Becoming vegetarian isn’t always as easy as recognizing there is pepperoni on your pizza or bacon bits on top of your Brussels sprouts. Whether you’ve gone vegetarian for dietary or ethical reasons, you always have to be on the look out for the sneaky animal products manufacturers slip into seemingly safe food items. If there’s not chicken stock in your vegetable soup (very common at restaurants and in store bought brands), there’s gelatin in your marshmallows (so long Rice Krispie squares!). Here are 10 other foods that have got to go if you’re serious about an animal-free diet.
1. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
For vegetarians, cheese can spruce up a plate of pasta, make a salad extra satisfying, or add oomph to a tray of appetizers. Unfortunately, for vegetarians, not all cheeses are, well, vegetarian.
Some cheeses use an enzyme called rennet that is sourced from the stomach lining of goats and cows. This enzyme helps the milk turn into solids curds as it’s on its way to becoming the cheeses you know and love. Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Pecorino Romano, Camembert, Gruyère, Manchego are all non-veg offenders as well. If you’re looking for a replacement, you can sometimes find versions of these cheeses that use a vegetable-based rennet instead. Also, look for certified kosher cheeses since orthodox Jews do not eat meat and milk together, you’re guaranteed a safe slice.
2. Salted Peanuts
It seems simple enough. Peanuts and salt. That’s two ingredients, right? Wrong. If you’re adhering to a strict vegetarian diet, you might be shocked to learn this staple American bar snack isn’t always an animal free source of protein. Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts, among others, list ingredients including spices, corn syrup and gelatin. Gelatin is made of various animal products including skin, hooves and bones and shows up in a lot of surprising food items. If you’re wondering its purpose on dry peanuts, it’s that it’s used as an adhesive to make sure all the spices and salts stick to the surface of the nuts. There are plenty of Planters options, and other brands entirely, that stick to a more simple ingredients list, but if you’re true vegetarian, now you know you can’t just carelessly eat salted nuts.
3. Red Candies
If you’ve ever seen “Natural Red #4” listing in the ingredients, you’re not holding a vegetarian-friendly food. Many red candies owe their color to this substance, otherwise known as carmine, a pigment extracted from the female Dactylopius coccus Costa insect — a beetle that releases a crimson coloring when crushed. Look out for ingredients like “cochineal,” “carminic acid,” or “carmine,” as these all refer to the same thing. Many wines (see below), vinegars and even colored pastas sometimes contain this non-veg-friendly ingredient.
4. beer and wine
Not okay with just adding beetles, some wines also add fish. Isinglass, a gelatin taken from the bladders of tropical fish, is used to help clarify cloudy yeast from many brands of wine and beer, too (Guinness for example). Those produced in Britain are particularly guilty of adding this hidden ingredient. Check this list at Barnivore for a list of brands with animal-friendly options.
5. Refried beans
If you’re eating refried beans, there’s a good chance you’re also eating pork fat. While beans can be a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, the refried variety has a dirty little secret inside: They’re made with pork fat (lard). Many restaurants choose not to use lard in their refried beans (including Taco Bell, although they do use beef gelatin in their sour cream), but if you find yourself out at a Mexican restaurant it’s always best to ask before ordering.
6. Orange Juice
While a classic cup of OJ seems like the perfect vegetarian breakfast beverage, brands like Tropicana have shaken up that belief. Orange juice isn’t naturally “hearty-healthy” as the popular brands promote, so in order to claim this benefit they’ve added omega-3 fatty acids, which commonly come from fish extracts like sardines and tilapia. Also, vitamin D in some enhanced juices is sometimes derived from lanolin, a natural oil product of wool-bearing sheep. Stay true to your vegetarian diet by sticking with juices that say 100% juice and passing on anything “fortified.” Better yet, squeeze your own.
7. Worcestershire sauce
This dark brown condiment seems unassuming enough — what could really hide in a simple liquid? The answer: anchovies. Along with malt vinegar, molasses, sugar and spices, certain brands sneak the little fish on to their list of ingredients. It’s not a lot, but if you want to maintain a vegetarian diet, check the label.
You possibly never considered what goes into pesto sauce and then also what goes into those ingredients. Pine nuts, basil, olive oil are all fine, but it’s within the parmesan that a problem arises. (See #1) Parmesan is made with rennet, therefore, it’s not a calf-free food. If you have a hankering for pesto, it’s best to make it at home and use a comparable cheese you approve of.
9. white sugar
Sugar isn’t naturally bright white in color, but in order to achieve this look, some manufacturers use bone char, otherwise referred to as “natural carbon.” According to PETA, since supermarket brands secure their sugar from several different refineries, it’s impossible to know what brands of white sugar have been filtered with bone char. Confectioner’s sugar and brown sugar are also offenders. If you want to avoid all refined sugars, try alternatives like Sucanat and turbinado sugar, which aren’t filtered with bone char.
In a surprising addition to this list, figs. While figs themselves are of course, a fruit, they frequently contain dead wasps in them. This happens as wasps pollinate the figs and get stuck in the sticky center. After they die, an enzyme in the fig converts their body into a protein.
11. Non-Organic bananas
Another fruit offender, vegetarians should always buy organic bananas. Non-organic bananas are sprayed with a pesticide, Chitosan, which may contain animal parts. Chitosan helps the bananas fight against bacteria and prevents them from over-ripening, but it’s made from shrimp and crab shells.
12. BBQ potato chips
Most vegans are used thoroughly examining the ingredients for every food they eat outside their home, but vegetarians can get a little lax. It’s easy to assume that certain foods would have no animals products, but, when it comes to barbecue potato chips, they would probably be wrong. BBQ-flavored Baked Lay’s, KC Masterpiece BBQ Chips and Ruffles The Works Chips, for example, all contain chicken fat.
Also see, Italian roasted veggies make for a simple vegetarian meal.