Let me ask you a question. Do you know what “Disodium Wheatgermamido Peg-2 Sulfosuccinate” is? Probably not, right? It is one of over 250 hidden sources of gluten, casein, and soy. The key to success with the GFCFSF diet is learning how to read food labels, so you can be sure to avoid these sneaky ingredients.
Thanks to the impossible to pronounce, 3-word, 14+ syllable ingredient names, reading food labels can be a pretty frustrating experience. Add that frustration to the already overwhelming feeling of starting a GFCF diet, and you may feel like quitting even before you begin.
Rest easy. I’m going to give you a few tips that will make reading labels and identifying those hidden sources of gluten, casein, and soy much easier. I also have also created a free list of the ingredients you’ll want to avoid.
If you’re new to the GFCF diet (or GFCFSF diet), I would recommend you start with my complete guide to a GFCF Diet.
It’s Trickier Than It Seems
Reading food labels may seem pretty straightforward, and it is for the most part. However, it can be tricky to make sure you aren’t exposed to any hidden sources of gluten, casein, and soy. The easiest thing to do is look through the list of ingredients on the package, and see if it has any of the banned ingredients or their derivatives. To make this easier, I have created a list of banned or noncompliant ingredients for you. Simply enter your email address at the end of this post, and I’ll happily send you a copy.
There are obvious foods to avoid on a GFCFSF diet. Bread, pasta, milk, cheese, and tofu are a little more recognizable for most people. Others are a bit trickier. Some foods that appear to be GFCFSF actually have hidden sources of gluten, casein, and soy in the ingredient list. Be sure to read the list thoroughly.
How to Read Food Labels
How To Tell If A Packaged Food Product Is Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Soy Free
Look for obvious sources of gluten, casein, and soy first. Manufacturers will let you know if it contains one of the major allergens, typically below the ingredient list.
The major foods/food groups that must be listed on labels include:
- Tree nuts
You might see a short statement like “contains wheat” or “contains milk” after the list of ingredients. You may also see them labeled within the ingredients themselves and then followed by a statement in parenthesis.
For instance, lactic acid can be dairy free or it can be made from milk. Within the list you might see: “lactic acid(from milk)” or it may say something more like: “lactic acid(non-dairy source).” This can help you determine it’s GFCFSF status.
A Good Place to Start
Companies love to stamp that gluten-free label on the front of their packaging. That’s a good starting point, but you need to make sure you dive in deeper to make sure it’s also casein and soy free. Cross check the ingredients on the label with your list of hidden sources of gluten, casein, and soy to be certain it’s GFCFSF compliant.
Wheat Free Does Not Equal Gluten Free
If your food product does not have a “contains wheat” warning, that does not mean it is gluten free. For example, barley, rye, brewer’s yeast contain gluten, but not wheat, Therefore, they will not require that allergen warning. There are many ingredients that can be derived from gluten, which is why it’s really helpful to have a list of them with you at the grocery store.
When In Doubt, Leave It Out!
Some packaged foods have ingredients that may have not necessarily been derived from gluten, dairy, or soy. For example, caramel color manufactured in the U.S. is likely derived from corn, but in other parts of the world it may be made from wheat. The same is true for things like natural & artificial flavoring, food starch, etc.
If a package has one of these ingredients, but says gluten free then likely it was derived from corn and you can eat that food and still be GFCFSF compliant. However, it’s a good idea to avoid GMOs too. Since 90% of corn is GMO, you should avoid these too.
When unable to verify ingredients for a food item, Do Not Eat It. The key to success on the GFCFSF diet is 100% compliance for at least the first 6 months (although many of us decide to go 100% GFCFSF indefinitely) The purpose of this diet is to calm down the immune system and inflammation within the body. 100% compliance is necessary.
Healing GFCF Diet
As you’re reading labels for the first time, read the ingredients on the label thoroughly. Check for hidden sources of gluten, casein, and soy, but also be mindful of other inflammatory ingredients as well. For the best results on a GFCF diet, you want to avoid these additional sources of inflammation and move towards a healing, whole-foods based diet.
Additional ingredients to avoid if possible:“The Harmful 6”
- Artificial colors/flavors
- MSG and other flavor enhancers
- Industrial seed oils (canola, vegetable oil, safflower, etc.)
- Sugar, rice & corn (or at least limited)
One More Thing
Ingredients are listed on labels by quantity. The first ingredient is the most used while only a little was used with the final ingredient on the list. When sugar (or some form of sugar: syrup, fruit juice, honey…) is one of the first ingredients, chances are it’s not going to be a healing food.
Check and Recheck
Always check labels to determine GFCFSF status. Contact the manufacturer, check the FAQs section on their website, or talk to the chef when eating out to be 100% certain there are no diet infractions.
You’ll also want to recheck ingredients periodically as manufacturers tweak recipes/ingredients all the time. A food you’ve been buying for months may suddenly change and add dairy or soybean oil. Always check and recheck labels.
For more tips on becoming an expert label reader visit TACA’s article on the subject.
Eating Out and Cross Contamination are 2 risks of GFCF diet infractions. For help avoiding these pitfalls, check out my GFCF diet guide.
Over 250 Hidden Sources of Gluten, Casein, and Soy
It’s so important that you know all of the ingredients that could contain gluten, casein, & soy. There’s a lot of them (over 250). During the first few shopping trips, it may be necessary to take a list of ingredients to avoid with you to the store.
Not to worry, I’ve created an alphabetized, printer-friendly list for you. Simply enter your email at the end of this article, and I will happily send you a copy.
I used a variety of different sources to create my “Ingredients to Avoid List”. However, if you prefer not to become a subscriber of I’m Simply a Dad, here are the different websites that I used to create this list. You can follow these links to create your own list.
Learn The Sources of Gluten:
Learn The Sources of Casein:
Learn The Sources of Soy: