A Lesson in Labels

If you read my Whole 60 update from last week, you’ll know that I had to restart my round because of a failure to inspect. It caused me to get refocused and really reminded me that success with this program starts at the basics – knowing how to breakdown and navigate the labels on foods.

Obviously, you’re totally golden if you are only eating food that comes without packaging, but that’s probably not practical and you’re going to want to make sure everything is compliant. You don’t want a salsa incident like I had!


Okay. So, let’s review really quickly. Per the rules of Whole 30, you are avoiding added sugar (and other sneaky sweeteners), dairy, gluten and non-gluten grains, legumes, alcohol, sulfites, and certain additives.

You can and should save these cheat sheets on common additives and sneaky sugars to have quick access to them while grocery shopping. It can be so overwhelming to make sure your product is compliant. I know I spent so much time texting back and forth with my friend Nicole before my first round making absolutely sure that my groceries wouldn’t send me back to day 1, which isn’t the worst thing, by the way, but that’s another post…

So, here’s the deal:

  • You want to look at the INGREDIENTS list only. Do not analyze the sugar line in the nutrition label. Anything with naturally occurring sugar will have a value here and that’s not what we are concerned with. You want to avoid added sugar or sweeteners.

  • Carefully look for any the list of ingredients and double check that nothing non-compliant is listed- even if “less than 2%”.

  • That’s it!

Because practice makes more permanent (I don’t say perfect, because no one is!), let’s break down a few labels…

What do you think? Compliant or non-compliant?

Label 1: I know what you’re thinking. The ‘gum!’, but if you opened up your additives cheat sheet you saw that gums are acceptable for the program. So, the answer is yes! This is compliant coconut milk.

Label 2: Okay, so tomatoes in tomato juice? Check. Citric Acid? Check. Calcium Chloride? Check. Veggies all good and then we get to 2% or less of white vinegar, salt. Still okay. Modified Cornstarch. Boom. Done. This one is a no-go due to the cornstarch since it’s listed as off-limits for the program. I don’t even go any further because it’s not compliant.

Label 3: Hmmm…this one probably threw you off because Sodium Benzoate and Polysorbate 80 aren’t included on the additives cheat sheet. I hear you! The wonderful thing about Whole30 is the amount of support that exists for you. One of those supports is the Whole 30 Forum! It is an official forum run by moderators on the Whole30 team and they have answers to everything. They can tell you whether an ingredient is compliant or not, and advise you on whether something is in the spirit of the program. A quick search found that while they are additives and there are cleaner options out there, these pickles are, indeed, compliant.

So, how did you do? Are you a label reading ninja now? Even if you feel confident in your ability to navigate a food label, I would encourage you to continue to check your labels, because label #2 there? Yeah. That one did me in on Day 17!

If you have more questions, please feel free to add a comment or shoot us an email at everydaywhole@gmail.com.