#012 Colleen Francioli Achieves Great Results With Her FODMAP Life

Find out more about Colleen Francioli, her FODMAP Life program and some great tips on being prepared when eating out at special celebration parties.

Check out this episode as we talk about how Colleen Francioli found relief with the low FODMAP diet and her helpful tips on following this diet. Colleen also explains some of the best ways you can enjoy stress-free celebrations and events with a little planning ahead and some creative tips on how to prepare FODMAP friendly food in advance or to take along, just in case! Most importantly, don’t stress about celebrations and events — listen to these tips from Colleen!

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What is the most difficult part about starting the low FODMAP diet?
  • What are some food tips to survive a party or events?
  • What are the ideal foods for IBS sufferers?
  • What is this FODMAP Life Starter Box all about?
  • How can FODMAP apps help people on the low FODMAP diet?
  • Information on the coaching services offered by Colleen.
  • Low FODMAP Box, what is it and how to order it.
  • What to watch out for when looking at food labels to determine if the product is low FODMAP or not?


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Can’t listen to this episode right now? Read the transcript below!

LARAH: Welcome to a new episode of the Low FODMAP Diet and IBS Podcast. My guest today is Colleen Francioli. Colleen is a certified nutritional consultant, an author, a health and wellness marketing professional and the founder of the blog fodmapLife.com and digestive nutrition site boncalme.com. Colleen has been suffering from different health issues for quite a few years including Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Due to her health problems and desire to help others to feel better, Colleen has been researching how to care for the body and mind by way of healthy foods, meditation, light exercise and the low FODMAP diet. One of her biggest goals in life is to make a great impact on the health and happiness of those who suffer from IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders as well as other health conditions that can improve by way of food as medicine and choice in lifestyle.

LARAH: Hi, Colleen. It’s so very nice to have you here on the podcast.

COLLEEN: Hi, Larah, and thank you for inviting me on. It’s really nice to be here.

LARAH: Thank you so much. And now, would you like to tell the listeners a bit more about yourself and how you came across the low FODMAP diet?

COLLEEN: Sure. So my experience with IBS has dated back quite a few years.  It really all started, I think sometime after when I had a cholecystectomy which is a gallbladder surgery. And I’d had some problem before. I’d had trouble with digesting food and what not, but after having my gallbladder removed, it kind of I got out of control. It was in 2013 when I had a couple near accidents and embarrassments and I just didn’t want to have it happen to me anymore. I didn’t want to be in public or be at my job and have an accident.  So I was so stressed and filled with so much anxiety over it that, at the time when I was working at a digital marketing agency, I just started to research online what I could do. I did a bunch of research and found the low FODMAP diet. And so then I started to learn more about the diet and I just started my blog, as a way of kind of recording what I learned about the diet and as a way to just show other people what I’ve learned and share recipes and what not.  The blog started to take off, as did all my social media pages, and it was great. It was just really invigorating to know that I was helping others just like myself to find a way.  As the years have gone on, I’ve collaborated with other people in the space, like yourself and other bloggers, also registered dieticians and nutritionists, and it’s been a really great experience learning more and more about the low FODMAP diet and helping to improve the lives of others around me.

I’m originally from New York and I’ve been living in California now since 2008 with my husband.  We originally met in Italy back in 2008 when I was working in Manhattan. I took a trip to Italy and Egypt by myself, just for some soul-searching, I guess, just to take some picture and have a great time. It turns out that my husband, who was living in San Diego at that time, was also solo travelling. So we met in Rome — very romantic, very wonderful and about eight months later after dating back and forth from both coasts, I moved out to San Diego.  So I’ve been living here and I became a certified nutritional consultant and I help people with IBS, other functional gastrointestinal disorders and people that have other types of health conditions that can be improved by food and change in lifestyle and, I mean, just people in general that want to feel better or lose weight. I’m there to help them.

LARAH: Thank you so much, Colleen, for sharing your story and also some of your health problems. I understand that you must have gone through so much, and yes, stress doesn’t help when you suffer from IBS and all of those symptoms come up even if you have a perfect diet. But in terms of the diet, what do you think is the main difficulty for people when they’re first introduced to the low FODMAP diet?

COLLEEN: This is a very easy question to answer because what I hear from most of my social media followers on FODMAPlife on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., and the clients that I work with is that after being diagnosed with IBS, their doctor suggests that they go on the diet and they are then presented with a one-page list of foods which they can eat, but no other supporting educational material. So they are simply told to start the diet. Oftentimes, the list they get in is incomplete and out of date without the latest research. From that point, they hit the internet and feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, and some of it is contradicting, but they also don’t really know where to start and which steps to take first. So patients of IBS should know that the ideal medical support for the low FODMAP diet should come from their doctor as well as a FODMAP trained nutritionist, who is also up to date on all the latest research. The best way to work with a nutritionist is one-on-one, but if this is not an option, which I know, it isn’t for everyone, the next best thing is to attend classes or purchase books or other educational materials from the FODMAP trained nutritionist, if she or he offers it.

LARAH: Thank you very much. That’s so very true that you’re lucky if the doctor thinks of the diet for your IBS symptoms. If you’re lucky enough that your doctor is open minded to that, then what you get is a list of food that you can or cannot have, but there is so much more to it, isn’t there?

COLLEEN: Definitely. One of the biggest things people want is recipes, and most of us are very busy. So people not only want recipes, but they want recipes that are easy to make and that are satisfying, with the cliff notes on it.  What do I need to do and where do I need to start? That’s exactly where I was at the beginning, so I understand. I get it.

LARAH: Yeah, absolutely. Recently I was reading one of your articles that you were talking about, “How to Enjoy the 4th of July Celebration and Still be able to Follow a low FODMAP Diet.” Would you be able to share some tips for our listeners on how to survive the festivities and celebrations in general? Not just the Fourth of July, but any other celebration especially when someone does suffer from IBS and follows a low FODMAP diet and is invited at an event when there is food, but not necessarily food that is Low FODMAP and can be safely eaten?

COLLEEN:  Sure. So the first point I’d like to make is don’t stress. I see this all the time when people are reaching out to me and saying they have a birthday party to go to and some just want to throw in the towel and just say, “Oh, I’m just going to cheat this weekend and there’s no way I can stick to the low FODMAP diet.”  That’s one thing that you should not stress over. And the second thing to not stress over is that there are always options when it comes to food, even if it means that you can’t eat at an event. You can always eat something before to satiate you, or take along food or eat something afterwards. Just keep your gut calm, stay hydrated and enjoy the party or the event. And so when you know you’ll be going to a party or an event and are not sure which food will be available and don’t have the option to ask the host what’s on the menu, you can always fill up on a bit of protein before you go, or bring some snacks along with you. If you’re able to, these are some filling protein ideas that I have for you that you can try:

  • You can have two slices of low sodium, nitrate free deli meat ,rolled up with one slice of low FODMAP cheese and one slice tomato.
  • You can have a shake of one medium ripe banana, one tablespoon of peanut butter, one scoop of protein powder made with low FODMAPs, and one cup of almond milk blended with one cup of ice.
  • You could have tuna or egg salad sandwiches, if eggs don’t bother you.
  • You can make an egg white omelette with cheese and spinach and a slice of low FODMAP bread or a turkey sandwich on gluten free bread with lettuce, tomato, cheese and mustard or you could have some salmon or chicken with sautéed vegetables and brown rice.
  • Then, a couple of my favourite portable snacks are protein bites — the ones that you don’t have to bake. You just combine one and a half tablespoons of low FODMAP nut butter, three tablespoons of oats and a half tablespoon of brown rice syrup, a half tablespoon of dark chocolate chips and you just roll those into balls.
  • You can do low FODMAP vegetables like one medium carrot cut into match sticks and a half cup of red bell pepper, a half cup cucumber, one ounce low FODMAP cheese, one cup of edamame and a hard-boiled egg.
  • Mix low FODMAP nuts and seeds in a zip lock bag.
  • I love Justin’s Classic Almond Butter. They make these really great portable packets and you could put that in your purse or your pocket. Bring some rice crackers.

I also have blogged about this extensively because people talk to me all the time about snacks or convenience foods, and I’ll share that link with you, Larah, so you can share with the listeners.

LARAH: Thank you. Thank you so much for that. Yes, I’d appreciate if you could send me the link.  These are fantastic tips and suggestions for not only what to bring to events, but also for when you want to have a snack. You’re going to work and you need some food and snacks, so these are all great tips. The key is to really be prepared. Don’t walk out of the house expecting that you will be able to find food that you can safely consume. Just be prepared and go out with food that you know you can eat, and then, if at the event or a party you’re going to, there is food that you can eat, that’s great, but if there isn’t, at least you have an alternative, right?

COLLEEN: Yes, I totally agree.

LARAH:  So in your blog you have a fairly comprehensive list of packaged food that can be found, of course, in the States, and you have listed them as being low FODMAP by analysing the food labels. Can you please explain to the listeners what to watch out for when looking at food labels to determine if the product is possibly low FODMAP or not?

COLLEEN: Sure. First of all, there are some products, thankfully, in the world that are certified low FODMAP, but we don’t have access to all these products across the globe.  So what you have to do is just kind of be your own detective. And, I guess, there are a few ingredients, but the two ingredients that kind of stick out the most that are found in so many foods are onions and garlic.  You can find them in pre-made salads, pasta sauces, tomato paste, stocks, soups, flavoured chips, crackers, dips…  If you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or an autoimmune disease where your doctor suggested you need to avoid gluten, you’ll need to avoid wheat, but otherwise, many bread cereals and pasta contain wheat, but refer to my FODMAP Life and low FODMAP grocery list. You’ll see that some are okay and low in FODMAP servings.

Meat, oftentimes, is low in FODMAPs unless it’s been a processed with say onions, garlic, dried fruit or other FODMAPs that have been added. Sausages and meatballs often have high FODMAPs included. Dried fruit — the exception to dried fruit is a one tablespoon serving or less of raisins or cranberries. Stick to the kind without added sugar, otherwise, just steer clear of most dried fruits. They can be found in breads, muffins, meats, desserts, granola, cereal or convenience bars and more, but again, you can refer to your list to see which dried fruits are okay or not and in what serving sizes.

Nuts — look out for pistachios and cashews.

Sweeteners — high FODMAP sweeteners come in many forms — some in fructans, excess fructose and some polyols, the P in FODMAP. Just as an example, polyols which are found in chewing gums and mints, artificially sweetened products, cough medicines, lozenges, protein powders, convenience bars, drinks… Some of those polyols are isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, polydextrose, sorbitol and xylitol. Excess fructose — you also want to steer clear of that when you’re shopping for foods. It’s found in soft drinks, sports drinks, muesli bars, breads, jams, cookies, crackers… And also, you want to steer clear of inulin. It’s often labelled as chicory root extract, chicory root fibre and fructo-oligosaccharide. Some countries simply list inulin as dietary fibre, but this type of dietary fibre is under the fructan category, or again, oligosaccharides, the O in FODMAPs.

Fructans are classified as non-digestible carbohydrates. You’ll find inulin in high FODMAP wheat, fruits, vegetables, dandelion root as well as processed foods such as dairy products, frozen desserts, supplements, meal replacers, baked items, bread, breakfast, cereals and more. As far as the other excess fructose to be mindful of is agave nectar — again, high fructose -corn syrup, fructose fruit juice concentrate, pear juice, apple juice, honey…  So as an example, let’s say you’re walking down the aisles and you want to buy yourself some jam for your next peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a great example is some jellies or jam could be made with pear juice or apple juice.  Also, when I was writing a recipe for my book, orange marmalade was to be used in it, but I found so many brands on the shelves that used high fructose corn syrup.  So, again, you just want to double check everything.

What I just read out, it might make some listeners a bit overwhelmed. Just know, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t get too crazed or too obsessed with all of these high FODMAP ingredients. Just take your time and get to know the list of low FODMAP foods and high FODMAP foods as best as you can, and the more familiar you get with the list, the better you’ll become at label reading.

LARAH: Well, that was just an incredible list. I think about how many sneaky FODMAPs there are in processed foods. It’s just so hard for normal people that don’t have a nutritionist background to get their head around it, but not to worry because I think on your blog, you have a comprehensive list that is available for people to be able to check out. If they live in the States, they would find products that they will be familiar with.

COLLEEN: Yes, and no matter where they are, whether it be in the States, Australia or in the U.K., my list is very helpful — and so are apps. There are a couple of apps out there that are also very helpful as well.

LARAH: Yes, perfect. Are you referring to the low FODMAP Monash University app and the FODMAP Friendly app?

COLLEEN: Those are my two favourites; reason being is they’re both easy to use; they’re both different from each other. Some people might prefer one over the other and you will find some discrepancies in the apps and the food that you find in the FODMAP Friendly program versus Monash, but the people behind the FODMAP Friendly program and Monash University have put a lot of time and resource into their research, their programs, and the materials that they provide. But again, if you want to try something for yourself, you can. Just don’t go ahead and have the whole bag or the whole tub, if you’re not sure. Just have a little bit and see how you do because we’re all different.  We all have different guts and gut sensitivity; we all have different stresses in our lives; we all live in different environments; we all have different gut microbiomes.

So again, I think one of the biggest points I kind of want to stress — no pun intended — about this diet is that it’s a learning experience for you. There is a learning curve, but all in all, you’re doing sort of an experiment on yourself, and during this time, you’re learning what works and what does not work for you. So I hope it helps our listeners who might be overwhelmed. Don’t be overwhelmed. Just get started learning as much as you can about the foods and you’ll do fine.

LARAH: Yeah, thank you, Colleen. I have both of those apps that you mentioned — the Monash University and the FODMAP Friendly apps and I use them constantly — almost on a daily basis. It is true. Sometimes you look in one and it would say that’s a high FODMAP food, but then when you look into it, you see the food has a smaller quantity…it might be okay, so just said don’t go with the larger quantity, try a small quantity and see how you react.  So those are very good tips, thank you.

I saw that you also have a FODMAP Life’s Starter Box that you ship out to people. What is this, what does it contain and how can people order it?

COLLEEN:  So we had one go out a while ago, and we’ll have another one coming out very soon — within the next couple months which I will announce on my Facebook page, in my blog and on Instagram. Basically, the intent of the starter box is to send products that are low in FODMAPs or are certified low FODMAP to people currently just in the United States so that they know opening up the box, anything that’s in the box there should be safe for them to consume based on the ingredients of the foods.

Included in my last box there were recipes from myself and from Patsy Catsos. She’s a registered dietitian and FODMAP expert, who is located in Maine. There were products from Justin’s who makes a classic almond butter, and from Ian’s. They make these delicious gluten free baked bread crumbs. From gomacro, they put in a delicious bar into the box that I had provided. Glutino which makes the most delicious gluten free pretzels. I got a nice little sample size bag in there, plus, I had products from other companies as well as coupons. So the next box to come out has been changed up a little bit because I did send out surveys. I wanted to see what my social media followers and clients thought about the first box. We got some really great feedback and I’m really excited to launch the next one. It’s really great for someone who’s either just starting on the diet or who is currently following the diet and just wants some convenience, some more recipes, some more assurance, some more tips, and also, there’s going to be some downloadable files strictly just for the people who subscribe to the box — again, some more educational materials, if you will.

LARAH: Well, that sounds very interesting. From your website people can order it, is that right?

COLLEEN: That’s correct, yes.

LARAH: So we will put a link on the show notes to your site.  So now, I know you’re also involved with coaching, so can you talk a little bit about your low FODMAP coaching program?  What it is and how can people get you to coach them?

COLLEEN: Sure, so on my blog or on Boncalme.com, you can find more information about my nutrition coaching program. Just go to my blog and click on the tab coaching and basically what you do, if you are interested, you just sign up.  There’s a form that you can sign up to and there’s also a link that takes you to a form. Then what I do first is send you over a health questionnaire so I can learn everything about your past and current health status and also if you are already trying to make your way through the diet or any other health conditions that I need to learn about or any kind of medications you might be taking, etc. After I have received the health questionnaire, I review it to see if you are a good candidate to work with me. Then, if we get going, then I have a first call and again this is after I have gone over the health questionnaire. I have a few more questions to ask and then it’s also a time for my clients to ask me questions if they have any. After the call, I devise a personal low FODMAP program for them based on their lifestyle needs and based on the foods that they like to eat. So, for example, I make up really easy to follow menu plans, but the menu plans don’t include foods that my client — just throwing out a fictional name — Sarah, might not like.  Let’s say Sarah really likes to go to Carl’s Jr. which is a fast food chain here in the United States. If she likes to go there, fine. Recently, for Sarah, let’s say, I found that she could have a burger wrapped in lettuce with the tomato and mustard and so just to kind of create a menu plan around a person’s lifestyle. Maybe they work at a hectic job. Maybe they don’t have a ton of time to cook, so I make easy breakfast, lunch and dinner options for them, but I still do try to work with them, whatever free time that they have, to get them to learn how to plan out their meals. This is really important. There are a lot of people that like to cook and there’s a lot that don’t, but sometimes, if you do take the time to plan out your meals and cook, we all know that we can live and be healthier that way, so I will find short cuts for my client to plan out their meals, how to get them prepared for the week ahead and make it fun for them, and make it fun for them to go shopping. I’ll do a look through in their pantry — like a virtual look through — so they’ll literally tell me what’s in their pantry or show me their pantry with their phone and just kind of coach them and say, “Okay, maybe put these foods aside for now and let’s get some of these foods into your refrigerator, into your pantry.”

A lot of times people, when they come to me they have a lot on their plate. There’s something that’s stressing them; maybe they’re not exercising enough. They’re just not giving enough ‘me’ time to themselves, so I will help them with their lifestyle. How can we fit in some exercise; how can we fit in some meditation, or maybe, just how can we fit in a funny movie or a massage or anything to kind of help them with their current stress? So 99.9% of the time, the people I speak with are very, very stressed, which could be contributing to their symptoms of IBS. So we just really do like a whole mind and body approach where we just look at the whole person and make a low FODMAP diet easy for them to follow. I’m there to help them to guide them along, to check in on them to see how they’re doing, to see if we need to make any adjustments to the menu plans, see how they’re doing with their meal planning and if they said that they were going to meditate, are they keeping up with meditation? If not, what’s holding them back from it? I’m there to educate them and I’m there to give them the keys to a better lifestyle and better health.  It’s really on them to be in the driver’s seat and I give them the means to live a healthier life.

LARAH: This is very good, Colleen, because as we know, the low FODMAP diet is not a one size fits all diet, and the fact that you’re taking the time to understand what your patient is like,  what they need and just look at them holistically, really. It’s not just the diet, but it could be stress, and therefore, let’s look at how to lower the stress level with some meditation exercises or a massage.  Yeah, that’s absolutely fantastic what you do. On top of everything that you’ve explained that you do, which is already a lot, you also have a book called The Everything Low FODMAP Diet Cookbook and you published it and it’s, of course, about the low FODMAP diet. Can you tell us about the book and where can be it found?

COLLEEN: Sure. So back in September — and it was very exciting — I was approached by F&W Media to write the book and it’s called The Everything Low FODMAP Diet Cookbook.  Basically, the book has over 300 low FODMAP recipes which are all gluten free.  I have an entire chapter dedicated to teaching you about the diet, about the ins and outs of the diet, anything from how to eat out and which food to choose at restaurants, how to eat at parties, tips for meal planning, how to go about working with your doctor getting any possible tests. And then, there’s also lists in the book as well. There’s all the recipes that I mentioned, and then there’s additional menu plans in the back.  So it’s a pretty comprehensive book. It’s filled with everything from breakfast ideas to sandwiches and salads and soups and meat and fish entrees, vegan and vegetarian to condiments and sauces, to desserts or even some recipes from scratch like pizza dough recipes or bread recipes. There are a lot of recipes and lots of helpful different types of recipes.  Some are very easy and quick to make; some take a little bit longer, but what I had in mind was that all of my fans who have literally been telling me for the last couple years what they needed. Many of them just wanted easy to make recipes that were delicious, so I stuck to that. I also kind of went around the world a bit and I took some recipes that are very traditional like Coq au Vin and I made that low FODMAP — and ode to Julia Child who I love so much.


COLLEEN: Then I just took some just very traditional recipes which might be very high FODMAP and made them low FODMAP, and then again, just some regular everyday recipes. I also do recipe development for brands and I’m looking forward to writing some more books in the future. This book you can get on Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound and Google Play. So it’s very easy to access the book in print or digital form.

LARAH: Well that sounds like a fantastic book, Colleen, and I will surely provide a link in the show notes to the different places that you’ve mentioned that it can be purchased from.


LARAH: Anything else that we haven’t covered that you think could be beneficial?

COLLEEN:  I would really love to hear stories from more bloggers that have IBS or other functional gastrointestinal disorders, or even people that don’t have blogs and would just like to send me on their story with a picture of themselves and their bio and, of course, if there’s any bloggers to send along with links to their blog and their bio and pictures as well.  I just would really love to basically help to spread awareness about IBS and about the low FODMAP diet. And yeah, I need the help of other people who are just like me who are feeling better and can help others to feel better because there’s so many people out there who have IBS and there’s many people that don’t realise that if they just change their diet and change their lifestyle that they can start to find relief.

I get thank you notes every day from people saying thank you for sharing the information that I have and for sharing information from some of the best other resources out there like Monash University, like the FODMAP Friendly program, and like other bloggers and dieticians and nutritionists. We’re all out there spreading the good word.

In another quick notice for anybody out there who just feels like they’re limited with choices in the diet, just know that there’s a lot more helpful information that’s coming your way. I’m very excited to share that in the coming months. I’d also love for people to not only follow me on my blog or on social media but to subscribe to my newsletter. This way you can get a first look at news, trends, giveaways and also products for the low FODMAP diet. When you sign up, you’ll also get a copy of my printable grocery list and a few days later I also send you label reading tips. So I’ll share that link with you too Larah and other than that, I really appreciate feedback and I really appreciate it when people reach out to me — when they tell me what they need or what they want to learn more about.  And last but not least, I’m again very appreciative to be on this podcast with you and also for all the wonderful information that you share with people across the globe. And yeah, I really appreciate my fans and my clients, and I just look forward to helping many more people in the years ahead.

LARAH: Thank you so, so much Colleen. You’ve provided incredible, useful information and tips.  So, the last question is how can people find you and contact you?

COLLEEN:  Yes, so my blog address is www.fodmaplife.com. You can head to the About section to then find the contact tab.  You can reach me there; you can also reach me on www.boncalme.com. There you can also access more information about other functional gastrointestinal disorders and more about the FODMAP diet and you can also contact me there.  I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube as FODMAPlife, so it’s very easy to find me in all those social networks.

LARAH: So thank you again, Colleen, you’ve given us wonderful information today and I really appreciate you being here on the podcast. Thank you.

COLLEEN:  Thank you so much.

LARAH: Thank you for listening to this interview with my guest Colleen Francioli. I hope you have enjoyed all the tips and advice she has given to us. As there were a lot of links mentioned during the interviews, I will make sure that I have them all to put into the show notes for this episode. Until next time, take good care, look after yourself and also take time for yourself to do things you love and enjoy. Good bye for now.

Links to Colleens’ Websites:
Links to Colleen’s Cookbook:
∙       Amazon
∙       Barnes and Noble
∙       Target
∙       Indiebound
∙       Google Play
Links to Colleen’s Social Media:
∙       Facebook
∙       Twitter
∙       Instagram
∙       Pinterest
∙       You Tube


About Larah Brook

I have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years, but it took a longtime to get a diagnosis, since then I have been following a low FODMAP diet, which has changed my life for the better. This is my story and experience with IBS and the low FODMAP diet.