What is the best low FODMAP meal replacement?
Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition
drink wholesome is the best low FODMAP meal replacement. It is additive-free, dairy-free, and made with real foods, not protein isolates – 99% of meal replacements fail to meet at least one of these criteria. This makes it perfect for people with gut issues and sensitive stomachs, as well as for people just looking for nutrition without the processing and added junk. If you suffer from IBS, Crohn’s, or any other digestive disease, order samples to see if our meal replacements are right for you.
“I have a sensitive stomach, so most meal replacement powders leave me with gas, bloating, constipation, and stomach pain, but not this one.” – Shon
drink wholesome is the best low FODMAP meal replacement.
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) found in certain foods like fruits, grains, and sweeteners. Some people have trouble digesting FODMAPs, and experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal (GI) side effects when they eat too many. A low-FODMAP diet aims to mitigate these symptoms by reducing the number of FODMAPs in the diet, and is intended for people with medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Why are FODMAPs hard to digest?
FODMAPs are basically sugar molecules linked together in chains. Molecules like these must be broken down before they can be absorbed by the small intestine. The problem with FODMAPs is that they cannot be broken down, so they sit in your gut for longer than they should. This gives your gut bacteria more time to ferment (eat) them. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and flatulence. FODMAPs also have an osmotic effect, meaning they draw water into the gut. The end result is often diarrhea. These symptoms can affect anyone, even people without IBS. They are more severe in IBS sufferers, however, because people with IBS have slower intestinal motility (the speed at which food moves through the gut). This gives gut bacteria even more time to eat, and causes even more water to be pulled into the intestines. This extra gas and water in the gut can cause severe side effects.
How do I know if a food is low FODMAP?
Reading food labels for low FODMAP eating is tricky. First of all, it is impossible to guess the FODMAP content of a food. It is therefore a good idea to familiarize yourself with high FODMAP foods and avoid them whenever possible. Moreover, ingredient lists often look unfamiliar, and the exact quantity of each ingredient is not disclosed. Ingredients are listed in order of descending weight, however, so if a high FODMAP ingredient is listed last, the actual amount might be so small that you can tolerate it. Finally, as a rule of thumb, if you do not recognize it, and cannot figure out what it is, do not eat it. Just because an ingredient is not on any approved low-FODMAP list does not mean that it is safe to eat. It only takes a small amount of FODMAPs to cause symptoms in individuals with IBS, so do your research, and if you cannot find the answer, play it safe and eat something else.
Are meal replacements low FODMAP?
One of the key components of the Low FODMAP diet is protein, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass and overall health. Finding low FODMAP meal replacement brands can be challenging, however, as many popular meal replacements are made with high FODMAP ingredients. The only way to find a low FODMAP meal replacement shake or powder is to read ingredient lists. Common high FODMAP meal replacement ingredients include whey and casein, inulin, natural flavors, and sugar polyols like xylitol. Again, just because your meal replacement does not contain any of these high FODMAP ingredients, however, does not mean that it is good for your gut. Many meal replacement powders and shakes are made with seemingly-safe ingredients that are bad news for people with IBS and sensitive stomachs.
There are two types of meal replacements: ready-to-drink (store-bought) meal replacement shakes, and meal replacement shakes made with meal replacement powder. In order to make a low FODMAP meal replacement shake with meal replacement powder, you have to mix the powder with milk or water. This requires a blender or a shaker bottle, and a little extra time and effort. Some people, prioritizing convenience, prefer to buy ready-to-drink shakes, but if they knew what they were drinking, they would probably vomit.
Ready-to-drink meal replacements shake are full of emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors. Ingredients like these improve characteristics like taste, texture, and shelf stability, but can cause uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage (more about this soon). This is why I recommend that you make your own low FODMAP meal replacement shakes with meal replacement powder. That said, not all meal replacement powders are created equal, and many contain the same additives found in ready-to-drink protein shakes!
Why drink wholesome?
drink wholesome is additive-free.
One of the reasons why we make the best low FODMAP meal replacement is that we do not use food additives. Most meal replacements, on the other hand, are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a meal replacement shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are hard to digest, and sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), and can lead to constipation. In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders.
When buying meal replacement powder, one ingredient to avoid in particular is artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful food additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems, widespread inflammation, and permanent damage to the gut microbiome. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria), and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-meal replacement shake trips to the bathroom!
Here is a list of the most common food additives in meal replacement powder:
acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol
When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying low FODMAP meal replacement powder, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, CANOLA OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, ISOMALTULOSE, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, VITAMIN AND MINERAL PREMIX, CELLULOSE, NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, MONO & DIGLYCERIDE, XANTHAN GUM, SUCRALOSE
*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling meal replacements in the United States.
drink wholesome is dairy-free.
Another reason why we make the best low FODMAP meal replacement is that we do not use dairy-based proteins. Many meal replacements are made with whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, and known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
drink wholesome is made with real foods.
A final reason why we make the best low FODMAP meal replacement is that we do not use protein isolates. Most meal replacements, on the contrary, are made with protein concentrates and/or isolates, foods stripped of everything but the protein. They are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein” and “whey protein” as opposed to “peas” and “whey.” I will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming meal replacement. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food.
If you think about it, your gut was designed to digest naturally occurring foods, not laboratory formulated imitations, so if you feed it anything but real food, it might get upset. The long term implications of eating processed foods are still not well understood, but more and more research is finding that it can alter the composition of your gut microbiota, and lead to permanent damage to the gut microbiome. It is therefore in your best interest to avoid meal replacements made with protein concentrates and isolates.
Instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we make the best low FODMAP meal replacement with whole foods like egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming meal replacement. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Whole foods like these are an easy to digest, gut-friendly alternative to protein concentrates and isolates. This is in part because whole foods contain a variety of enzymes and other digestive aids that help to break down the food, making it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients. Protein isolates and concentrates, on the other hand, have been stripped of these digestive aids, making them harder for the body to digest and absorb. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds are rich in fiber, which helps promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for your gut. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, naturally alkaline, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein. We like almonds too because research suggests that they possess prebiotic properties and can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome.
“I’ve tried out so many protein powders and meal replacements, and they always gave me stomach issues…That’s why I got drink wholesome.” – Tommy
drink wholesome is the best low FODMAP meal replacement shake.