9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (2023)

In today’s times, people are becoming more aware about what they eat and their diets. There are countless diet varieties such as veganism, vegetarianism, keto, and paleo, each with its own set of guidelines as to what can be eaten and what cannot. This article will focus on foods that are not vegetarian and vegan.

For reference, the definition of vegetarianis a diet that does not include meat, poultry, or insects. There are many different kinds of vegetarianism including lacto-vegetarians who consume dairy products, ovo-vegetarians who consume eggs, and pescatarians who consume seafood. For the purpose of this article, vegetarianism will be defined as a diet including dairy, but not meat, eggs, seafood, or poultry.

The definition of veganism is a bit stricter than vegetarianism. Those following a vegan diet do not consume meat, eggs, seafood, poultry, dairy products, and honey (for some individuals). In short, vegans do not consume any animal products.

9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (1)

Over thousands of years, different uses of ingredients have been found to produce desired characteristics in foods. Some of these ingredients are derived from sources that are not vegetarian or vegan. This makes foods such as marshmallows or worcestershire saucethat are thought to be vegetarian and vegan friendly unsuitable for people following those diets.

Having grandparents who are vegetarian and being vegetarian myself, I have become increasingly cognizantof different additives that are derived from meat. Many of these are quite surprising and can be commonly found in items I would not have given a second thought to. As a result, I decided to compile a list of ingredients, foods, and additives which are not vegetarian and/or vegan even though the food item may appear to be.


Gelatin is made from boilingskin, tendons, ligaments, and bone typically from cows and more commonly, from pigs. Gelatin is used as a thickening agent andis commonly found in foods such as Jell-O, marshmallows, and gummy candy (gummy bears, gummy worms, etc).

Verdict: Not vegetarian or vegan

An alternative: Agar-Agar, which is derived from seaweeds and has similar properties as gelatin


9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (2)

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Cheese is made from dairy and a compound such as rennet is used in order to form curds from the milk. Rennet is derived traditionally from pig stomach and sometimes calf—a young cow—stomach. Some cheese manufacturersuse this animal-derived rennet when making cheeses while others list rennet (i.e. microbial rennet) not made from animal sources. Be sure to read the ingredients label to make sure which rennet is used.

Verdict: Not vegan and sometimes not vegetarian depending on the coagulating agent used (ie. rennet)

Some alternatives:Vegetable or microbial rennet, which is derived from vegetables or produced by microbes such as yeast and bacteria so it is not derived from animals (though this is still not vegan)

White refined sugar

9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (3)

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Sugar is derived from sugar canes—a natural plant with high concentrations of sugar. During the refining process though, for certain sugar companies such as C&H Sugar, bone char is used to filter out impurities and colorants from the sugar, leaving behind a whiter sugar end product.

Verdict: Not vegetarian or vegan depending on the sugar brand

Some alternatives: Organic sugar, unbleached or unrefined sugar, vegan sugar, or a brandaccording that does not use bone char. Sugar derived from pure beet sugar does not contain bone char

Before you buy your next bag of sugar, do your research as certain products sold by a company do use bone char while other products to not use bone char. The Vegetarian Resource Group compiled a list of sugars not containing bone char from some common sugar companies. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) also compiled a list of companies which do and do not use any bone char in their sugar products.

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Lard is a type of fat rendered from pigs.It is a kind of saturated fat similar to butter, for which consumption leads to anincreased risk of heart disease. Similar to oils and butter, it can be used to fry things in or to make pastries, refried beans, and even soaps.

Verdict: Not vegetarian or vegan

Some alternatives: Butter (not vegan), vegetable oils, and margarine (can bevegan depending on the listed ingredients)

Red food colorant

Colorants are used to color foods and come in a wide range of colors. For red in particular, one variation—natural red #4—is made from crushed up bugs. Other names for natural red #4 are carmine and cochineal extract.

Verdict: Not vegetarian or vegan

Some alternatives: beet root juice/extract,red #40 (derived from coal), and pomegranate juice


9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (4)

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Castoreum is derived from beaver secretions and is used as an enhancer for vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavorings. Castoreum use has become increasingly rare in recent times due to the difficulty of extracting it from the beavers. On nutrition labels, castoreum is listed as part of the umbrella term “natural flavorings”, making it hard to know for certain if it is or is not included as an ingredient.

Verdict: Not vegetarian or vegan

Some alternatives: real extracts and flavorings or ones that do not list natural flavorings

Some Semi-Sweet and Dark Chocolate

9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (5)

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Chocolate itself is made from cacao beans, which is a plant. The process to make chocolate does not include any animal products except for certain varieties such as milk chocolate which uses milk or milk powder to cut the bitterness of the cacao itself. However, certain brands such as Nestle Tollhouse and Ghirardelli add milk powder to their semi-sweet and dark chocolates as well, making even those varieties not vegan.

Verdict: Vegetarian, but not vegan (depending on the brand)

Some alternatives: Guittard or Trader Joe’s chocolate, in addition to other vegan chocolate brands


9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (6)

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Whey is the water mixture left behindafter making cheeses. As a result, if using a rennet derived from animals, the whey is not vegetarian. The whey is then dried down to make whey protein, which is used as a protein supplement in many items commercially available since it is a cheap form of protein, therefore making the items it is present in not vegan.

Verdict: Not vegan and sometimes not vegetarian depending on the curdling agent used when making the cheese (e.g. rennet)

Some alternatives: hemp seed protein and other protein powders, whey from cheeses made not using rennet

L. Cysteine

9 Foods Vegetarians and Vegans Should Avoid (7)

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L. cysteine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. It is used to make meat flavorings, insome bagels, in some breads, and some baby formula brands. L cysteine is present at high concentrations in bird feathers and many times, this bird-feather-derived cysteine is extracted from the birds' feathers rather than produced synthetically in order to be used in the various products. When used in breads and bagels, the L. cysteine is used as a bread conditioner to help with the dough-raising process.

Verdict: If bird-feather-derived L. cysteine source is used, then not vegetarian or vegan

Some alternatives: Products without bird-derived L. cysteine or ones that use the synthetically produced version

Following a vegetarian and vegan diet is already hard without the addition of animal-derived ingredients or additives hiding in the ingredients list. Regardless of your diet, it is important to know where your food comes from especially if you have dietary restrictions which would prevent you from eating that food item.

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Especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you should look into the ingredients going into the foods you eat since they might not be vegetarian and vegan despite you thinking the might be.


What foods should vegetarians avoid? ›

Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs. Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow fish. Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.

What ingredients vegans should avoid? ›

Foods can often contain non-vegan ingredients that are not obviously labelled as being derived from animals and it's easy to get caught out.
Ingredients or additives derived from animals
  • E Numbers. ...
  • Cochineal or carmine. ...
  • Gelatine. ...
  • Isinglass. ...
  • Natural flavourings. ...
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. ...
  • Shellac. ...
  • Vitamin D3.
3 Oct 2016

What do vegetarians not get enough? ›

A meatless diet can be healthy, but vegetarians -- especially vegans -- need to make sure they're getting enough vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns of the risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans. Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal products.

What are the 5 most important rules of a vegan diet? ›

5 diet rules vegans get right
  • Eat foods that are in season. This isn't a steadfast vegan "rule," but many people who consciously choose to eat vegan are also making other conscious (or even unconscious) decisions. ...
  • Fill up with fiber. ...
  • Plant your protein. ...
  • Eat those good-for-you fats. ...
  • You may need to supplement.
24 Aug 2017

What do vegetarians not eat and why? ›

A vegetarian eats no meat at all, including poultry or fish. A lacto-ovo vegetarian eats dairy products and eggs. A lacto vegetarian eats dairy products but not eggs. An ovo vegetarian eats eggs but not dairy products.

What fruits can vegans not eat? ›

Because it's not enough that bananas aren't always vegan, you also have to worry about non-organic apples and citrus fruits. Unnaturally shiny fruits are often treated with beeswax or insect-derived shellac to give them that extra sparkle.

Can vegetarians drink milk? ›

Vegetarians may eat dairy products, eggs, honey, and other byproducts that do not involve the slaughter of animals. However, there are several variations of the vegetarian diet. For example, some vegetarians choose to eat eggs but not dairy products.

Can vegans eat cheese? ›

Given that dairy — including cheese — does not require the slaughtering of an animal, it's usually permitted by lacto- and lacto-ovo-vegetarians, as well as some pescatarians. On the other hand, vegans avoid all animal products or animal byproducts, including dairy and milk.

What do vegetarians miss the most? ›

Iron. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, iron is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States. The body absorbs two to three times more iron from animal sources than plant sources, so vegetarians can have a hard time getting the iron they need.

Why do vegetarians not get enough protein? ›

Vegetarians have higher protein requirements because plant proteins are not as well digested and processed by the body as animal proteins, and are not as 'complete' as protein from meat.

What are vegans at risk for? ›

Avoiding consumption of animal-sourced food may also be related to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Hair loss, weak bones, muscle wasting, skin rashes, hypothyroidism, and anemia are other issues that have been observed in those strictly following a vegan diet.

What are the 4 types of vegans? ›

The four main types of vegans are ethical vegans, environmental vegans, health vegans, and religious vegans.

Can vegans eat bread? ›

At its core, a bread recipe contains four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast — a type of microscopic fungus used to help bread rise. Therefore, the simplest form of bread is vegan. However, some types include additional ingredients like sweeteners or fats — both of which can be of animal origin.

Do vegans drink milk? ›

The Reasons Vegans Don't Drink Milk

Milk is a product of cows or in some cases Goats. No matter how the milk is produced, even if it is organically farmed, it is not a product that a Vegan will consume.

Can vegetarians eat pizza? ›

Pizza is still a staple among those following a meat-free or completely plant-based diet. Here's our guide to how to enjoy pizza while changing your diet. Now if you're a vegetarian, you can still enjoy cheese on your pie. A classic cheese is always a crowd pleaser for those just eliminating meat from their diet.

Can vegetarians be pregnant? ›

The answer is a resounding yes. You can be a pregnant vegetarian and still get all the protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. Furthermore, your pregnancy diet doesn't have to be terribly complicated; just make sure that you eat a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

Are McDonald's fries vegan? ›

Unfortunately NOT Vegan at McDonald's (in the US):

French Fries (contain “Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]” and are fried in beef fat) Hash Browns (contain milk and fried in beef fat) Donut Sticks (contain milk in sticks and sauce)

What is a junk food vegan? ›

A junk food vegan is a vegan who regularly consumes highly processed foods that are primarily made in science labs. Some popular choices are the famous Oreo biscuits as well as a variety of vegan “cheeses.”

Can vegans eat potatoes? ›

Potatoes are a plant. A very tasty plant and totally fair-game for vegans to eat!

Can vegans eat chocolate? ›

Ah, chocolate. With its multitude of good qualities, it's no wonder that one of the first questions asked by those thinking about an animal-friendly lifestyle is “wait a minute, can vegans eat chocolate?” The answer is a resounding YES!

Why is honey not vegan? ›

Vegans avoid eating honey to take a stand against bee exploitation and farming practices that are thought to harm bee health.

Can vegans eat honey? ›

As vegans seek to end animal exploitation, honey is not part of a vegan diet. This is because taking honey from bees does not meet the definition of veganism and is detrimental to their health.

Can vegetarians eat ice cream? ›

Even ice cream isn't safe for vegetarians. Castoreum, a musky brown liquid that beavers use to mark their territory, has a rich vanilla-like scent that some companies use to flavor vanilla ice cream without using artificial flavoring.

Do vegans eat ice cream? ›

Can vegans eat ice cream? Absolutely! There are tons of delicious dairy-free ice creams on the market, and you can also make your own excellent versions at home.

Can vegans eat McDonald's? ›

To make the meat-free burger, McDonald's teamed up with plant-based brand Beyond Meat to offer their realistic plant-based patties. McDonald's McPlant burger ingredients: Vegan Sesame Bun, Mustard, Ketchup, Vegan Sauce, Fresh Onion, Pickles, Lettuce, Tomato and Vegan Cheese.

Can vegans eat pizza? ›

The first, and most important, is that yes, indeed vegans can enjoy pizza every bit as tasty and satisfying as a non-vegan pizza.

Can vegans eat peanut butter? ›

But of course! Most peanut butter is a simple mixture of ground peanuts and salt. Others might also contain oil or added sugar. Once in a blue moon, you may find a kind that contains honey, but nearly all peanut butter is 100 percent vegan.

What problems do vegetarians face? ›

The nutrients of concern in the diet of vegetarians include vitamin B(12), vitamin D, ω-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc. Although a vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients, the use of supplements and fortified foods provides a useful shield against deficiency.

What food do vegans miss most? ›

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

What vitamin has no meat? ›

Vitamin C is the only essential vitamin not found in useful amounts in cooked animal foods. It is a powerful antioxidant that is important for the maintenance of connective tissue. It also functions as a co-factor for many enzymes in the body.

Do vegans eat enough protein? ›

Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein? The average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams a day. Non-vegetarians eat way more than that (almost 80 grams), but so does everyone else. Vegetarians and vegans actually average 70 percent more protein than they need every day (over 70 grams).

Can vegetarians eat eggs? ›

Well, the short answer is yes! Unless they are vegan (meaning they don't eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals), some vegetarians do eat eggs and belong to a group known as lacto-ovo-vegetarians which according to the Vegetarian Society is the most common type of meatless diet.

Do vegetarians eat fish? ›

Vegetarians do not eat the flesh of animals. Thus, by this definition, fish and seafood are not vegetarian ( 1 ). Some vegetarians, known as lacto-ovo-vegetarians, eat certain animal products, such as eggs, milk, and cheese.

Do vegans have bone problems? ›

In work published in 2020, Dr Tammy Tong, a senior nutritional epidemiologist, and others at the University of Oxford, found that compared with meat eaters, vegetarians had a 25% greater risk of hip fractures, with the risk even high for vegans at 31%.

Are vegans more male or female? ›

Women are about twice as likely as men to say they're eating less meat, clocking in at 31% to 15%, respectively. Overall, it's been estimated that 80% of vegans in the U.S. are women—that's a whopping four out of five plant-based people you meet.

Are eggs vegan? ›

While eggs are included in a standard vegetarian diet they are excluded from a vegan diet, along with all animal-derived foods, like honey.

Do vegans eat fish? ›

Vegans don't eat fish

As one of the main types of vegetarian diets, a vegan diet involves abstaining from eating any meat or animal products. This includes meat and poultry, as well as fish and shellfish. Vegans also avoid other foods derived from animals, including honey, dairy products, and gelatin.

Are bananas vegan? ›

Bananas have always been a quick and healthy go-to snack for those on a vegan diet. Enjoyed on their own, and in desserts, they are considered as one of the most versatile fruits.

Can vegans eat chips? ›

Are chips vegan friendly? The very short answer is “yes.” Because potato chips are made from, well, potatoes, they're usually a pretty good starting point if you're looking for a nice snack for movie night or if you just need some crunchy treats after a long day of work.

Do vegans eat rice? ›

The one-word answer is: YES. It is a grain which means that it is a small seed collected from the plant called Oryza sativa. Most vegans can eat a great helping of white rice.

Can vegans drink Coke? ›

The vast majority of our drinks, including Coca‑Cola, are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as they do not contain any animal derivatives.

Do vegans drink alcohol? ›

Alcoholic drinks are not naturally vegan. As Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for The Vegan Society explains, animal products can be introduced in a drink's production process. "Some alcoholic drinks may not be suitable for vegans because of the filtering process prior to bottling."

Do vegans breastfeed their babies? ›

Vegans can, and often do, breastfeed their babies. And if you're a breastfeeding mother who has had an epiphany about the cruelty behind the gallon of cow's milk in the fridge, it's never too late to make the transition to a healthy—and compassionate—vegan lifestyle for yourself and your family.

What health problems can being a vegetarian cause? ›

6 Ways Being a Vegetarian Could Seriously Mess You Up
  • Low Vitamin D. Yes, you can get vitamin D from plant sources and supplements. ...
  • Not Enough Zinc. Beef and lamb are two of the highest sources of zinc. ...
  • Anemia. ...
  • Anxiety. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Eating Disorders.
2 Mar 2016

What diseases do vegans get? ›

Vegans are at higher risk of the deficiency in vitamin B12. Deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to certain irreversible side effects. Vegans are advised by the doctors to keep consuming the supplements of vitamin B12 to prevent health conditions such as constipation, fatigue, weakness, anemia and appetite loss.

Do vegetarians have mental issues? ›

Australian research published in 2007 found that vegetarians had poorer mental health, with 21–22% reporting depression compared with 15% of meat eaters. A 2012 German study found that mental disorders tended to follow the onset of a vegetarian diet.

Can you live healthy without meat? ›

Even though meats provide certain nutrients that plants don't, eating meat isn't necessary for your health or survival. With appropriate planning and supplements, plant-based diets can provide the nutrients your body needs.

Can being vegetarian cause kidney problems? ›

But recent studies suggest that people with kidney disease can follow a plant-based or vegetarian diet if they know how to do it wisely. These types of diets may help lower the chance of getting kidney disease, or even keep early kidney disease from getting worse.

Can being a vegetarian cause heart problems? ›

“The lower risk of heart disease [among vegetarians] is likely related to the lower BMI (body mass index), cholesterol, blood pressure, and rate of diabetes in the vegetarians than meat eaters, which are all established risk factors for heart disease,” says Tong.


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