Hard-to-Find, digestively-friendly versions of staple foods
Working in a gastroenterology practice, I specialize in helping people with sensitive digestive systems navigate around a variety of food intolerances. Once we isolate the offending ingredient or compound–whether gluten, lactose, fructose, inulin or artificial sweeteners–the next question is inevitably: “Can you recommend a safe [cereal/bar/vitamin/yogurt] for me to eat?”
We all come to rely on a handful of specific staples in our diets to keep our days running on autopilot: the breakfast standby, the go-to mid-morning snack, the convenient bar to toss in our bag when heading out for a busy day. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that these are the foods I get asked most frequently about when food intolerance up-ends one’s dietary business as usual. Here are some of the products that I generally recommend:
Most digestively-friendly bar: Go Macro Peanut butter Macrobar. Most energy or granola bars host one or more digestively-challenging ingredients, from the protein source (soy, milk or whey protein concentrates, which can be gassy for many people) to the added fiber (fructo-oligosaccharides or inulin/chicory root fiber) to the sweetener (calorie-free sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol or sucralose, or fructose-rich natural sweeteners like honey or agave.) Rare is the bar that has none of the above. So far, the Peanut Butter Macrobar is the only one I’ve come across that passes the test. If you’re sensitive to higher fat foods, try eating it half a bar at a time.
Most digestively friendly cereal: Erewhon Quinoa & Chia cereal. Someone was reading my mind when they formulated this product: a gluten-free cereal that’s a good source of tummy-friendly fiber from quinoa and chia AND super low in sugar? They should send this as a free gift to every new person diagnosed with Celiac disease or IBS.
Most digestively-friendly gummy vitamin: Vitamin Friends Gummy Vitamins. These are a new find I’m super excited about– a digestively friendly gummy vitamin that contains IRON! I found these when looking for an iron supplement for my three year old son, whose fruitarian tendencies earned him a case of anemia. All of the chewable kids products were such a turn-off– loaded with artificial food dyes, nasty preservatives and numerous laxative-type sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol…). And none of the gummy multivitamins had iron. The Vitamin Friends brand stood out on several dimensions: its sweetened with easy-to-absorb cane sugar and glucose (rather than high-fructose sugars or artificial sugars), preserved naturally with citric acid, colored naturally with carrot extracts and thickened with a digestively beneficial soluble fiber called pectin. The iron product contains an impressive 15mg per gummy, which limits the need to dose multiple sugary bears. Sold!
Most digestively-friendly yogurt: Green Valley Organics Lactose Free. Generally, there are three potentially difficult to digest ingredients in any given yogurt: lactose, fructose or inulin. Lactose is naturally present in the milk, fructose is used as a sweetener, and inulin is often used to provide “mouthfeel” when fat is removed, as in a fat-free or lowfat product. In certain sensitive people, any one of these ingredients can cause gas or diarrhea. GVO is the only nationally-distributed brand I’ve encountered that meets my criteria for true digestive friendliness, and it makes a great snack paired with a (low fructose) fruit like bananas or blueberries– or sprinkled with a dash of powdered peanut butter!
FTC disclosure: I am a paid consulting dietitian for Green Valley Organics Lactose Free.
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