Low FODMAP Label Reading. Made Easy.
Low FODMAP Label Reading
Low FODMAP label reading can be seriously overwhelming. Heck! Even without looking for FODMAP’s, label reading can be challenging!
However, I always tell my clients, it isn’t ‘all or nothing’. I like to start with these top 6 high FODMAP ingredients – things I see most OFTEN in products that would immediately flag them as ‘likely’ high FODMAP. It’s hard enough getting a huge list of high FODMAP foods to avoid – so I’m ALL about keeping it practical. While you get comfortable on the low FODMAP diet, I say start with these high FODMAP culprits, and then we can fine-tune in future appointments regarding the other low FODMAP ingredients.
To be a smart shopper, it is important to understand how to read labels to know what exactly you are putting into your body. Here is my step by step guide, plus my top 6 high FODMAP ingredients list to follow to find the right low FODMAP product for you!
Locate the Ingredient List
Ingredient lists are required to list the ingredient which is in the highest amount to the ingredient which is in the lowest amount. That means, when a label says: milk, sugar, strawberries – milk is present in the highest quantity, followed by sugar, and finally, strawberries.
If a FODMAP-containing ingredient is one of the last listed ingredients on the label, it might be tolerated well and have very little of that ingredient, but there’s no way to tell. My rule of thumb is, if there is no other option, and you’re not re-introducing foods presently, to go ahead and try it, and note how you feel. If you’re on the elimination portion of the low FODMAP diet, or reintroducing, it’s best to leave it out.
Easy peasy – when it comes to ingredients you recognize. But what about those you don’t?
Choose whole foods
When able, choose foods in their most natural form – as they come from the garden or farm.
The majority of foods on my low FODMAP food guide are whole foods! It’s because they’re SO important.
They will help to keep the low FODMAP diet as simple as possible, and also help to make sure you’re getting enough fibre and nutrients. As well, whole foods are lower in sugar – meaning whole foods are giving you TWO steps ahead in regards to improving your gut health!
Whole foods aren’t always possible though – whether we’re eating out, looking for a sauce or condiment, or are in a rush and need to grab something quick!
FODMAPs are present in so many different foods, so it can be hard to know which products are safe to have. Many ingredients have different and rather complicated chemical names, so what should you be looking for?
Here are the top 6 ingredients we see on the label that are FODMAP-containing
- onion/garlic – These two ingredients add a lot of flavor to foods and are found in pre-packaged products like crackers, chips, sauces, dressings as well as spice mixes.
- natural flavors/spices – These flavors contain onion and/or garlic and are found typically in savory-type foods like your crackers or chips. They may, or may not be high FODMAP. However, it’s impossible to know! If your symptoms are well controlled, and your not re-introducing, you could try these foods, but during the elimination phase, I recommend avoiding them as best as possible.
- glucose-fructose/honey – These are two high FODMAP sweeteners. Glucose-fructose is also known as high fructose corn syrup. Common products which contain glucose-fructose are sodas, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, candy bars, cookies and pre-made sauces. Honey is often found in cereals, granola bars, and baked goods.
- ingredients ending in –ol – These ingredients are typically sugar alcohols – such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol or lactitol which can be found in low-calorie or “light” food products or beverages like sugar-free gums, sugar-free candies and diet sodas.
- fruit juice concentrate/fruit purees – This is typically higher in sugars because water has been removed from the juice. This ingredient is commonly found in fruit juices and canned fruits. Be aware of high FODMAP fruits that may be used to make these fruit juice concentrates – like apple, peach, etc.
- fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)/chicory root/inulin – These ingredients are added to some foods as a thickening agent or to increase the fibre content of some products such as SMART pasta, yogurts, shakes, and granola bars.
Oftentimes, onion, garlic and natural flavors/spices are hard to avoid, especially when you’re on the road or eating out. Working with a registered dietitian will help you to come up with a practical plan for travelling or eating out.
Lastly, I’m SO excited to see more and more low FODMAP certified products coming on the market. That means these products have been tested, and are low FODMAP at the serving sizes recommended. Examples include Fody Foods – which you can order online, True Self Foods – and many more coming to market soon!
If you’re struggling to manage your IBS symptoms or feel lost on the low FODMAP diet, be sure to check out the other IBS blog posts or check out my one-on-one IBS nutrition counselling to feel better, faster!!