Whole30: how to read food labels

Posted on 06 May 2019

Whole30: how to read food labels

Taking on any food plan you have to be absolutely meticulous about every ingredient you consume. On Whole30 in particular, I have had to be careful to avoid any preservatives and sugar that somehow sneaks into all sorts of foods. Now that I have completed Whole30, you would not believe what I have learned from reading labels thoroughly. Here are just a few examples:

1. Almost all pork has nitrites and smoked fish sometimes has sugar

Nitrites are a complete no go on Whole30 and are to be avoided even after the programme is complete. Only high end brands of pork that specifically mention being nitrite-free are plausible in my experience. I picked up smoked salmon regularly thinking it will obviously be Whole30 compliant. On one occasion I happened to look at the label and found sugar in there! Lots of them are made using only salt though, so just have a look around at all your options.

2. Basically all crisps have sugar and I have no idea why

After completing the first 30 days of Whole30, you can be more lax about what is termed ‘sex with your pants on’ (‘SWYPO’): where you use Whol30 compliant ingredients to quench a craving, mentally giving into it rather than reshaping your relationship with food e.g. paleo pancakes. So when I wanted to go to the cinema I was hoping to find some crisps that would eb Whole30 compliant. Literally every pack has sugar in, even the so-called healthy ones. I did, however, eventually find that Tesco’s vegetable crisps only have vegetables, oil and salt.

3. Alternative milks often have some nasty thickeners, some of which are meat-based

Preservatives find their way into all sorts of foods. Thankfully Whole30 has an additives guide to help you avoid the nasty ones. What was unexpectedly difficult on my Whole30 was finding an alternative milk that did not have any of the non-compliant additives. Most alternative milks like almond or coconut have carageenan for example, which is not Whole30 compliant. More astounding, though, was that some brands which I have seen vegans drink have thickeners with unnamed animal products in them. If you are vegetarien or vegan, make sure whichever alternative milk you drink is marked as veggie- or vegan-friendly.

I literally had no insight into these things until I started reading labels properly. There is no perfect alternative to making everything you can from scratch using raw ingredients; but where you cannot do that the onus is on you to read the labels and understand what you are consuming. Here are a few simple tips to make this an easier process:

  1. Pick raw and fresh ingredients wherever possible
  2. If a label has more than 5 ingredients, it is better to avoid it altogether
  3. If you have no idea what an ingredient is in the product, put it back (or check against the Whole30 additives guide)

I would love to hear from you how these tips help you and if you have any of your own you would like to share. Reach out via Instagram.