Guide to low FODMAP label reading
Reading food labels can be a tricky business full stop, but decoding them whilst following the Low FODMAP Diet can be even more distressing.
Whether you’re eating out, searching for a sauce, or are in a rush on your lunch break and need to grab something quick, FODMAPs are present in so many different prepared foods and it can be hard to know where to begin. Ingredient lists are often a full paragraph long and regularly contain different and rather complicated chemical names, leaving you confused, frustrated and more likely to give up and grab something you shouldn’t.
So what can you do to help make it easier?
The list of high FODMAP ingredients commonly found in prepared foods is a long one, so instead of overwhelming yourself trying to remember every possibility, start by being aware of these most common high FODMAP culprits:
- Sweeteners such as honey, high fructose corn syrup and agave
- Wheat, barley or rye
- Sugar alcohols ending in ‘-ol’ such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol
- Onion and garlic, as well as onion/garlic salt or powder. Packets might also have ‘spices’, ‘natural flavours’, or ‘flavours’ written vaguely
- Fibres including inulin and chicory root
- Fruit juice concentrates, or purees made from high FODMAP foods such as apples or pears
Items such as cereal bars, pre-prepared sandwiches or ready meals, chewing gums, medicines, sauces, stocks, yogurts, ‘free-from’ products, marinated meats, breakfast cereals and jams are often common sources of sneaky high FODMAP ingredients. Take extra care when looking at the labels of these.
Remember that ingredients on food labels are listed in order of weight. So the first ingredient listed is in the highest quantity and the last ingredient listed is in the lowest quantity. When your gut is feeling better and you’re starting to re-introduce higher FODMAP foods, you may choose to eat products which have high FODMAP ingredients such as onion powder listed right near the end. As always, it’s recommended to go slowly and try foods that are new to you in small amounts to see how you tolerate them. It might be delicious but you can eat more later!
Whilst label reading is a really important way to spot FODMAPs, be aware that high FODMAP ingredients aren’t always easy to identify. Even if you find a product that looks like it would be safe, go easy and use trial and error to confirm that you are able to tolerate it.
Look out for products that are certified Low FODMAP by FODMAP Friendly (a product testing and certifying body with a green logo) or Monash University (a blue logo) so you can be sure they’re safe to eat.
Don’t expect to be a perfect shopper from the start! If you’re new to the Low FODMAP Diet, be patient with yourself and allow extra time for label reading when you’re out grocery shopping or picking up some lunch on the go. Over time reading labels will become easier and you’ll build up a bank of go-to products you know work for you and your gut.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a medical or FODMAP nutritional professional. I am simply sharing my own experiences and tips on this post. The table above is not exhaustive.