Welcome to the January 2015 Whole30! Browse the internet and your social media feeds and it seems like everyone is doing the Whole30 right now. All your favorite foodie bloggers are featuring special Whole30 recipes or resources (including Nom Nom Paleo, Mel Joulwan’s Well Fed, Stupid Easy Paleo, and Against All Grain), and our @Whole30Recipes Instagram feed is full of #Whole30 meals.
All of these recipes look delicious, and upon first glance, the ingredients used would seem to be Whole30 compliant. But when you’re perusing Whole30 recipes online or in your favorite cookbook, there are a few ingredients that require extra attention. As we always say, read your labels. Every label. Always. Because sometimes less healthy ingredients sneak up on you, and on the Whole30, that can spell trouble.
The following ingredients aren’t Whole30 compliant by default, so use care when purchasing them for your Whole30 meals. (We’ll also give you some bonus tips below for foods and drinks that sound perfectly healthy for your Whole30, but also need careful review.)
The internet loves bacon, and there is no shortage of bacon—including recipes tagged as #Whole30 on Instagram. But the cold, hard truth is that most bacon isn’t actually Whole30 compliant! If there is any added sugar in any form in the ingredient list, it’s out for your program. (Yes, even if the label says “0 grams of sugar.”)
Whole30 bacon is really hard to come by—you won’t find it at your local grocery store. Ask your local health food store or butcher if they sell bacon cured without sugar, or look for one of our Whole30 Approved bacon suppliers! U.S. Wellness Meats created a sugar-free pork bacon just for our Whole30 program, available online for delivery within the U.S. Pederson’s Farms and Naked Bacon also makes a Whole30 Approved bacon, available in select locations nationwide.
If you can’t find compliant bacon, try prosciutto instead. It’s far easier to find compliant (Trader Joe’s carries compliant brand), and it crisps up in the oven just like bacon, perfect for sprinkling over a salad, adding to a soup or stew, or mixing into a frittata.
Broth is a common ingredient in soups, stews, slow-cooked meals, and side dishes, but most broth isn’t Whole30 compliant. Store-bought brands almost always have off-plan ingredients like added sugar (often in the form of dextrose) or MSG, ruling them out for your Whole30 program.
Your best bet is to make your own broth, using “soup bones” from pasture-raised animals sourced from local farms or online. Trust us, this is easier than you think, and homemade broth confers a host of additional health benefits, including valuable minerals, proteins, and other micronutrients that aid in gut health and immune function. Check out our Bone Broth FAQ for an easy recipe and more helpful “make your own” tips.
Your next best bet is to order Whole30 Approved Bare Bones broth, Osso Good Bone Broth, Kettle & Fire Bone Broth (also available at Whole Foods), or Bonafide Provisions Bone Broth (also available at Whole Foods), all made the traditional way from pasture-raised animals and organic vegetables, slow-cooked to maximize nutrition.
Finally, there are some Whole30 compliant broths out there (like Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, found in many health food stores or online). These are good options in a pinch, but these store-bought broths don’t contain the valuable nutrition found in homemade broths.
Dijon is often seen in salad dressings, marinades, or meat dishes, but most Dijon mustards are made with white wine, which rules them out for the program. Read your labels, as you’ll also often find added sulfites in mustard.
Two commonly available compliant Dijons are Annie’s and Organicville, both available online, at your local health food store, or (perhaps) in the organic aisle of your local grocery store. If you can’t find Dijon, you can substitute another form of compliant mustard, or mustard powder in your dressings or marinades. (The general rule of substitution is to use a teaspoon or dried mustard per tablespoon of prepared mustard.)
Dried cranberries can add flavor and natural sweetness to chicken salad, garden salad, or ground beef dishes, but most are sweetened with sugar, which rules them out for your program. Look for cranberries sweetened with apple juice instead—these are pretty commonly available in health food stores, or online. You could also substitute fresh cranberries in dishes where the tartness might be appreciated, like this recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash.
You’ll also want to be on the lookout for added sulfites with all dried fruit—it’s a pretty common additive.
We’ll admit, this is a silly ruling, but in an effort to keep the Whole30 rules consistent and easy to follow, vanilla extract is out for your Whole30 program, as all varieties contain alcohol. (And those that are touted as “alcohol-free” contain glycerin, a sugar alcohol.)
Sorry. We know no one is adding vanilla extract for the sugar hit, but we have to keep the rules black-and-white. You can substitute vanilla bean powder in a 1:1 ratio in recipes. (Another neat trick is to add a teaspoon of vanilla bean powder to your coffee grounds before brewing, to add a lovely, warm flavor to your cream-and-sugarless coffee.)
Read your labels here, just as you’d read them on any food or drink you purchased on the Whole30. Some spice mixtures and blends may contain sugar, corn starch, or other off-plan ingredients. (Remember, the only exception to the “no added sugar” rule is iodized table salt. You’ll still want to avoid spices with added sugar.)
Check out Whole30 Approved Spice Hound, which offers more than 100 compliant spices and spice blends (detailed in the article linked above).
Bonus Tip: Deli Meat
It seems like you’d be able to roll up to your local grocery store’s deli counter and order meat for your Whole30, but you’d be shocked how many national brands contain less healthy ingredients like added sugar or carrageenan. Read your labels carefully here! You’ll likely have to go to your local health food store or specialty food market for deli meat, or have your local butcher carve you slices of beef or turkey straight from the cow/bird.
Applegate Farms is one commonly available brand of deli meats, and some of their pre-packaged meat (like their Turkey Bologna or Roast Beef) are Whole30 compliant. Other kinds, like their Oven-Roasted Turkey, are only compliant if you order them sliced at the deli counter, as the pre-packaged version contains carrageenan. We’ve also found compliant deli turkey at our local Target Superstore.
Bonus Tip: Almond Milk
Sounds like a healthy alternative for recipes, adding to your coffee, or pouring over berries with your eggs and spinach in the morning, but most almond milks contain sugar, so be careful with your labels. Not as common post-2016, but still keep an eye out also for carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickener that can mess with gut integrity. New Barn Unsweetened Almond Milk is Whole30 Approved and can be found at your local Whole Foods.
The good news is that it’s easy to make your own compliant almond milk at home, using nothing but almonds and some patience. Check out this technique from Stupid Easy Paleo.
Bonus Tip: Larabars
This isn’t an ingredient in a recipe, but Larabars are pretty commonly referenced on the program as an “emergency food” option. These easy-to-source dried-fruit-and-nut bars have very few ingredients, all recognizable. They’re an okay choice for on-the-go food—stash one in your gym bag, desk at work, or purse for those stuck in traffic/late night at the office/cross-country flight kinds of days.*
However, not all varieties of Larabars are Whole30 compliant. Those that contain vanilla extract, chocolate chips (which are sweetened with sugar), or peanut butter are out for your program. Here’s a list of compliant varieties, compiled by Whole30 Instagram follower @Gettin.Body.Back.Girl (and vetted by the Whole30 team).
Compliant: Apple Pie, Banana Bread, Carrot Cake, Cashew Cookie, Cherry Pie, Chocolate Coconut Chew, Coconut Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bar, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie.
Non-compliant: Blueberry Muffin, Cappuccino, Chocolate Chip Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Coconut Chocolate Chip, Gingerbread, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Cookie, Snickerdoodle.
*First, these are basically candy, and their lack of complete protein means they aren’t as satiating as they could be, often leaving you hungry shortly after eating them. Please don’t use these as a treat, dessert, or to satisfy sugar cravings. That violates the spirit and intention of the Whole30 program, and won’t help you slay your Sugar Dragon.
We actually prefer Whole30 Approved RxBars for these kinds of situations, because their complete protein (from egg whites) makes them more satiating. The same cautions apply, however—these are not treats, desserts, or meal replacements!
Read Your Labels!
The more you understand the program rules and practice your label-reading skills, the easier time you’ll have planning and preparing Whole30-compliant meals and on-the-go options. Have more questions about whether a specific food or drink is Whole30 complaint? Visit our official Can I Have… Whole30 FAQ, Google the item in question (“Whole30 can I have kombucha”), or search in our free Whole30 forum.