IBS-Friendly Cafeteria Food Choices for Students

Navigating the Cafeteria: IBS-Friendly Food Choices for Students

The Tummy Clinic | September 8th, 2023

Managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) along with the rushed mornings, packed class schedules, new routines, exams, after-school activities and other demands of school or college can be hard. IBS brings with it challenging symptoms such as…

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gas

Though these symptoms may not be dangerous to your health, they do cause distress. Studies show that IBS could affect 13%-20% of Canadians at any given time. IBS also affects many teens and young adults. In fact, the lifetime risk for a Canadian to develop IBS is 30%.

The common triggers of IBS are food and stress.

Food – In many people, IBS symptoms become worse when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages. FODMAP foods to avoidthat can trigger IBS symptoms include wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk and carbonated drinks or sodas which are not low FODMAP drinks.

Stress – Those with IBS can experience a worsening of symptoms in times of increased stress. While stress itself doesn’t cause IBS, it does make symptoms worse.

IBS friendly food for students can play an important role in managing the condition. Consuming IBS friendly food can go a long way in minimising symptoms.

Cafeteria foods to avoid

There are some common cafeteria food items that are very popular. However, they do not fall under the category of IBS friendly food for students and can trigger IBS symptoms. These foods include:

  • French fries: Foods that are fried and high in fat can cause diarrhoea in those with a sensitive stomach.
  • Pizza: Onions, garlic, cheese and other common toppings can affect the digestion of those with IBS.
  • Baked beans: Items such as beans, peas, and lentils can cause bloating and gas.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: These veggies can cause constipation or diarrhoea, especially if they are eaten raw.
  • Diet soda: The artificial sweeteners present in diet soda can cause cramping or diarrhoea, as they are not low FODMAP drinks.

Some basic low FODMAP fast food options

Read on for a few pointers on IBS friendly food for children…

  • If you are ordering a sandwich or burger, avoid the bun and choose a lettuce wrap, if possible. You could also opt for a gluten-free hamburger bun.
  • Eating just half the bun also keeps wheat intake levels low.
  • Avoid sauces, salad dressings, and most condiments as they often contain garlic, onion, high fructose corn syrup, and/or fructose. That said, a small amount of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise would be tolerated by most. You could also consider carrying your own low FODMAP condiments while consuming low FODMAP fast food.
  • Avoid common garnishes like pickles and onion when ordering IBS friendly food for children.
  • You can include lettuce, tomato and American cheese – as well as many other cheeses – in your order as they are low FODMAP.
  • Low FODMAP drinks you can have include: coffee – instant, espresso black; tea – black tea leaves/ bag, weak, Chai tea, weak, Dandelion tea, weak, Green tea, Herbal tea, weak (fruit-based with chicory root), Peppermint tea, White tea leaves/bag; hot chocolate – carob powder, cocoa powder, drinking chocolate.
  • Be careful with gluten-free offerings as well as vegetarian offerings as they might not all be low FODMAP, while ordering IBS friendly food for children.

Try to keep all your other meals and snacks that day low FODMAP.

Pack lunch

If possible, carrying your own lunch is a good idea as not all cafeteria items are IBS friendly food.
Carrying a packed lunch also cuts out the time spent waiting in long queues at the cafeteria. It gives you more time to eat slowly, which gives the digestive system more time to process the incoming food.

Carry a handy card

To make it easier for yourself and also to communicate your dietary restrictions to the school and kitchen staff, you can download, print out and laminate a low FODMAP diet chart. This list can contain FODMAP foods to avoid on one side, and the foods that are IBS friendly, on the other. Carry this low FODMAP diet chart to school as a quick reminder.

Include fibre and water

Fibre and water can help one’s stool move through the body. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends consuming 25 grams to 30 grams of fibre each day. It also advises drinking eight cups of fluid per day. Based on the fibre sources, it can help with constipation or diarrhoea. Your dietician will be able to provide proper recommendations of fibre-rich foods that are IBS friendly. Fibre supplements might also be recommended by your dietician; however, they need to be consumed with caution as some supplements might contain high FODMAP ingredients that can make IBS symptoms worse. Coming to one of the best low FODMAP drinks, water is always a great choice!

Understanding FODMAPS

FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that are found in certain foods. Foods that are high in FODMAPS are linked to IBS symptoms. Food items that are low in FODMAPSare IBS friendly food as they help manage symptoms.

High FODMAP foods to avoid

According to the Monash low FODMAP diet chart, FODMAP foods to avoid are:


Artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, garlic, green peas, mushrooms, onion, sugar snap peas.


Apples, apple juice, cherries, dried fruit, mango, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon.

Dairy & alternatives

Cow’s milk, custard, evaporated milk, ice cream, soy milk (made from whole soybeans), sweetened condensed milk, yoghurt.

Protein sources

Most legumes/pulses, some marinated meats/poultry/seafood, some processed meats.

Breads and cereals

Wheat/rye/barley based breads, breakfast cereals, biscuits and snack products.

Sugars, sweeteners & confectionary

High fructose corn syrup, honey, sugar free confectionery.

Nuts & seeds – Cashews, pistachios.

Low FODMAP foods to eat

The low FODMAP diet chart, as prepared by Monash, is ideal when considering IBS friendly food for students. It includes the following IBS friendly food:


Aubergine/eggplant, beans (green), bok choy, green capsicum (bell pepper), carrot, cucumber, lettuce, potato, zucchini.


Cantaloupe, kiwi fruit (green), mandarin, orange, pineapple.

Dairy & alternatives

Almond milk, brie/camembert cheese, feta cheese, hard cheeses, lactose-free milk, soy milk (made from soy protein).

Protein sources – Eggs, firm tofu, plain cooked meats/poultry/seafood, and tempeh make for IBS friendly food for students.

Breads and cereals

Corn flakes, oats, quinoa flakes, quinoa/rice/corn pasta, rice cakes (plain), sourdough spelt bread, wheat/rye/barley free breads.

Sugars, sweeteners & confectionary

Dark chocolate, maple syrup, rice malt syrup, table sugar.

Nuts & seeds

Macadamias, peanuts, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, and walnuts are also foods that are IBS friendly.

These strategies can manage your IBS symptoms while indulging occasionally in low FODMAP fast food at school and help make life easier.

Frequently Asked Questions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS. IBS is diagnosed after your doctor has reviewed your symptoms and occasionally ordered tests to rule out other conditions.

Visits at the Tummy Clinic are not covered by OHIP or your provincial health care system, however, most extended healthcare plans cover many aspects of the care you will receive here, such as visits to Naturopathic Doctors, Dietitians, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. Check your benefits package or contact your insurance company for more information.