While this year has been nothing but dealing with food intolerances and finding out which foods have agreed and disagreed with my stomach, I've found that I have so much to be grateful for this year, and I have learned to never take the foods I love for granted. Although following a restrictive elimination low-FODMAP diet for my gut health was quite the journey, I was also able to discover new gut-friendly snacks that have become essentials in my daily life along the way. 

Whether or not you also suffer from food intolerances, here are some of my favorite healthy snacks that have changed my life for the better and are worth picking up the next time you're at the grocery store.  

1. Brown Rice Cakes

Cynthia Liu

As the ultimate gluten-free substitute for peanut butter and banana or avocado toasts, brown rice cakes are a major game changer. Although they should not be compared to actual toast or bread, these crunchy, light, and airy snacks are their own unique entity that can be eaten in a variety of ways. They should only be treated as a snack and not used as an actual meal, since they contain less of your essential vitamins and minerals. One of my favorite ways of enjoying this simple snack is topping a rice cake with some classic nut butter, sea salt, and honey. 

2. Cantaloupe

Cynthia Liu

Fruit is an essential part of my daily life, and being the fruit connoisseur that I am, learning that I had to cut out certain fruits from my diet was disappointing. So when I learned that cantaloupe was an approved low-FODMAP gut friendly fruit, I was more than happy to add it to my weekly grocery list. Known for its refreshing and sweet characteristics, this orange fruit is also high in antioxidants like beta carotene and zeaxanthins which support a healthy immune system and eye health. Throw some fresh cut cantaloupe into your morning fruit salads, or have some chilled in the fridge for a refreshing and hydrating snack. 

3. Salmon

salmon, seafood, fish, salmon fillet, Protein
Jocelyn Hsu

Believe it or not, salmon is one of the easiest proteins to meal prep during the week and is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is simple and effortless to make, but it is also a great source of healthy fat, protein, and decreases inflammation—cue the happy tummy. According to a Harvard Medical School professor, eating two servings of fatty fish per week has been shown to lower the risk of developing heart attacks and improve overall cardiac health. One of my favorite ways to meal prep salmon during the week is to bake it with olive oil, lemon, and different seasonings. Serve it with some rice, sweet potatoes, or veggies, and you've got yourself a solid meal. 

4. Sweet Potatoes

Cynthia Liu

Like any other food group, carbohydrates should never be discriminated against. As I was also eliminating gluten from my diet, sweet potato became my natural gluten-free carbohydrate source that satisfied the gut and could be incorporated into the diet in a variety of ways. Whether you steam them, bake them, or make your own sweet potato "fries," this delicious root vegetable never fails to disappoint. Sweet potatoes are high in antioxidants, which protect against the onset of cancer, and they are rich in fiber to support a healthy gut. Just as there are different types of apples, there are also many different types of sweet potatoes: orange yams, Japanese yams, purple sweet potato, and white sweet potato. If you think sweet potatoes are overrated, try my personal favorite, the purple sweet potato, to change things up. Bake your sweet potato for one hour at 400°F, and you'll find yourself enjoying the most unique, sweet, and gooey gut-friendly carbohydrate. 

5. Dark Chocolate

Cynthia Liu

The ultimate healthy guilty pleasure, dark chocolate has become one of my favorite foods to satisfy my sweet tooth craving, and it is a healthy treat I am most grateful for this season. Dark chocolate also contains several antioxidant compounds like flavanols and polyphenols which prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. Eating dark chocolate is not only a great relief to your mental health on those stressful days, but it can also reduce inflammation in the body. 

#SpoonTip: When buying dark chocolate, reach for the bar with 70% cacao for maximal health benefits. 

Developing intolerances to the foods we grew up eating is definitely a bummer, but tweaking your diet with alternatives and substitutes can sometimes be made for the better. There are most certainly days when I wish I could eat that pizza without suffering the physiological consequences, but finding the right snacks and foods that work best for my body has made this whole journey much more bearable. Whether or not you also suffer from food intolerances, I hope you can also find joy and satisfaction in these healthy gut-friendly snacks.