Can I have _______ on The 21-Day Sugar Detox (21DSD)?

Can I have ____________ on the 21DSD?

Updated February, 2018.

Can I have ______ on the 21DSD? It's a common question with a lot of different ingredients that come up!

Here you'll find a list of commonly confusing ingredients and foods, clarified per The 21-Day Sugar Detox with our official take.

If an ingredient you're curious about isn't listed below, please comment with your question so we can add it and clarify it for you and all of our readers.

When in doubt, first go to the “Is it a yes food?” from the official 21DSD program rules:

Is It a “Yes” Food?

Can I have _______ on The 21-Day Sugar Detox (21DSD)?While on your 21DSD, you may encounter foods that are not on the Yes/No Food List, or you may be slightly confused about whether a particular food is included in or excluded from the program. Follow the basic principles of the 21DSD, outlined below, to direct your choices and help you figure out whether or not you should eat the food in question.

  • Added sweeteners are not allowed. The only way to enjoy a somewhat sweet taste is to use the included fruits in the limited portions as outlined in your Yes/No Foods List. If an added sweetener is included in the ingredients list of a sweeteners), the food is not allowed. Note that some Yes foods, such full fat dairy on Levels 1 and 2, contain natural sugars, and these are okay.
  • If it tastes sweet and it isn’t included on the Yes foods list, it’s not allowed. Some herbal teas taste sweet naturally, and these are allowed. If an item tastes sweet and you aren’t sure about it, leave it out.
  • Grain flours are not allowed. This means you will not eat any foods made from whole-grain or refined-grain flours (wheat, spelt, and quinoa flours, for example). The only flours allowed are those made from nuts, seeds, coconut, or some limited starches (like tapioca flour when used as a thickening agent in sauces).
  • When in doubt, leave it out. If you find it difficult to make a judgement call about a particular food on your own, ask your 21DSD coach or connect with us online at or via social media to ask your question and get more answers and support.

The following is a list of frequently asked about ingredients. These ingredients are mostly contained in pre-packaged foods.

It’s always best to choose fresh whole foods whenever possible, however, we realize this is real life and we want to make the 21DSD doable for anyone. Again, if you are still stumped, when in doubt, leave it out or connect with us to find out!

Almond and Other Nut milk (see coconut milk below)
YES (with exceptions)
Homemade, yes.  There are recipes in the 21DSD books for how to make it very easily.
Pre-packaged with reservation. Approved brands include New Barn, Malk, and Whole Foods organic 365 unsweetened almond milk. Ingredients should be on the yes list and/or the additives have been addresses as YES in this article (check exceptions).

Artificial Coloring
This is a general rule for healthy eating all around, not just for the 21DSD!

Bacon [See Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish]

Citric acid
YES (with exceptions)
Avoid in processed foods if you have health concerns.* While a small amount generally considered safe, most citric acid is industrial processed. It’s made from the fermentation of a type of mold fed with glucose sourced from mostly genetically modified corn. As of 2007, 50% of the citric acid produced was from China. Fresh whole food is always the best choice. *There are non-gmo sources of citric acid as well as fruit sourced citric acid so not ALL citric acid is bad. Likely the bigger food manufacturers are using this unless otherwise stated.

NO (with exceptions)
You may make your own chips with approved foods and fats/oils using the “build your plate” portion guidelines.

Coconut Milk
YES (with exceptions)
Coconut solids and water are your best bet. Avoid those with carrageenan. Use with caution or avoid if you have digestive issues other gums such as Guar gum. When possible, choose cans that are BPA free. There are many options now available on the market.

Coconut Nectar
This is a sweetener. Not to be confused with coconut aminos, which is a fermented and mostly used as a replacement for soy sauce. All brands of coconut aminos are approved.

Coffee Creamers, Dairy and Non-Dairy

  • Butter/ghee
  • Coconut milk
    YES (with exceptions)
    Avoid carrageenan, see our notes on other possible ingredients such as sunflower oil and natural flavors.
  • Collagen Peptides / Hydrolyzed Collagen (grass-fed, no other ingredients/favors)
    Equip Foods Unflavored Collagen is an approved brand.
  • Cream or Half & Half
    YES (with exceptions)
    Level 1 and 2. Avoid carrageenan, organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised is best choice.
  • Equip Foods Complete Collagen (unflavored collagen peptides)
  • Full fat cream and milk
    YES (with exceptions)
    Level 1 and 2. Avoid carrageenan, organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised is best choice.
  • Laird’s Superfood Unsweetened Creamer
  • MCT Powder
  • Milk
    YES (with exceptions)
    Level 1 and 2. Avoid carrageenan, organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised is best choice.
  • Nut/coconut Based Creamers
    YES (with exceptions)
    Ingredient should be on yes list, see notes in this post about natural flavors and sunflower oil.

Coffee, Flavored
YES (with exceptions)
While technically okay, unless we know the source of the flavoring it’s best to avoid for 21-days. Regular unflavored regular and decaf coffee is a yes. For decaf, we recommend Swiss water processed or similar (avoid chemical process).

Crackers – Nut/Seed/Cassava/Tapioca Based Crackers
YES (with exceptions)
Ingredients must be on yes list. Limit to one serving. Whole grain (flours not allowed) based are allowed for Level 1 only and the serving counts towards the 1/2 cup limit per day of whole grains.
Mary's Gone Crackers Super Seed crackers are approved.
Currently the only approved cassava/tapioca based cracker approved are Jilz (1 serving per day). Baking mixes using starch flours are not approved.

Creamers [See Coffee Creamers, Dairy and Non-Dairy]

Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate)

Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish
(Also see p. 126 of The 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide)

  • Nitrates (in Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish)
    It is not necessary to avoid nitrates unless you know you are sensitive to them.
  • Sugar (in Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish)
    YES (with exceptions)
    Less than 1 gram of sugar per serving is approved. Sugar is used to cure, to counteract the salt, and/or for the microbial fermentation process to reduce the pH to give it tangy flavor. More than 1 gram of sugar per serving would be for added flavor enhancement and is not approved.
  • BHA, BHT, sodium phosphate, sodium ascorbate
  • Cherry Powder
    YES (with exceptions)
    Less than 1 gram of sugar per serving is approved. Cherry powder is used as a natural preservative.

Dairy products – Full fat/whole milk based
YES (with exceptions)
Level 1 and 2 only. No added sweeteners/sugar or flavors – only plain, full-fat (sometimes marked as 4%). Allowed thickeners mentioned in this article are approved. Avoid pre-shredded cheeses as they have additives. Avoid products with food coloring. Full fat dairy that also contains (as a lesser ingredient) skim and part-skim is okay but not the best choice. Goat milk and other animal milks are included with these guidelines – see “Thickeners, gums, emulsifiers (in pre-packaged food)” – Grass-fed organic is best choice if available to you.

Emulsifiers [see Thickeners, gums, emulsifiers (in pre-packaged food)]

Flavored water [See Water, Flavored/Sparkling]

Flours, Starch 
YES (with exceptions)
Along with the two tablespoons per day of starch flours listed in the 21DSD Official Rules, arrowroot, potato, and green banana flours are allowed up to a total of 2 tablespoons of starch flours per day. These flours contain less less 1 gram of sugar per serving and do not taste sweet.  Flours such a sweet potato, pumpkin, plantain, and Tiger Nut flour contain more natural sugars per serving and also have a sweeter taste, these would be good options post-21DSD.

Food Coloring

Gums [see Thickeners, gums, emulsifiers (in pre-packaged food)]

YES (with exceptions)
Level 1 only. Hummus is approved if it contains only the ingredients found on the yes list. The exception would be organic, cold pressed unrefined high oleic sunflower and safflower oils, which are not specifically on the yes list. These are not a hard no but also not recommended. See explanation under Sunflower & Safflower oils. It’s best to make your own hummus.
Limit is 1/4 per day (1/2 cup legumes that have been mashed = approx. 1/4 cup.

YES (with exceptions)
8 oz. limit per day. While we don’t count grams of sugar on the 21DSD, for kombucha, we suggest choosing kombucha with less than 6-8 grams of less per 8 oz. serving. According to, “The sugar in Kombucha is for the culture to consume, not for you. When done fermenting, there will be about 2-6 grams per 8 ounce glass of unflavored Kombucha.” If your kombucha tastes sweet or contributes to cravings, choose a different flavor or simply avoid it. For the purposes of the 21DSD, we recommend choosing flavors that are on the Yes/No list such as lemon and ginger.


  • Soy
  • Sunflower
    YES (with exceptions)
    Generally okay. Choose organic. This product is often used as a supplemental Phosphatidyl Choline to support brain health.

Mixes (as in for baking/baking mixes) – Nut/Cassava/Tapioca

Natural Flavors
YES (with exceptions)
Not always a hard no if source is verified. Natural flavors may not be concerning, for example, made from the essence of essential oil. However, natural flavors allowed by the FDA can also be derived from problematic ingredients, for example, gluten (which is on the no list), dairy (not part of level 3), MSG (which many people are sensitive to and it stimulates your brain to crave more food), and even propylene glycol as well as a number of synthetic chemicals. Via the FDA: “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

The products and brands we officially recommend that contain natural flavors have been confirmed to be okay for the 21DSD. If you see it in other products that are not on our list, you are welcome to contact the manufactuerer and to let us know what you find. Otherwise, when it doubt, leave it out.

Natural coloring
YES (with exceptions)
Approved as long as it is not contributing to sweetness of food.

YES (with exceptions see cured meats for more info.)
Not necessary to avoid unless you know you are sensitive to them.

Nut milk [See Almond and Other Nut milk (besides coconut milk)]

Palm oil
YES (with exceptions)
Look for organic, unrefined and sustainable. Tropical Traditions is a good source. It’s not likely organic and unrefined in processed food unless otherwise specified so keep that in mind when you choose packaged food products. It’s not a hard no but not necessarily health promoting depending on how it’s processed. For example, palm olein oil is processed to remove the saturated fat, which is actually protective in high heat. This oil is still better than other industrial vegetable oils.

YES (with exceptions)
No sugar should be added, if they are fermented, then less than 1 gram per serving.

Processed Meats [See Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish]

Protein Powder
Yes (with exceptions)
Choose 100% pure, no other ingredients added aside from the protein powder. For example, 100% egg white, 100% collagen, or 100% whey protein (levels 1 & 2, organic/grass-fed is recommended).

Rice vinegar

Sausage [See Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish]

Shirataki Noodles
YES (with exceptions)
These noodles made with konjac yam and glucomannan are a source of dietary fiber and act as more of a “filler” vs. nutrient dense whole food. While small amounts used occasionally are not likely a problem for most people, those with digestive issues may find that these noodles exasperate their problems. Use with caution in that case. Be mindful that these noodles will fill you up, crowding out your consumption of more nutrient dense foods. Better alternatives are noodles made with whole foods such as zucchini and other squashes, carrots, and parsnips.

Smoked salmon and other smoked fish [See Cured Meats, Bacon, Sausage, Other Processed Meats & Smoked Fish]

Sunflower & Safflower oils – organic, cold-pressed high oleic only
YES (with exceptions)
Not recommended for cooking or cold use in your home. In processed foods, avoid those that are not labeled or verified as organic, cold pressed, unrefined high oleic. Note that these oils are made with seeds have been hybridized to have a profile more similar to olive oil. If you look closely at these oils sold in the grocery store, even the organic pressed high oleic versions are refined for high heat. While there may be less concern about the cold use of organic high oleic cold pressed unrefined sunflower and safflower oils, they are difficult to find, not health promoting, and it’s unlikely that the unrefined version is being used in most processed foods. Healthy fats are so vital for human health and there have been little human studies using these modern, industrial fats. They are not traditional fats and we have plenty of healthful fats available to us.

Sulfites (Sulfur dioxide and others)
YES (with exceptions)
Not technically a no food but it’s a preservative, which means the food you are eating is not fresh and may not be a healthy choice on a daily basis. Avoid whenever possible.

Sun dried tomatoes
YES (with exception)
Drying tomatoes yourself is your best bet. We have not found any that are void of “No” ingredients. You will likely come across sun dried tomatoes in hummus and processed meats such as sausages. Sun dried tomatoes are approved as long as the rest of the ingredients are approved and the sugar is less than 1 gram per serving.


YES (with exceptions)
Do not stop taking any supplements are medications that have been prescribed to you by a medical professional or health practitioner for the purposes of the 21DSD. There are multi-vitamins and other supplements such as Natural Calm that have some flavorings. We recommend you switch to non-flavored versions. There is unflavored Natural Calm. The multi-vitamin/mineral that we recommend is Nutrience by Calton Nutrition. There is an unflavored version available.

Thickeners, gums, emulsifiers (in pre-packaged food)

  • Carrageenan
  • Guar gum, xantham gum, locus bean gum, gum Arabic, tara gum, gellan gum
    YES (with exceptions)
    Use with caution or avoid if you have digestive issues. These are generally considered safe based on our research as of this writing.

Water, Flavored/Sparkling
YES (with exceptions)
These waters have natural flavorings – source should be verified, LaCroix for example is sparkling water with natural flavors from the essence of essential oil. Is it a health food? No. People tell us that they find it a helpful better choice while they transition off their sugary beverages. That said, there are some current concerns questioning whether or not these natural essences actually trick your body into thinking it’s actually getting calories as artificial flavors do.

A recent small trial looking at sparkling water vs. regular water revealed that sparkling water increases ghrelin, the hunger hormone in your body, stimulating your appetite, leading you to crave more food. Also of note, LaCroix water in cans is lined with BPA – the company states that it’s not in detectable amounts but know that it’s there. The key is how much and how often. We do not recommend drinking flavored water with meals. In fact, we recommend only sipping a small amount of water as needed during meals to support optimal digestion.

What about other flavored sparkling waters? You are welcome to confirm with the company that makes the other brands. One popular brand that markets itself as all natural was taken to court regarding the propylene glycol contained in it’s natural flavoring. Propylene glycol is allowed in accordance with FDA rules depending on how it’s used. That said, we are at the mercy of the food manufacturers and have to trust that these companies are telling us the whole truth about what they are including.

Whew! That's our list for now! If you have questions about other ingredients that are confusing for you or you don't see them here or on our Yes/No list, please comment below so we can add them to the list!

Comments 5

    1. Hi Joan –
      This one is covered in the Yes/No list very explicitly! 🙂 You can download the program rules for free at or it’s in any of the books. This list is specifically to cover ingredients and really confusing items that aren’t covered there.

  1. What about no-grain no-nut flour such as sweet potato flour, banana/plantain flour and tigernut flour? They are often used in AIP recipes instead of nut or seed flour.

    1. Hi there-

      One of the goals of the program is to help change your habits away from processed foods, and low-fat/non-fat dairy are processed foods that have quality nutrients removed. Full fat dairy is the real, whole form, so it’s included for Levels 1 and 2.

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