarch or sorghum flour as a thickener.

Cranberry sauce. It has become easy to find prepared cranberry sauces made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Choose one of these, and enjoy your cranberry sauce.

Pumpkin pie. Unless you made it yourself with lactose-free milk, skip the pumpkin pie. It is usually made with evaporated milk, which is egregiously high in lactose. And then there’s the crust, which is unlikely to be low-FODMAP unless it is gluten-free. Maybe you’d be better off with some low-FODMAP pumpkin custard or a sliver of blueberry or pecan pie?

Perhaps there is a middle ground, with very small portions of one or two high-FODMAP treats, while keeping the rest of your food choices low in FODMAPs. Only you can decide! I’m wishing you a wonderful holiday. Be thankful for your time with friends and family. It’s not all about the food! Change the focus for at least part of the day—enjoy a long walk in the woods, make some music, or enjoy a brisk outdoor game together.

Spinach Dip and Mini Sweet-Pepper Poppers

Spinach dip is always a crowd pleaser; stuffed into mini sweet peppers, it makes an easy-to-eat popper for a buffet table or cocktail snack. This recipe can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving.


Pepper poppers

1 pound multicolored miniature sweet peppers
1 12-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup shredded pepper jack cheese (1 ounce)


  • Halve the peppers lengthwise with a sharp knife, taking note of which side the peppers will rest on more naturally, with the cut side facing straight up. Remove the seeds with a sharp-edged spoon or melon baller.
  • Cook the spinach according to the package directions. Drain it in a sieve, pressing gently to remove excess water.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush or spray a baking sheet with oil.
  • Combine the mayonnaise, Parmesan, Neufchâtel cheese, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Gently stir in the spinach. Spoon the dip into the peppers and place them, dip side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle a generous pinch of pepper jack cheese on top of each one.
  • Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, approximately 35 minutes. Remove the poppers to a plate and serve warm.

Serves: 14

For a printable PDF version of this recipe, click here.

From The IBS Elimination Diet and Cookbook by Patsy Catsos. Used with permission.

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