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37 Things to Avoid as a Vegan

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

This article lists 37 foods and ingredients you should avoid on
a vegan diet.

1–6: Animal Foods

Senior Man Looking at Vegetables and Saying No to Pizza

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
  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.

7–15: Ingredients or Additives Derived From Animals

Red Jello on a Cake Dish

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 color to many food products.
  3. Gelatin: This thickening agent comes from
    the skin, bones and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
  4. Isinglass: This gelatin-like substance is derived from fish
    bladders. It’s often used in the making of beer or wine.
  5. Natural flavorings: Some of these
    ingredients are animal-based. One example is castoreum, a food flavoring that comes from the
    secretions of beavers’ anal scent glands (1).
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids: Many products that are
    enriched with
    are 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

16–32: Foods That Sometimes (but Not Always) Contain Animal

Bagels and Cream Cheese

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 Jell-O,
    marshmallows, gummy bears and chewing gum contain gelatin.
    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
  11. Pasta: Some types of pasta, especially fresh
    pasta, contain eggs.
  12. Potato chips: Some potato chips are flavored
    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: Gelatin 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 nonfat 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
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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.

33–37: Vegan Foods You May Want to Limit

Strawberry, Chocolate and Peppermint Ice Cream

Just because a food is vegan doesn’t mean it is healthy or

Therefore, vegans wanting to improve their health should stick
to minimally processed plant foods and limit their use of the
following products:

  1. Vegan junk food: Vegan ice cream, candy,
    cookies, chips and sauces generally contain just as much
    added sugar and fat as their non-vegan counterparts. Plus,
    they contain almost no vitamins, minerals and beneficial
    plant compounds.
  2. Vegan sweeteners: Vegan or not, molasses,
    agave syrup, date syrup and maple syrup are still
    added sugars
    . Eating too much of them may increase your
    risk of developing medical issues such as heart disease and
    obesity (2, 3, 4, 5).
  3. Mock meats and cheeses: These processed
    foods generally contain lots of additives. They also provide
    you with far fewer vitamins and minerals than whole,
    protein-rich plant foods
    like beans, lentils, peas, nuts
    and seeds.
  4. Some dairy-free milks: Sweetened dairy-free
    milks generally contain a good amount of added sugar. Opt for
    the unsweetened versions instead.
  5. Vegan protein bars: Most vegan protein bars
    contain high amounts of refined sugar. What’s more, they
    usually contain an isolated form of protein, which lacks the
    nutrients you’d find in the plant it was extracted from.

Bottom Line: Vegans who want to optimize
their health should limit processed foods. Instead, choose
foods that can be consumed in their original form whenever

Take Home Message

Vegans attempt to avoid all foods of animal origin.

This includes animal and meat products, as well as foods that
contain any ingredient that is derived from an animal.

That said, not all foods made from plant-only ingredients are
healthy and nutritious. Vegan junk food is still junk food.

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