If you’re about to embark on a journey of veganism, it’s bound to be rewarding, though not without its own set of challenges, especially in the beginning. There are many reasons for wanting to become a vegan – these could be health, ethical, or environmental concerns. While some ingredients and foods that go against veganism may seem obvious, there are plenty that may surprise you. Hence, here’s a quick lowdown on everything that needs to be excluded from a 100% vegan diet.
Going Vegan? Foods And Ingredients To Avoid
If you’re a newly turned vegan, take a look at this comprehensive list of foods, ingredients, and products to be wary of, for they can very often contain ingredients that won’t be obviously labeled as being by-products of animals.
1. All Animal Foods
Veganism is a lifestyle choice that tries to exclude all forms of animal cruelty, whether it is for food or any other reason. This is why vegans stay far away from foods of animal origin like:
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
- Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, and fish sauce.
- Eggs: Belonging to chickens, quails, ostriches, and fish.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
- Bee Products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
2. All Ingredients And Additives Derived From Animals
So many foods, especially the processed variety, contain ingredients and additives that are derived from animals that most people don’t even know about. It is, therefore, very important that you check food labels carefully to know more about what ingredients are being used.
- Certain Additives: Several food additives can be derived from animal products. Examples include E120, E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901, and E904.
- Cochineal Or Carmine: Cochineal scale insects are sometimes ground and used to make carmine, a natural dye that is used to impart a red color to many foods.
- Gelatin: This thickening agent is derived from the connective tissues, skin, and bones of cows and pigs.
- Isinglass: This is a gelatin-like substance and is derived from fish bladders. It is very often used in making beer or wine.
- Natural Flavorings: Some of these ingredients may be animal-based. For example, castoreum, a food flavoring, comes from the secretions of beavers’ anal scent glands.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Many products that are enhanced with omega-3s are not vegan since most omega-3s are derived from fish. Omega-3s derived from algae, on the other hand, are vegan alternatives.
- Shellac: This is a substance secreted by female lac insects. It is sometimes used to make a food glaze for candies or a shiny wax coating for fresh produce.
- Vitamin D3: Most vitamin D3 is synthesized from fish oil or the lanolin that is found in sheep’s wool. Vitamin D2 and D3 derived from lichen are good vegan alternatives.
- Dairy Ingredients: Whey, lactose, and casein are all derived from dairy.
3. Foods That Sometimes (But Not Always) Contain Animal Ingredients
Some foods are expected to be 100% vegan, but very often, they may contain one or more ingredients that have been derived from animals. This is why vegans seeking to avoid all animal products must practice extra caution when making a choice to consume or avoid the list of following foods:
- Bread Products: Many bakery products, like bread and bagels, contain L-cysteine, an amino acid that comes from poultry feathers and is used as a softening agent.
- Beer And Wine: Many manufacturers use egg whites, casein, or gelatin in the winemaking or the beer brewing process. Some even use isinglass, a substance derived from fish bladders, to clarify the product.
- Caesar Dressing: There are a few varieties of Caesar salad dressing that use anchovy paste as one of their ingredients.
- Candy: Some varieties of marshmallows, Jell-O, gummy bears, and chewing gum have gelatin. Others are sometimes coated in shellac or are made with a red dye called carmine, which is derived from cochineal insects.
- French Fries: Some varieties are tossed and fried in animal fat.
- Olive Tapenade: Many varieties of olive tapenade have anchovies as an ingredient.
- Deep-Fried Foods: The batter used in deep-fried foods like onion rings or vegetable tempura often contains eggs.
- Pesto: Many varieties of pesto that’s bought at stores contain Parmesan cheese.
- Some Bean Products: Plenty of baked bean recipes include lard or ham.
- Non-Dairy Creamer: Many of these “non-dairy” creamers actually have casein, a protein that is derived from milk.
- Pasta: Some types of pasta, mainly the fresh variety, contain eggs.
- Potato Chips: Some potato chips are flavored with finely powdered cheese or even contain other dairy ingredients like whey, casein, or animal-derived enzymes.
- Refined Sugar: Manufacturers sometimes use bone-char (often called natural carbon) to lighten sugar. Bone char is derived from cattle bones. Evaporated cane juice or organic sugar are safe vegan alternatives.
- Roasted Peanuts: Gelatin is often used when processing roasted peanuts so as to help the spices and the salt to stick to the peanuts better.
- Some Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is almost always vegan. There are, however, some varieties that contain animal-derived products like milk fat, whey, milk solids, non-fat milk powder, or clarified butter.
- Some Fresh Produce: Some fresh fruits and vegetables are found coated with wax, which could either be petroleum-based or palm-based. Sometimes, however, this coating may also be made using shellac or beeswax. If you’re in doubt, ask your grocer which wax is used.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Many varieties of this sauce contain anchovies.
4. Vegan Foods Whose Intake You May Want To Limit
It is a wrong notion that all vegan foods are healthy and nutritious. If you’re a vegan and you want to improve your health, stick to plant foods that have been minimally processed and limit your use of the following products:
- Vegan Junk Food: Vegan ice cream, cookies, candy, chips, and sauces usually contain just as much added fat and sugar as their non-vegan counterparts. What makes these worse, is that they contain almost zero minerals, vitamins, and beneficial plant compounds.
- Vegan Sweeteners: Vegan or not, agave syrup, molasses, date and maple syrup are still added sugars. Eating too much of them may bring up your risk of obesity and heart disease.
- Mock Meats And Cheeses: These processed foods contain lots of unhealthy and artificial additives. They also provide your body with far fewer minerals and vitamins as compared to whole, protein-rich plant foods like peas, lentils, beans, seeds, and nuts.
- Some Dairy-Free Kinds Of Milk: Sweetened dairy-free milk generally involves a decent amount of added sugar. Choose the unsweetened variety instead.
- Vegan Protein Bars: Most of these contain alarming amounts of refined sugar. They usually also contain an isolated form of protein, which is severely lacking in the nutrients you’d find in the plant it was extracted from.