Most vegetarians and vegans are pretty conscious of what they put in their bodies, checking labels religiously to be sure of what exactly they are eating. If this describes you, then perhaps these foods won’t be so surprising. But what about people who are new to the vegetarian / vegan lifestyle? I know when I made the change, I had no idea how much animal products were used in the everyday foods that I ate. That’s why I came up with this quick list to help guide people through some perhaps lesser-known sources of animal products- and bear in mind that this list is just a sampling. When in doubt, read the label!
1. Beer / Alcohol – Many are made with an ingredient called “isinglass”, sourced from fish bladders. Yum.
2. Cheese – Although some cheeses are made from plant-based enzymes, most are created with rennet. The Rennet is added to milk in order to coagulate it and turn it into curds, which are then processed into various cheeses. Most rennet comes from the stomach lining of slaughtered newborn calves.
3. Marshmallows – this one was hard for me to learn about. I absolutely LOVED marshmallows before I went vegetarian. Sadly, these puffy treats are made with gelatin, sourced from pig and cow hooves, ligaments, and skin.
4. Margarine – there are many reasons not to eat margarine, and this is just one of them. Ironically, many people who switch to a vegetarian / vegan lifestyle make the switch from butter, which is both natural and (arguably) vegetarian (though not vegan), to margarine, which is synthetic and often contains whey, gelatin and a milk protein called casein. Some brands even contain suet, a type of animal fat. Earth Balance is one reliably vegan brand.
5. Peanuts – Some brands of packaged peanuts include gelatin. Planter’s Dry Roasted Peanuts are a notable example.
6. Soy Cheese – May be vegetarian, but not always vegan. In fact, many soy cheeses contain traces of dairy. The milk protein casein is often what gives soy cheese its (slightly) cheese-like flavor and texture. Luckily, not all brands contain casein- for example, Galaxy Foods is a brand that produces reliably vegan cheeses.
7. BBQ Chips – Would you guess that a bag of BBQ-flavored Baked Lay’s contained chicken fat? Probably not – but they do. The same goes for many other brands of BBQ-flavored chips like KC Masterpiece BBQ Chips and Ruffles The Works chips.
8. Cake Mix and Hostess Products – You may be saying to yourself, come on, it’s cake!– what could possibly be in it that’s not vegetarian-friendly? The answer: beef fat. It’s a common ingredient in many boxed cake mixes (sometimes listed as lard). Beware all Hostess products, too, no matter how tempting those Twinkies might be: they all contain beef fat.
9. Frosted Cereals – You’d think that at least those frosted flakes would be safe to eat. I used to love frosted shredded wheat cereal. Unfortunately, one of the ingredients commonly used in the “icing” on frosted cereals is gelatin.
10. Dry Stuffing Mix – may or may not be surprising to you. Commonly includes chicken stock or fat in the ingredient list.