Once you start looking for products without palm oil, you will be shocked to learn how many contain palm oil derivatives. According to industry experts, palm oil is now in half of all packaged goods. It’s in hygiene items, cosmetics, and cleaning products.
While it takes a little bit of work, especially at first, there are ways to find products without palm oil. Start reading labels and learn how common palm oil is in everyday products.
Ways to Find Palm Oil Free Products
1. Buy fresh, real, whole foods
When you buy real foods that don’t require ingredient labels, you can avoid palm oil. These include fruits, vegetables, beans, plain rice, oats, quinoa, meat, eggs, etc. Choose real foods instead of processed food; you won’t need to worry about palm oil and the hundreds of palm oil derivatives.
There is so much you can do with real foods. They are healthy and so versatile.
Fresh fruit is nature’s candy! You can enjoy fresh produce for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner — as sides, a main dish, and as a sweet treat.
2. Learn what products usually contain palm oil
Once you start reading labels, you’ll start seeing where palm oil hides. Bookmark what products usually contain palm oil.
Here are some categories of products that often contain palm oil:
- Cake mix
- Doughnuts and desserts; most pre-made confections at the store
- Canned frosting; frosting on pre-made desserts
- Frozen pizza
- Nutrition, protein, energy, and granola bars
- Ice cream
- Margarine and butter substitutes
- Peanut butter
- Refrigerated dough for crescent rolls, etc.
- Snack cakes
- Whipped cream and whipped toppings
- Milk (whole milk often does not have it; however, all other dairy milk as well as many plant- and nut-based milks are often fortified with it: Vitamin A Palmitate)
- Vitamins and supplements
- OTC allergy medicine
Hygiene and personal care items:
- Lip balm
- Moisturizers and lotion
- Shaving cream
- Soap – bar and liquid
- Sunscreen — spray, liquid, cream, stick, and balm
- Spray cleaner (even eco-friendly-looking ones)
- Laundry detergent
- Dish soap
- Dishwasher detergent
Learn more about palm oil free cleaning.
3. Buy products with less ingredients
Bottom line: Less ingredients = Less chance for palm oil
This is the case with food and non-food items.
Two examples: Real chocolate and many better ice cream brands will use real ingredients instead of using palm oil as substitutes. In chocolate, this means the company uses cocoa butter instead of palm oil. In ice cream, this can mean real cream instead of palm oil.
4. Reference a list of alternate names for palm oil
This is essential. The International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark in Australia has researched all the ways palm oil is used. They have compiled a list of palm oil derivatives.
We have reprinted it with their permission. Bookmark the names for palm oil ingredients.
In addition, you can reference their list from your phone before you buy anything. It contains the hundreds of ways palm oil is hidden in ingredient names. It’s in alphabetical order so you can somewhat easily check each label before you buy something.
It’s important to read the labels of everything you buy if you are trying to avoid products with palm oil.
(Yes, this will take time in the beginning. However, after a few times, you will know most of the derivatives you are looking for depending on the product, and it will become so much easier.)
5. Learn about the uses for palm oil
It’s important to learn about palm oil uses.
When you know the ways companies use it, you will be able to avoid the types of products that have it.
Until you investigate further, you may not know that ingredients like Vitamin A Palmitate — added to cereals to boost Vitamin A content to 10% or higher — contains palm oil.
Vitamin A Palmitate is also added to non-full-fat milk to boost Vitamin A. (Look for whole milk which typically free from palm oil.)
Manufacturers are using palm oil and palm oil derivatives in many ways and for different reasons. They use it to create mouthfeel, to bind ingredients together, to help increase the shelf-life, to keep crispy foods crispy, to help the product not stick to the machines, and many more reasons.
6. Learn common names for palm oil
In addition to your list above, in time you will be able to quickly scan ingredients and recognize palm oil derivatives.
It will be easy for you to see “palm oil” and “palm kernel oil” spelled out in ingredients.
Start by: Not buying products with Palm-
Then, take it a step further: Don’t buy products with these common ingredients:
- Mono- & diglycerides
- Propylene glycol
- Tocopherols with or without Vitamin E listed
- Vegetable oil — not specifying the type
Unless otherwise noted, they are typically made with palm oil. Here’s more information about names for palm oil.
When you’ve mastered that, take it a step further. Don’t buy products with these these types of words:
- Mono-, Di-, Tri- glycerides
- Sodium ______ (Many sodium ingredients in cleaning and hygiene products are derived from palm oil; look these up on the above-mentioned list.)
- Sorbitan esters
7. Support Palm Oil Free certification and labeling
Two organizations certify products Palm Oil Free. Both of these are recognized in the United States as well as many other countries. They are:
- Orangutan Alliance
- Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark (POFCAP)
Hopefully, more and more, companies will recognize that being Palm Oil Free is considered something to promote and advertise. We hope it will become more common and sought-out, much like “gluten free” and “no high fructose corn syrup.”
Business Wire explains how Enjoy Life Foods was the first food company in the United States to earn Palm Oil free Certification for its Grain & Seed Bars and Protein Bites. At the time, they had eight products certified as palm oil free. Unfortunately, they no longer make these products.
Other companies that have certified their products Palm Oil Free include:
- Wild Friends Foods for palm oil free peanut butter and nut butters
- Red Ape Cinnamon
- That Chocolate Movement
- Fig & Fogg Peanut Butter and nut butters
- Ethique for their soaps, shampoos, conditioners, etc.
- The Eco Alchemist for their shampoo and conditioner bars, soaps, etc.
- Viva La Body for their extensive line of soaps, deodorant, and more
8. Read labels every time
Often, companies change suppliers and ingredients. Some examples:
- Nabisco now lists palm oil for every variety of Oreo cookie I’ve seen. However, in 2017 and prior, they used to be palm oil free.
- Every box of Ritz Crackers Originals I’ve seen in stores lists “palm oil” in the ingredients but they didn’t always.
- In 2018, Peanut M&Ms started including palm oil. Now all of their Peanut M&Ms contain it.
- Also in 2018, Post added Vitamin A Palmitate to their HoneyComb cereal.
- In 2019, Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar changed it’s name from “Milk Chocolate” (without palm oil) to “Chocolate Candy” (with palm oil).
- I can’t remember when, but sometime before 2021, Life Cereal didn’t used to contain Tocopherols, but now they do. Unless the manufacturer spells out what it’s made from [as in Tocopherols (Rosemary)], assume they are made from palm oil.
- Sometime in 2022 – 2023, Clif Kidz Z Bars started adding Mixed Tocopherols to their products. In bars like these, Mixed Tocopherols typically contain palm oil.
You will also find that some versions of the very same products will have different ingredients. Companies use different vendors and recipes. An example of this is Ortega Yellow Corn Taco Shells. Their 12 count box does not contain palm oil. However, their 18 count box does! And so does their Mini Taco Slider Shells.
9. Buy organic and from small companies and local artisans
Another tip to avoid palm oil is to buy organic foods and to support small companies and local businesses.
Manufacturers use palm oil because it’s cheap. Many companies that make organic foods, tend not to use palm oil because they are using higher quality ingredients. The exception to this is organic potato chips which often use organic red palm oil. Bottom line: Read labels every time.
Small snack manufacturers will tend to use less palm oil overall. This is true with candy manufacturers and many other industries as well.
Frequent farmer’s markets and be loyal to small cottage industries. Smaller soap, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste companies are also less likely to use palm oil ingredients. If you see a small candle stand at a farmers market or small shop that offers local wares, ask if they use palm oil in their candles. My experience checking is about 50/50.
10. Install a palm oil app like Spoon Guru
What’s great about an app on your phone is you don’t have to worry about the long list of palm oil derivatives you are trying to avoid.
There are several palm oil apps which help consumers find products with sustainable palm oil. However, I only use the apps that scan for products without it entirely. One of these is SpoonGuru. It’s a free app that screens for palm oil and palm oil derivatives.
One reason is my son gets sick from anything with palm oil. We consider him to have an intolerance or palm oil allergy. Foods and personal care products containing palm oil ingredients cause him to have allergic reactions.
Secondly, even sustainable palm oil increases the overall demand. Third, read up on sustainable palm oil; very little is able to be guaranteed sustainable. For these reasons, we look for products completely free and clear of palm oil.
Companies who say or think they are using sustainable palm oil may not be.
The SpoonGuru app helps consumers rule out food intolerances as well as make lifestyle dietary choices. While it offers recipes and many other features, we’ve only used it when shopping to scan bar codes on food items.
Their in-depth bar code scanning technology will identify what is safe for the consumer based on their preferences. We have it set for “Palm Oil Free” when we shop. We love this free app. It’s especially helpful when there is a long list of ingredients to read through.
If there is a palm oil derivative listed — as in Polysorbate 80 — the Spoon Guru technology will tell you to put it back. Once we emailed them to let them know Vitamin A Palmitate was listed in a cereal but was coming up as palm oil free, and they were wonderfully responsive.
Please note, we don’t recommend solely relying on this app or any palm oil detecting app if you are avoiding palm oil for health reasons or if you have a palm oil intolerance or palm oil allergy. The reason for this is because a reader emailed us to say the app missed Mono- & Diglycerides as well as some other palm oil derivatives in the foods she scanned.
However, we think it works great as a first-level defense against palm oil.
11. Keep learning and have patience
Once you have found some products free from palm oil, it will get easier to know what to look for. Work to replace one food or self-care product at a time. Use up what you have, and then seek out a palm oil free replacement.
Continue to do this for products you use regularly. You can build on from there, one product at a time.
12. Be loyal: Support the brands that are palm oil free
After looking for 100% palm free products, you will appreciate the companies who don’t use it. Sometimes it will truly feel like a victory!
Make a difference! Write them an email. Blast a positive note about them not using palm oil on social media.
Most of all: Buy their products.
Stay loyal to these companies so they keep their products free from palm oil. When you vote with your dollars, you make the biggest difference.
13. Learn more about sustainable palm oil
Take some time to learn about sustainable palm oil and how the industry is regulated. Check many sources to be informed about all sides of this issue.
When you inquire of companies to ask if they use palm oil, many are quick to reply they use sustainable palm oil. Dig deeper.
14. Learn about the issues with deforestation
Is palm oil bad? Learn about the problem with palm oil. When you can educate yourself about deforestation and other issues, it’s often more motivating to make a change.
How to Find Palm Oil Free Products
There are so many packaged foods, supplements, medicines, hygiene, and cleaning products with palm oil and palm oil derivatives. However, once you start knowing the types of ingredient names to look for, you will have an easier time of finding products free from palm oil.
You can find products without palm oil. You have to actively be reading labels and comparing them to the list referenced above in order to avoid it completely.
But once you are in the habit or reading labels, it takes just seconds. You will also learn to choose products with less ingredients overall. Additionally, you will know the types of products that use it.
Here are ways to use less palm oil each week.
Find Products without Palm Oil Derivatives
It’s in foods and self-care items you wouldn’t have ever considered. You are most likely using palm oil on a daily basis without realizing it.
If you are avoiding palm oil because of environmental concerns or health reasons, you need to know how palm oil is hidden in everyday products.
It will get easier when you know what you are looking for. Use these 14 ways to find products without palm oil.
We are not medical professionals, and this is not meant to be medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare professional. Always read labels. Why do you look for palm oil free products? Please leave a Comment below.