What to Eat When You Can’t Eat Anything

A whole foods plant-based diet is coming to be seen by many as the “ultimate” in healthy eating. There is an ever-increasing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of such a diet, and more and more people are trying it out and feeling great. Social media is loaded with before and after images and stories that show near miraculous results of dietary and lifestyle changes. But what if you’re eating this way, and you’re not feeling great?

In her new book Low-FODMAP and Vegan: What to Eat When You Can’t Eat Anything author Jo Stepaniak tackles this “taboo” subject, coming out of the closet to discuss a condition that she has personally struggled with for decades. In the book Stepaniak provides a clear, concise overview of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) – “a common chronic disorder that affects about 10 percent of the world’s population and 10 to 15 percent of the general population in the United States“, advice on how to recognize it, and a solid dietary and lifestyle guide for vegans who suffer from this debilitating disorder.

Low-FODMAP and Vegan

FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

“This group of naturally occurring but indigestible sugars (carbohydrates) is rapidly broken down (fermented) by bacteria in the bowel,” Stepaniak explains in the book. “Because these sugars aren’t well absorbed in the small intestine, they pass directly through to the colon, where they then cause bowel distention by drawing in more liquid and generating gas when the bowel bacteria ferment them…while everyone has some difficulty digesting and absorbing FODMAPs, people with IBS experience cramping, pain, bloating, excessive gas, abdominal distension, altered bowel habits…”

Suffice it to say that if you have IBS, eating foods high in FODMAPs can make you very uncomfortable. The problem for vegans is that almost all plant foods contain FODMAPs. Does this mean that you can’t be vegan if you have IBS? No. That’s what this book is all about.

While it’s not possible to have an entirely FODMAP-free vegan diet…” Stepaniak writes, “we can center our diets around foods that contain minimal amounts of FODMAPs and that aren’t generally problematic (in appropriate portions) for people with IBS.

In the book there are detailed tables showing foods, by category, that are safe, those that should be used cautiously, and those that should be avoided. There is a wealth of information about common foods and how to use and prepare them safely, what to eat in the midst of a flare-up, and tips for planning a well-balanced low-FODMAP vegan plate.

The second half of the book is bursting with all manner of delicious-looking recipes that will make you forget that any restrictions are at play! Whether or not you are eating a low-FODMAP diet, you will want to try out Stepaniak’s recipe for Greek Tofu Feta (extra amazing with her Baked Zucchini and Potatoes casserole), or the Ginger-Glazed Tempeh Fillets. Yum! We have been happily featuring Low-FODMAP and Vegan on the Vegan Mainstream Cookbook Club over the past week, and one of the recipes we shared was this Warm Thai Noodle Salad (below).

If you or someone you love is suffering from IBS or a related digestive disorder, this book should be on your list. It’s a well-researched, informative book from a well-respected author, recipe-developer and longtime vegan.


Makes 4 servings

Warm noodle salad loaded with crunchy veggies and tossed with a spicy dressing is irresistible. It makes a sublime addition to a buffet or party meal as a first course or main dish.


½ cup no-salt-added creamy or crunchy peanut butter

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar or additional balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon garlic-infused olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon or  lime juice

2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger, or ½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

Water, as needed


Sea salt

12 ounces gluten-free spaghetti


1 cup bean sprouts

½ cup matchstick-sliced bell peppers (any color)

½ cup finely shredded red or green cabbage

½ cup shredded carrots

½ cup matchstick-sliced english cucumber

½ cup thinly sliced, half-moon sliced, or matchstick-sliced red radishes

½ cup thinly sliced, matchstick-sliced, or diced water chestnuts

TOPPINGS (choose one, two, or all three)

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, lightly packed

½ cup sliced scallion greens or chives

¼ cup Toasted Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds, Seasoned Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds, or chopped or crushed unsalted roasted peanuts

To make the dressing, put the peanut butter, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, garlic-infused oil, lemon juice, ginger, and maple syrup in a large bowl. Stir vigorously until smooth and well combined. Gradually whisk in enough water (about ¾ cup) to make a fairly thick but pourable sauce, beating vigorously after each addition until completely smooth. Season with curry paste and salt to taste.

To make the noodles, cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to the package directions and drain well. Add to the bowl with the sauce along with the vegetable additions of your choice and toss until the noodles are coated and the vegetables are evenly distributed. Taste and add more salt and curry paste if desired. Garnish with cilantro and/or scallion greens and sprinkle the seeds or peanuts over the top if using.

photos and recipe courtesy of Jo Stepaniak and Book Publishing Company.

Jo Stepaniak is the author and coauthor of more than two dozen books on vegan cuisine, health, and compassionate living. Having struggled with IBS for decades, Jo knows what it’s like to feel that no food is safe, even when eating healthy vegan fare.


By | 2016-10-17T10:39:10+00:00 July 18th, 2016|Cookbook Club, Education, Food, Lifestyle, Vegan Cookbook Club|0 Comments

About the Author:

Emma Levez Larocque is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, writer and Certified Plant-Based Chef living on the west coast of Canada. She has been veg for 22 years, vegan for 7. Her passion is working to make veganism mainstream to promote a better, kinder world for all beings.