Things to Avoid as a Vegan

Vegans avoid eating foods of animal origin. 

There are a variety of reasons for following a vegan diet, including ethical, health or environmental concerns. 

Some of the food’s vegans should avoid are obvious, but others may surprise you. What’s more, not all vegan foods are nutritious, and some are best avoided.


Animal Foods

Veganism is a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it for food or any other purpose. 

For this reason, vegans avoid eating foods of animal origin, such as: 

    1. Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, etc.
    2. Poultry: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
    3. Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster and fish sauce.
    4. Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
    5. Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches and fish.
    6. Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.

Bottom Line: Vegans avoid eating animal flesh and animal by-products. These include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs and foods made by bees.

Ingredients or Additives Derived from Animals

Many foods contain animal-derived ingredients or additives that most people don’t know about. For this reason, vegans also avoid consuming foods containing: 

    1. Certain additives:Several food additives can be derived from animal products. Examples include E120, E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901 and E904.
    2. Cochineal or carmine: Ground cochineal scale insects are used to make carmine, a natural dye used to give a red colour to many food products.
    3. Gelatine: This thickening agent comes from the skin, bones and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
    4. Isinglass: This gelatine-like substance is derived from fish bladders. It’s often used in the making of beer or wine.
    5. Natural flavourings: Some of these ingredients are animal-based. One example is castoreum, a food flavouring that comes from the secretions of beavers’ anal scent glands.
    6. Omega-3 fatty acids: Many products that are enriched with omega-3are not vegan, since most omega-3s come from fish. Omega-3s derived from algae are vegan alternatives.
    7. Shellac: This is a substance secreted by the female lac insect. It’s sometimes used to make a food glaze for candy or a wax coating for fresh produce.
    8. Vitamin D3: Most vitamin D3 is derived from fish oil or the lanolin found in sheep’s wool. Vitamin D2 and D3 from lichen are vegan alternatives.
    9. Dairy ingredients: Whey, casein and lactose are all derived from dairy.

These ingredients and additives can be found in a wide variety of different processed foods. It is very important that you check ingredients lists carefully.

Bottom Line: Vegans should check food labels to make sure products don’t contain the ingredients listed above.


Foods That Sometimes (but Not Always) Contain Animal Ingredients

Some foods you might expect to be 100% vegan sometimes contain one or more animal-derived ingredients.

For this reason, vegans seeking to avoid all products of animal origin must use a critical eye when deciding whether to consume or avoid the following foods: 

    1. Bread products: Some bakery products, such as bagels and breads, contain L-cysteine. This amino acid is used as a softening agent and often comes from poultry feathers.
    2. Beer and wine: Some manufacturers use egg white albumen, gelatin or casein in the beer brewing or winemaking process. Others sometimes use isinglass, a substance collected from fish bladders, to clarify their final product.
    3. Caesar dressing: Certain varieties of Caesar dressing use anchovy paste as one of their ingredients.
    4. Candy: Some varieties of Jelly, marshmallows, gummy bears and chewing gum contain gelatine. Others are coated in shellac or contain a red dye called carmine, which is made from cochineal insects.
    5. French fries: Some varieties are fried in animal fat.
    6. Olive tapenade: Many varieties of olive tapenade contain anchovies.
    7. Deep-fried foods: The batter used to make deep-fried foods like onion rings or vegetable tempura sometimes contains eggs.
    8. Pesto: Many varieties of store-bought pesto contain Parmesan cheese.
    9. Some bean products: Most baked bean recipes contain lard or ham.
    10. Non-dairy creamer: Many of these “non-dairy” creamers actually contain casein, a protein derived from milk.
    11. Pasta: Some types of pasta, especially fresh pasta, contain eggs.
    12. Potato chips: Some potato chips are flavoured with powdered cheese or contain other dairy ingredients such as casein, whey or animal-derived enzymes.
    13. Refined sugar: Manufacturers sometimes lighten sugar with bone char (often referred to as natural carbon), which is made from the bones of cattle. Organic sugar or evaporated cane juice are vegan alternatives.
    14. Roasted peanuts: Gelatine is sometimes used when manufacturing roasted peanuts in order to help salt and spices stick to the peanuts better.
    15. Some dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is usually vegan. However, some varieties contain animal-derived products such as whey, milk fat, milk solids, clarified butter or non-fat milk powder.
    16. Some produce: Some fresh fruits and veggies are coated with wax. The wax can be petroleum- or palm-based but may also be made using beeswax or shellac. When in doubt, ask your grocer which wax is used.
    17. Worcestershire sauce: Many varieties contain anchovies.

Bottom Line: Animal-based ingredients can be found in foods you wouldn’t expect to see them in. Make sure to check your labels to avoid any surprises.