Navigating the low FODMAP diet can sometimes feel like deciphering the Rosetta Stone, especially when FODMAPs aren’t clearly spelled out on food labels. Sticking to the low FODMAP diet would be so much easier if those pesky carbohydrates were as easy to spot as “sugar” or “protein”.
But you can learn to use labels to your low FODMAP advantage. No, FODMAPs aren’t specifically listed. But with a little knowledge and practice, you can become a pro at identifying FODMAPs in the ingredients list — and even estimating the amount of FODMAPs per serving. So let’s dive in and smooth out your low FODMAP journey.
Ingredients are listed in order from the most used, to the least. So if you’re looking at a label and see a high FODMAP food listed in the first few ingredients, then you can bet there is a significant quantity of that FODMAP. And that food is probably best avoided.
But if you’ve spent any time on the low FODMAP diet, you know it isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Portions matter. Sometimes having a tiny bit of a higher FODMAP food won’t cause problems. So if you find a higher FODMAP ingredient at the end of the ingredient list, it’s possible that you could eat that product without experiencing symptoms. If you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet though, check with your practitioner before you eat even small amounts of a high FODMAP food.
You may notice that some labels will say “less than 2% of” and then list some ingredients. Generally, if a high FODMAP ingredient is listed here, it probably won’t cause problems because there’s a very small portion. But watch out for garlic, garlic powder, onion, onion powder, chicory root, and inulin. Even in tiny amounts, these FODMAPs can cause issues.
You also may not need to worry too much about high FODMAP foods used as coloring (like beet juice). There’s such a small amount present that it’s unlikely to cause you problems. And the majority of preservatives are low FODMAP as well.
But it’s always a good idea to have a conversation with your practitioner and pay attention to your symptoms to make sure that a food works for you.
Since FODMAPs aren’t specifically marked on labels, you have to get your information from reading the list of ingredients. So it’s up to you to make sure you’re aware of which foods are high FODMAP.
I’ll list some of the most common high FODMAP ingredients below. But, your best bet (especially in the beginning of the low FODMAP diet) is to find a good low FODMAP app. I suggest my favorites in my free IBS Resource Guide.
Here’s a fairly comprehensive (though not exhaustive) list of common high FODMAP ingredients to look out for:
Found in soda, sports drinks, baked goods, snack bars, cereal, bread, gum, etc.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Sugar alcohols (usually end in -ol) including sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, and isomalt
Fruit juices including pear, apple, peach, and cherry
Fruit pieces (like in cereal or yogurt)
Fruit juice concentrate
Found in high-fiber foods, yogurt, protein powder, bars
Found in savory foods like sauces, broth, chips, dips, etc.
Garlic powder, salt, granulated garlic, etc.
Onion powder, onion salt, etc.
Found in breads, baked goods, cereal, sauces, etc.
Sourdough breads made with wheat or spelt may be safe for the low FODMAP diet
Found in yogurt, cereal, snack bars, etc.
Dried fruits, including apple, dates, fig, mango, pear, pineapple
Fruit juice concentrate
Found in cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
Milk protein concentrates
Dry milk powder
Whey protein concentrate
If the carbohydrates and sugars are <1 gram, a product with the above ingredients can be considered low FODMAP (provided there aren’t any other high FODMAP ingredients listed).
In the US, not everything has to be specifically listed on a label. Sometimes you’ll see “spices” on the ingredient list. The good news is that companies are not allowed to include garlic or onion as unlisted spices. So typically, if you see “spices” on the label, the product is safe for the low FODMAP diet as long as it doesn’t contain other high FODMAP ingredients.
But be careful! If the product lists “natural flavors” in the ingredients, then it may contain garlic or onion. And they’re not required to list them specifically. You probably don’t need to worry about seeing “natural flavors” on sweet products though because they’re not likely to contain garlic or onion.
If there’s a product you really want that has “spices” or “natural flavor” on the label and you’re just not sure if it’s okay, I recommend you reach out to the company and ask.
Tackling the low FODMAP diet on your own isn’t a great plan. It’s easy to mess it up — especially during the reintroduction phase. And I’d hate for you to do all that work without figuring out which FODMAPs you actually can eat comfortably.
And the low FODMAP diet can be frustrating — especially in the beginning. Yes, you’ll figure it out as you go. But if you’d like to skip the hard part of figuring everything out and go straight to low FODMAP pro, I’ve got just the thing.
I’ve mapped out the low FODMAP diet step-by-step in the IBS Relief Blueprint course. You get access to resources, food lists, specific reintroduction plans, symptom check-ins, and more. I created this course to help you navigate this complex diet as easily as possible.