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
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,
Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ
meat, wild meat, etc.
Poultry: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck,
Fish and seafood: All types of fish,
anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab,
lobster and fish sauce.
Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream,
ice cream, etc.
Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches and
Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal
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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
Many foods contain animal-derived ingredients or additives that
most people don’t know about. For this reason, vegans also
avoid consuming foods containing:
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: Ground cochineal scale
insects are used to make carmine, a natural dye used to give
a red color to many food products.
Gelatin: This thickening agent comes from
the skin, bones and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
Isinglass: This gelatin-like substance is derived from fish
bladders. It’s often used in the making of beer or wine.
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).
Omega-3 fatty acids: Many products that are
omega-3s are not vegan, since most omega-3s come from
fish. Omega-3s derived from algae are vegan alternatives.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
Caesar dressing: Certain varieties of Caesar
dressing use anchovy paste as one of their ingredients.
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.
French fries: Some varieties are fried in
Olive tapenade: Many varieties of olive
tapenade contain anchovies.
Deep-fried foods: The batter used to make
deep-fried foods like onion rings or vegetable tempura
sometimes contains eggs.
Pesto: Many varieties of store-bought pesto
contain Parmesan cheese.
Some bean products: Most baked bean recipes
contain lard or ham.
Non-dairy creamer: Many of these “non-dairy”
creamers actually contain casein, a protein derived from
Pasta: Some types of pasta, especially fresh
pasta, contain eggs.
Potato chips: Some potato chips are flavored
with powdered cheese or contain other dairy ingredients such
as casein, whey or animal-derived enzymes.
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.
Roasted peanuts: Gelatin is sometimes used
when manufacturing roasted peanuts in order to help salt and
spices stick to the peanuts better.
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.
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.
Worcestershire sauce: Many varieties contain
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
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
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
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).
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
Some dairy-free milks: Sweetened dairy-free
milks generally contain a good amount of added sugar. Opt for
the unsweetened versions instead.
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.