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When we chose to avoid soy as much as possible because we discovered it appeared to be making Kevin really sick, I didn't really have any idea how much it would affect what we eat. Naively, I assumed that soy was only in Chinese food or obvious soy products such as tofu.
Oh boy, was I in for a shock.
While it is said in many places that those allergic or sensitive to soy often can tolerate soybean oil, Kevin is not one of those people. When he eats products containing it, his lips burn, mouth gets itchy, and he eventually has a reaction as though he has a moderate case of food poisoning. (I'll spare you the unpleasant details)
As a result we've eliminated everything containing soybean oil from our diet and this, my friends, has been quite the feat because almost every packaged food out there has some form of soy in it. You will be surprised, I'm sure, once you start reading labels. After some discussion with readers on Twitter, it was suggested that I write a post with some tips and a concrete list so here it is!
We go by the following rules:
1. Eat food as close to it's natural state (and not tampered with) as possible
The best way to avoid soy is just to avoid anything that is packaged. Fruit, vegetables, steak, dried beans or pasta all don't contain soy at all. As soon as it's tampered with, such as steak in store created marinades or stuffed fresh pasta, you have to start reading ingredients.
2. Read labels. Always.
Soy isn't always obvious in labeling. Watch for words such as vegetable oil, and hydrolyzed vegetable oil/protein. MSG is often derived from soy. Also look for the following:
Soy lecithin is in many products but for us, so far that hasn't been a problem.
Big food companies typically have a lot of soybean oil in their products. In my experience, I've had much more success with smaller companies and products from Europe. Fortunately, labeling has gotten much better and most things will actually say "contains soy", even if it's not that obvious in the labeling.
3. Figure out what products are most likely to contain soy and be careful of them
When we first started looking at labels we were shocked by what contained soy-which is, practically any and every packaged food. Some are more likely than others, though. We go by the principal that the more processed it is, the more likely it will contain soy. Also if it is likely to contain an oil, there's a high chance that the oil will be soybean, since it's a subsidized crop in the USA. The worst offenders, we have found, are any kind of bread product, crackers, cookies, and things from store bakeries. Deli products often contain a lot of soy, and of course the obvious Asian sauces and products as well.
Interestingly enough, we have found that Indian food products and some Thai foods don't have soy in them.
4. Learn to make your own
If you buy cake mixes, canned icing, pudding, canned biscuits and the like, most of them contain soybean oil as well. You are better off to learn how to make these things from scratch so that you can adjust the ingredients accordingly. None of them are really that difficult to make, they just require you to plan ahead. Be careful even when you are baking, some ingredients such as graham wafer crumbs, margarine, and roasted nuts also contain soybean oil. Use ingredients that are as real and whole as possible-this means butter, eggs, sugar, flour, and chocolate.
5. Keep your sense of humour
It's really hard to avoid soy at first, and we still mess up now and then. Often times I've stood in the cracker aisle, reading labels, and gotten really annoyed that I can't find ONE THING without soy in it, or that the soy free product is so expensive compared to the highly processed crap next to it. However, it does get easier once you figure out what products work. Once you know what is safe, stick with it, but keep reading the labels because unfortunately companies tend to change things occasionally.
Yes. I'll admit it takes me a long time to shop some days. I've also had great success with organic products and natural food aisles. Often store staff have steered me towards gluten free products for some reason, and they typically contain a lot of soy.
THE BIG LISTBelow is a list of foods that we avoid, and that we seem to be able to eat without issue but before you dive in, you MUST READ THE NEXT BIT:
**DISCLAIMER** I am not saying these things are soy free, but these are the products that my family eats and so far have not made my teenager sick. If you are soy allergic (anaphylaxic), I encourage you NOT to follow this list. If you are just trying to avoid soy for other reasons, then this list will likely work for you. At best, it's a heads up on what you need to watch and what seems to be okay. We seem to be okay with soy lecithin in products because the amount is so small. YOU NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR/ALLERGIST FOR ADVICE IF YOU SUSPECT SEVERE SOY ALLERGY. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice.
BREAD/BAKERY PRODUCTSMost bread products contain a fat of some kind, and a lot of places use oil. If you find a small local bakery ask what kind of oil they use, or if they use butter in their products. This is the worst offending group. It's really hard to find soy free products.
Store brand/commercially prepared bread, tortillas, English muffins, bread crumbs, flatbreads, buns, cookies, bars, muffins, crackers, etc.
Be wary of: instant flavoured oatmeals, mixed grain cereals, granola bars
Mini Wheats, Bran Flakes, All Bran, Rice Krispies, most single grain whole cereals
Whole, unprocessed, oats
Cliff bar chocolate chip granola bars
Cobs bread products ( I'm not sure about their danishes and such, though)
Western Family bagels
Western Family tortillas
.. I use the leftovers of Cobs bread for breadcrumbs by whizzing them up in my food processor, and I bake all my own cookies, cakes, bars, and muffins
Lesley Stowe rainforest crisp crackers
Carr's Cheese Melts (there are other Carr's crackers that don't have soy-read the labels)
...there are more, I just can't remember all the brands but will add when I do.
Any pre-made, pre-packaged snack, dinner, or prepared foods.
boxed frozen chicken breasts
pre-made frozen hamburger patties
Ben and Jerry's ice cream
Be wary of: ice cream, frozen treats, pastries, vegetables with sauces
Western family frozen Cheddar cheese perogies
plain frozen vegetables (eg. peas, corn, spinach)
Tenderflake pastry products
President's choice phyllo
Many Haagen Dazs ice creams
some Chapmans ice cream (single flavours, like vanilla or chocolate)
pre-roasted chickens (the seasoning is usually full of soy)
dried sausages and pepperoni
any prepared, packaged food
Be wary of: hummus, processed cheeses, prepared dips, olives, anything packed in OIL
real, good quality cheeses
Grimm's sausages (they label really well and it will even say soy free on their packaging)
bacon (seems okay so far)
Western family hummus
Fontaine Sante hummus
Freybe's products have been okay sometimes as well
microwave popcorn with oils
mixed nuts and trail mixes (often coated w/ soybean oil)
Reeces Peanut butter cups (most chocolate/peanut butter products have soybean oil in the peanut butter)
prepared puddings or pudding mixes
Be wary of: beef jerky, chocolate treats that are mixed ingredients and not solid chocolate, most candy, gummy candies, chips, fruit snacks
Boulder Canyon Chips
Western Family nuts (in a pouch)
Presidents Choice Roasted Plain Almonds
dark chocolate M&Ms
Camino chocolate bars
Camino peanut butter chocolate bar
Surf sweets gummy candies
Here is a list from Frito lay of their products that don't contain soy in Canada
pop and sodas
Betty Crocker fruit snacks appear to not have soy in them
Cliff chocolate chip granola bars
DAIRYMost dairy products are safe. What you need to watch for are the 'fake' or substitute dairy kinds of things because they are usually derived from oil.
Cool Whip or other whipping cream substitutes
flavoured coffee creamers
all margarines (brick and spreadable)
Be wary of: processed cheeses
cream cheese (brick and spreadable)
yogurt (we buy Liberte, Oikos, Krema)
Be wary: oil blends
Western family oil spray
olive, grapeseed, other oils
PACKAGED PRODUCTSThis one is a mine field. The more processed, the higher the chance it will have soy. However you may get some nice surprises! This is when you look in the natural foods aisles and at organic products
Any packaged food is suspect, from canned soups to baked beans, spaghetti sauces, pizza sauces, pasta side dish mixes, rice blend mixes, and more.
Be especially careful with any Asian food
Be wary: tuna (some have soy in the broth), hot chocolate mixes, some teas, fresh pastas that are filled, such as tortellini
Natural peanut butters
Western Family no stir Organic peanut butter
Nuts to you nut butters
Most brands of natural nut butters
Dried pastas , rice noodles, rice wrappers
many fresh pastas that are NOT filled (ie, just noodles)
most wonton wrappers
Couscous, Quinoa, rice, etc (that are whole and not blended with seasonings)
Canned or dried beans (kidney, chick peas, lentils)
Kitchen basics beef or chicken broth
Passata (strained tomatoes, which we use to make our own pizza sauce and spaghetti sauces)
Canned tomatoes, tomato paste
CONDIMENTS AND SPICES
black bean sauce
Be wary: anything packed in oil, BBQ sauces, sweet and sour sauce, packaged spice blends
most single spices (ie basil, oregano, etc)
most Indian food products, curry pastes, etc
Thai fish sauce
some Lighthouse dressings
some salsas (we buy Newman's Own)
BAKINGI hate to say this, but you'll have to learn to bake.
Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain flour
Graham wafer crumbs
Oreo wafer crumbs
cake, cookie, bars mixes
pre-made pie crusts
Be wary: dried fruit, nuts, multigrain flour mixes
See snacks for nuts
most chocolate chips, chocolate squares
sugar, icing sugar, brown sugar
marinated meats or anything in a sauce (anything that is not plain)
pre-cooked, packaged meat
boxed chicken breasts
boxed pre-made hamburger patties
Be wary: fresh and dried sausages, ham
Any plain, unprocessed meat that has not been seasoned or is in a sauce (such as straight up fresh chicken, steak, pork, fish, hamburger, ground turkey, etc)
bacon appears to be okay
FRUIT and VEGGIES/PRODUCE
All are safe.
**This list will grow and change over time as we find more things to add to it, but in the meantime it will give you a start. Feel free to print and take it with you to the store, but remember, even if it's on this list as safe, READ THE LABEL.